My Dad loves gooseberries. He always has. My Aunt Kris, his sister, recalls him stealing them from the neighbour’s gooseberry bush when they were kids. In fact, he very rarely shuts up nagging for a gooseberry pie or a gooseberry crumble or some kind of gooseberry treat. Nag as he might, it never happens. That’s why gooseberry duck seemed like the perfect main course for his birthday!
I vaguely followed a recipe (scanned in here) which called for brown chicken stock. In this recipe, they made it in the PROPER way, in my recipe I make it in the cheats way (because who other than Nigella Lawson has 1000g of raw chicken bones kicking around?!). I found this recipe in my Mum’s Recipe Book, Take-Away Menus and Weetabix cupboard, so I’m afraid I can’t credit whichever source it came from… Let’s just say Nigella. Now, back to the ingredients list!
- 2 x Knorr/Bisto/Store brand/whatever chicken stock pots. You know, the jellyish ones.
- 1 chopped carrot
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 sliced leek
- Sprig of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 peeled garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp of tomato puree
- 2 tbsp of plain flour
- 2 x 300g cans of gooseberries in syrup OR, if they’re in season, 200g gooseberries + ½ cup of sugar plus cup of water plus a little lemon zest. Heat water and sugar together gently until sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon zest, turn heat to boil. Once thickened, add gooseberries then turn down the heat and gently poach for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool in syrup. Or… Just get 2 x 300g cans of gooseberries. To my UK readers, I searched everywhere but eventually found these in Waitrose… To my US and beyond… I dunno… Walmart?
- 1 – 2 tbsp of honey
- 300ml (about half a bottle) of dry red wine. I used a Malbec. It was a very special bottle I bought for the meal. And also some cheap-ass Merlot. The kind that comes in a small value carton with the straw attached. Some how, this just popped as a combo.
- 25g of butter cut into cubes
- Lemon zest
- 4 duck breasts. But if you have more people to dinner, there was easily enough sauce for 7 duck breasts and to slosh all over the veg too, we’ve just frozen it until the next time there’s duck/Dad nags for gooseberries.
Let’s get started!
With a big recipe like this, I like to get as much as possible ready in advance. This sauce you could make at the start of the day if you wanted, then just warm it up when you need it. We’ll start with the Brown Chicken Stock… You really will be grateful you got this ready when you did.
Cheats Brown Chicken Stock
- Mix your two jelly stock pots with about 300ml of boiling water. Stir until dissolved.
- In a large saucepan, put you carrot, onion and leek with a little oil and cook over a medium heat until golden.
- Add you thyme, bay leaf, garlic, tomato puree and stir, then sprinkle in the flour stirring as you do.
- Pour over your stock pot water and stir. Now COVER with cold water and sprinkle in a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil. There isn’t too much fat in this version, but if there is you will spot it now. Skim it off the top. Trust me, you want to do this as you’ll be serving it with duck which will put enough oil back on everything!
- Simmer for about one hour, occasionally checking back and stirring
- CRAM IT through a sieve into a jug. This is boring and laborious but it’s worth every bit of hard work. You should now have a nice smooth orangey coloured stock ready to use in your sauce later on.
The Gooseberry sauce!
- Put your red wine in a sauce pan with a little salt and pepper and boil for about 7-8 minutes until reduced by half. Pour in the entirety of the stock you made earlier and reduce again by half.
- Stir in the honey. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. Return to a low heat and add the gooseberries. I chose to abandon the syrup- they absorb enough and this sauce already contains honey to boot. However, you might be going for something sweeter, in which case there’s no harm keeping the syrup.
- Leave to cool then reheat it about 5 minutes before you serve the meal. Easy peasy.
It’s all much easier from here.
- Pre-heat oven to 200c, or about 190c if fan assisted. Get a baking tray in there to get hot.
- Get a large rimmed skillet or frying pan. Warm to a medium high heat with no oil.
- Score your duck breast (cut nice lines/squares into the fat) then rub with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Take them to your lovely hot pan and lay skin side DOWN. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until the skin is crisp.
- Get the hot baking tray from the oven and place the duck breasts on it skin side UP. Pop in the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cover snuggly with tin foil for 5 minutes.
- Drizzle a little of your sauce over the duck. Be sure a few gooseberries get on there for show!
- Serve with your desired sides and enjoy.
For the sides, I did traditional veg and potatoes. The veg was simple enough- steamed/boiled with a little lemon marmalade on the carrots (a trick of my Mum’s- normally served with a Sunday roast and orange marmalade instead). For the potatoes, I simply parboiled whole new potatoes for 10 minutes, sliced them then fried them in the same pan the duck had been in (making good use of that duck fat) with about 4 garlic cloves sliced thickish. Stinky, but delicious.
It may look like a lot of work on the page, and believe me I was nervous to tackle this one too, but I promise if you prepare wisely and get your stock/sauce ready in advance (even a day if necessary!) this is one easy dish that will taste great and get you the world of praise.
Now you can relax. Until dessert…