Duck breasts with thyme and cherries

Duck breasts with thyme and cherries

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
4 duck breasts
2 small shallots
thyme sprigs
150g fresh cherries
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
200ml Brown chicken and veal stock
1-2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly, to taste
freshly ground black pepper

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
Wilted spinach


  1. Trim the sinew off the underside of the duck breasts, and trim the skin, bearing in mind that the skin will shrink when cooking. Score the skin in diagonal lines about 3 mm apart, cutting only through the skin, not the flesh.
  2. Heat the oven to 150ºC.
  3. Rub a little salt into the duck skin and place the duck breasts skin side down in a frying pan set over a low heat to render the fat beneath the skin. This can take up to 10 minutes and should be done over a low heat or the skin will burn. From time to time, pour off the rendered fat to prevent too much spitting. Season the meat side of the breasts with salt and pepper.
  4. Halve, peel and finely dice the shallots. Finely chop enough thyme leaves to give you ¼ teaspoon. Halve the cherries and remove the stones.
  5. Once the skin is brown and crisp and the fat beneath the skin rendered, turn the duck breasts over, transfer to a roasting tin and place in the oven for 7–10 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts. Ideally they will still be pink in the centre, but the fibres will be set.
  6. Pour off any excess fat from the frying pan, place over a low to medium heat and sauté the shallots until softening, about 4–5 minutes. Deglaze with the wine vinegar, add the stock and reduce by one-third, then add the redcurrant jelly to taste and bring to a simmer, allowing the jelly to melt into the sauce.
  7. Add the thyme and cherries to the sauce and bring back to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce is ready before the duck, remove from the heat so that it doesn’t over-reduce.
  8. When cooked, remove the duck breasts from the oven and pour any juices into the sauce. Leave the duck to rest for 3–4 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute before carving each breast into 5 or 6 slices. Spoon the wilted spinach into the middle of each serving plate and top with a rosti. Arrange the sliced duck breast on top and pour the sauce around.


  • Duck breasts with ginger, honey and lime: Cook the duck breasts as for the main recipe, but before they go in the oven brush the browned skin with warm honey. Omit the cherry sauce. Pour off any excess fat from the pan and deglaze with 200 ml white wine. Reduce to 1 tablespoon, then add 300 ml brown chicken and veal stock and ¼ tablespoon fresh ginger cut into julienne. Reduce until lightly syrupy. Flavour the sauce with ½–1 teaspoon clear honey and ½–1 tablespoon lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some lime segments to the sauce. Serve the duck breasts with the sauce and noodles tossed in a little sesame oil.

    Duck breasts with cranberry and almond relish: Cook the duck breasts as for the main recipe. Omit the sauce and serve with a cranberry and almond relish. To make this, put 100 g dried cranberries, 25 g raisins, 75 g soft light brown sugar, 250 ml cider vinegar, a pinch of ground cloves and ¼ cinnamon stick in a heavy-based pan. Cook gently for about 20 minutes until the cranberries are soft and the sauce is syrupy. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Scatter 25 g toasted flaked almonds over the duck breasts before serving, with the relish.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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