Currant affairs

When life permits, who could seriously argue against a day to yourself, spent crafting a whole host of delicious components, when the reward is a smoky, juicy and crispy duck breast, served alongside rye croutons, kohlrabi perfectly cooked in duck fat, a tangy and sweet red currant paste?

All brought together in perfect harmony with (probably) the best duck sauce you’ll ever have waited eight hours of your life for?

Actually, scrap that bit about “when life permits”.

Just make the time. Block out a Saturday, and invite three lucky souls to share in the fruits of your labour that evening.

Source your ingredients the day before, and relax into it with a morning coffee. Take your time with it.

Please note however, that as your kitchen (and probably your entire abode) begins to slowly fill with the irresistible aromas of the duck sauce, you’ll want a few bottles of something cold and refreshing ready to go.

Last but not least, you’re going to need a selection of your favourite tunes, to accompany the culinary expedition.

Trust me, it’ll be one of the best Saturdays you have this year.

[Pontchartrain – Huggin’, Lovedancing Records, 2015]

Ingredients (serves 4)

Smoked duck breasts:
Whole duck x 1
Rosemary leaves x 50g
Lemon thyme x 50g
Sugar x 1 tbsp
Zest of 2 oranges
Green tea x 50g
(a blow torch preferably)

Duck sauce:
Whole duck carcass (see above, chopped into 7-8 pieces)
Carrot (roughly chopped) x 2
Celery sticks (roughly chopped) x 2
Cherry tomatoes (roasted in a hot oven for 20 minutes) x 100g
White onion (roughly chopped) x 1
Black garlic cloves x 2
Bay leaves x 6
Salt x ½ tbsp
Black pepper x 1 tsp
Flour x 1 tbsp
Brandy x 100ml
Water x 1.5L

Duck fat kohlrabi:
Kohlrabi (400g approx, peeled and cut into 4 even discs) x 1
Duck fat from carcass (see above)

Red currant paste:
Red currants x 300g
Cornstarch x 4 tsp
White wine vinegar x 6 tsp

Rye croutons:
Rye bread (cubed) x 100g
Reduced duck sauce

Kale oil:
Whole kale x60g
Rapeseed oil x 100ml
muslin cloth


Start with the breakdown of the duck. Use a very sharp knife to carefully remove the legs and breasts. Trim and retain any excess skin and fat from the breasts, as well as the legs.

Keep the breasts refrigerated. Feel free to freeze the legs for a later date. You can of course also smoke them with the breasts, before doing so as well.

Set your oven to 392°F/200°C (fan)/180°C.

Break up all that remains of the carcass, including the wings, into around seven or eight pieces. Take an oven tray with a metal rack on top. Place all the pieces of carcass on the rack.

Cook in your hot oven for 45 minutes. The carcass will be browned and you should now have a layer of delicious duck fat in your oven dish… keep it to one side.

At the same time, get your hands on a large stockpot for the duck sauce. Fry off the vegetables and garlic in a glug of oil over a high heat, for around 10 minutes, or until just softening. Add in the flour, salt, pepper, and mix well. Add the brandy, and reduce.

Add the water and bay leaves. Cover and bring just to the boil, before turning the heat way down so that it is hardly bubbling at all.

Leave this for eight hours. You can then sieve this into a smaller pan, and reduce until around 300ml remains. Dunk all the rye croutons in the sauce for 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep to one side.

In the meantime, there’s plenty to be getting on with…

To smoke the duck breasts, take another large oven tray with a metal rack. Line the tray with tin foil, and fill it with everything except the meat. Heat the tray over a high heat until it starts to smoke. Use your blowtorch to make sure everything is smoking evenly, still over a high heat.

Place the chilled duck breasts, skin-side down, on the rack. Quickly and tightly wrap the tray in around six sheets of foil. Turn off the heat, and leave for three hours. Remove the breasts, and cover their skin in a layer of salt, and keep refrigerated.

When it comes to the kale oil, simply roughly chop the vegetable and cover with boiled water for 5 minutes. Drain then blend together with the oil, and pass through a muslin cloth. Set aside for later (preferably in a squeezy bottle).

For the red currant paste, simply heat the currants in a saucepan with a splash of water and the vinegar. Over a medium heat they’ll start to break down after 10 minutes. You can now blend the mixture, and pass through a fine sieve. Add the cornstarch to the liquid and keep over a low heat until it begins to form a paste. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Set your oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C.

Salt the kohlrabi and cook in the dish with the duck fat for 30 minutes. Turn them over half way through, and then turn the oven off. At the same time you can remove the duck breasts from the fridge to come down to room temperature. Wash off the salt under cold water, and pat dry with kitchen roll.

Place the breasts skin-side down in a dry frying pan. Over a medium heat, fry them for eight minutes. The skin should be perfectly crispy, and you can now just flip them over for one more minute, before removing from the pan.

Allow the duck breasts to rest for five minutes. Whilst they do so, turn up the heat, and fry off the croutons in the same pan until evenly browned.

Slice each breast down the middle, and serve each half with a disc of kohlrabi straight out of your oven, a handful of rye croutons, half a tablespoon of the red currant paste, and a healthy portion of the duck sauce.

Finish with a squeeze of kale oil.



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