Duck is very different in many ways from other commonly eaten, similar birds that would include the likes of turkey and chicken. It is fattier, the meat is much darker in color and the flavor is more intense and gamey. If duck is not cooked properly, the meat can be served greasy and this has put many people off eating this delicious bird for all time. As duck breast fillets in particular can be pretty expensive to buy, it becomes all the more important that you know the simple procedures required to cook these items to succulent and tasty perfection.

Plum sauce is more often associated with duck than cherry sauce, though the latter is not an unheard of serving option. It is worth noting, however, that when I made this recipe with fresh cherries, I wasn't fully happy with the results, despite considerable experimentation time spent on the sauce alone. On subsequent occasions - and much as I usually prefer using fresh ingredients to in any way processed ingredients - I have used cherries from a glass jar, in a light syrup, which are sold as cocktail cherries and the results have been infinitely more satisfying.


Roast Duck Breasts with Cherry and Red Wine Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Roast duck breast with cherry and red wine sauce, deep fried potatoes and broccoli

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 duck breast fillets, skin on
  • 12 baby new potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • Large glass of red wine for sauce and rest of bottle to serve with meal
  • 12 cocktail cherries in light syrup
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper
Duck Breast Fillets
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Fresh duck breast fillets


The potatoes firstly have to be cooked by boiling and allowed to cool before they are deep fried. They will take at least an hour to prepare, cook and cool but if time is likely to be an issue for you, they can be boiled one night, left to cool and stored unpeeled in the fridge until they are required the following evening.

Put the potatoes unpeeled in to a pot with plenty of cold water. Season with some salt. Bring the water up to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for twenty minutes or until the potatoes are just cooked. Drain through a colander and return them to the empty pot. Let them steam off for five minutes before putting the lid on the pot and leaving them to cool.

Starting to Dry Fry Duck Breast Fillet
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Starting to dry fry duck breast fillet

Put your oven on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6. Score the duck breasts with a sharp knife on the skin sides, going all the way through the skin and fat but trying not to cut in to the meat. If you prefer and find it easier, you can simply pinch the skin in six to eight places and pierce it with the tines of a fork. This makes you less likely to damage the meat if you're not used to the procedure. The whole point of this action is to allow the fat to be released from under the skin when the breasts go in to the pan. Season with salt and pepper on the skin and flesh sides. Add the breasts to a cold, dry, ovenproof frying pan, skin sides down, and put the pan on to a very low heat.

Sealing Duck Breast Flesh
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Flesh side of the duck breast fillet is quickly sealed

After a couple of minutes or so, you will see the fat starting to be released and running from underneath the fillets. Turn up the heat and cook for another couple of minutes before turning the breasts over for about thirty seconds only to brown and seal them on the flesh sides. Turn the breasts back on to their skin sides and put the pan straight in to the oven for twelve minutes. 

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Reducing Red Wine for Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Red wine is reduced to make sauce

Just before the duck breasts are due to come out of the oven, break the broccoli head in to florets and add them to a pot of boiling, salted water for eight to ten minutes. Start your deep fryer heating to 350F/170C. Rub/peel the skins from the cooled potatoes and pour the wine in to a small saucepan. Season the wine with a little salt and pepper, as well as the ground ginger. Put the saucepan on to a low to medium heat and bring to a fairly strong simmer. The wine has to be reduced by about half.

Remembering to use oven gloves (the handle of the frying pan will be very hot!) take the duck breasts from the oven and sit the pan aside for the breasts to rest. Put the potatoes in to your deep fryer to fry for five or six minutes until crisp and golden.

Duck Breast Fillet is Sliced
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Rested cuck breast fillet is sliced for service

Spoon the cherries in to a colander or sieve and wash them under running cold water to get rid of most of the syrup and sweetness. Carefully add them to the simmering wine, being wary of potential splashes, to simmer for a couple of minutes.

Lift the rested duck breasts to a chopping board and slice each one in to four or five pieces. Remove the potatoes from the deep fryer to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain. Drain the broccoli through a colander at your sink.

Plating Up Duck Breasts
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Duck breast, potatoes and broccoli are plated

The duck breasts, potatoes and broccoli should be arranged on heated serving plates before the red wine and cherry sauce is carefully spooned over the duck. The meal should be served with glasses of the remaining red wine.