Seared duck breast with blood orange and star anise
Here is a twist on that out-of-favour classic, duck à l’orange, yet quite far removed from the original. It is spicy and rich, full of intense, multilayered flavours, a recipe you’d always want to return to for some winter comfort. The English Gressingham duck is the best choice here, as it is bred especially for its larger, more succulent breast. The French Barbary would make a good alternative. Blood oranges are in season throughout the first part of the year but you can easily substitute ordinary oranges. This dish would go well with a rough mash of orange roots, such as sweet potato, pumpkin or carrot. Serves 4View Recipe
4 duck breasts, weighing 180–200g each
2 tbsp fennel seeds
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp coarse sea salt
240ml blood orange juice (from about 4 oranges), plus 4 whole blood oranges
180ml red wine
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
16 star anise
6 dried chillies
Score the skin of each duck breast in 3 or 4 parallel incisions, without cutting into the meat. Repeat at a 90° angle to the other cuts to get square shaped incisions. Mix the fennel seeds, chilli flakes, cumin, black pepper and salt together, then rub them thoroughly all over the duck breasts with your hands. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to marinate for a few hours or in the fridge overnight.
Using a small, sharp knife, trim off 1cm from the top and bottom of each orange. Standing them up, neatly follow the natural curves of each one with the knife to cut off the skin and white pith. Cut each orange horizontally into roughly 6 slices. Remove the pips, place the slices in a small bowl and set aside.
To sear the duck, thoroughly heat a large, heavy frying pan (one for which you have a lid). Place the duck breasts in it, skin-side down, and cook for 3 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and crisp. Turn and cook the other side for 3 minutes, then remove the duck from the pan and keep in a warm place.
Discard most of the fat from the frying pan and add the wine, vinegar, orange juice and star anise. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5–6 minutes, until reduced by about half. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Return the duck breasts to the pan and stir to coat them in the sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 7 minutes.
Take the dried chillies, orange slices, plus any extra juice in their bowl, and place carefully next to the duck breasts. Cover again and simmer for another 3 minutes. By this time the meat should be medium-rare.
Remove the duck breasts from the sauce, place on a cutting board and leave to rest for 3–4 minutes. While you wait, check the sauce. It may need to be simmered a little longer to thicken it slightly. Taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Slice each breast at an angle into pieces 1cm thick and place on serving plates. Pick the oranges from the sauce and arrange them on the plates with the duck. Pour some of the sauce on top and serve the rest on the side.
Lamb shoulder with broad beans and herbs
New-season lamb shoulder, cooked pink, is the perfect platform for a mixture of fresh and cooked herbs. Serves six.View Recipe
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1.5kg new-season lamb shoulder, bone removed and rolled
5 tbsp olive oil
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
60g fresh parsley, leaves and stalks
30g fresh mint, leaves only
60g fresh coriander, leaves and stalk
200ml white wine
1½ tsp cumin
3 tbsp lemon juice
375g broad beans (fresh or frozen), blanched and skins removed
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Press the garlic slices into the crevices in the lamb, then rub in two tablespoons of the oil, a tablespoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Put half the amount of each herb over the base of a small ovenproof dish (around 21cm x 27cm) and pour over the wine. Lay the lamb on top of the herbs and roast for an hour, until cooked on the outside but still pink in the centre; baste every 20 minutes.
Once the lamb is done, lift it from the dish, transfer to a small oven tray, sprinkle with a little salt and grill for four minutes on each side to brown. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Strain the cooking juices from the roasting dish and skim off the fat – there should be about 100ml of liquid. Put the remaining herbs in the bowl of a food processor, add the cumin, the remaining oil, a teaspoon of Maldon salt (or half a teaspoon of fine salt) and some pepper, turn on the motor and slowly add the liquid. Work to a smooth sauce.
To serve, slice the warm lamb and arrange on a platter. Stir the lemon juice and broad beans into the sauce, taste for seasoning and spoon over the lamb. Serve at once.