Spiced Duck Breast with Orange and Fennel Salad

10 11 2014

It’s duck season.  This time of the year is always dry, and ducks go through huge amounts of water, at least for we who do not have a dam.  Whilst all that water is turned into liquid fertiliser by the birds, it is me who has to carry it back up the hill to water the veggies, and when you reach carrying capacity, it’s time to deal with the overpopulation.  So this weekend I killed four ducks; there are six more on their way to the Christmas dinner table, so not all is lost!

IMG_0241_1Furthermore, I have finally worked out how to pluck the darn things…  Duck feathers are way more tenacious than chicken feathers, and they are waterproof to boot, and then there’s all that down…..  To pluck a chicken, you have to dunk it in boiling water for a few seconds, and the feathers just fly off, easy peezy…  of course you have to be careful you don’t dunk the bird for too long, it can start cooking pretty quickly!  I even bought a plucking device (all the way from the Ukraine, would you believe…) off eBay, and whilst it works fine on chooks, ducks just thumb their beaks at this technology.  Then, I had a breakthrough…..

I decided that the water straight from the solar water heater was hot enough for the job, and 3/4 filled a 20L bucket straight from the bathtub tap.  Having dispatched the bird, I chucked it in the bucket, when something else happening distracted me, and I forgot about the bird for a good 10 to 15 minutes…..  by the time I realised what I’d done, the feathers were easy to pull out, especially with the duck plucker…  obviously it’s not the temperature that is critical, it’s the immersion time.  I can now kill a duck, pluck it, and dress it in just 30 minutes…..  a job that used to take me two hours, and put me right off slaughtering the poor things.

Once you’ve gone through that ordeal, you can concentrate on your culinary skills….  which is where the fun starts!  I recently made this great recipe almost entirely with what I grew here… the exceptions being the sugar (which I used sparingly), the olive oil, the spices, and the red wine and vinegar.


  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 4 duck breasts (see note), skin scored
  • Juice of 4 oranges (to give about 300ml)
  • 3/4 cup (185ml) red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar

Orange & fennel salad

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
  • 3 oranges, peeled, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil

IMG_0222First, separate your duck from its breasts with a paring knife.  You may notice the bright yellow colour of the fat and skin on the bird.  This is the result of free ranging and grass eating.  The remainder of the bird made two additional meals, nothing is wasted…


Spice Mix

Then place spices, peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt in a frypan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until it smells just great. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush to a fine powder.  it’s not often I get to use my wanky mortar and pestle, make the most of it… then rub onto the duck. Cover and chill for at least 1/2 hour.

Marinated Duck Breasts

Marinated Duck Breasts

Remove duck from fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Heat a frypan over medium heat. Cook duck, skin-side down, for 6 minutes or until fat has rendered and skin is crisp. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon duck fat from the pan. Add orange juice, wine, vinegar, more fennel seeds and sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes until reduced by half. Reduce heat to low, then return duck to the pan and cook, turning, for 5 minutes for medium-rare (duck is red meat… and if overcooked quickly gets tough, you’ve been warned..) or until cooked to your liking. Remove duck from the pan and rest, loosely covered with foil, for 5 minutes. Strain sauce, season and keep warm.

Meanwhile, for the salad, arrange fennel and orange on a plate. Whisk vinegar and oil together and season, then drizzle over salad. Scatter with fennel fronds

Slice the duck breast and serve with the warm sauce and salad.  All you vegetarian wusses don’t know what you’re missing out on..

Spiced Duck Breasts with Orange and Fennel Salad

Spiced Duck Breasts with Orange and Fennel Salad




3 responses

10 11 2014
Florence nee Fedup

Memory from childhood, included all ducks. My mother and her father used to dunk then wrap in what could have been wheat or even chaff bags, Still buggers to pluck as I recall.

10 11 2014

DROOL! We have 3 muscovy drakes causing all kinds of havock for our 2 muscivy ducks and they are facing their maker soon. I made one of those pluckers, albeit only 1 lot of fingers wide and it created a blizzard of chook feathers but I will definitely take a leaf (or is that feather) out of your book and dunk the duck for longer. 🙂

11 11 2014

Yum! My mouth is watering.

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