Duck Breast with Sour Cherries



Country Kitchen with Mary Ellis
Mary Ellis cooked around the world for the rich and famous before settling in Hepburn where she co-founded the erstwhile Liberty House and the still going strong Cliffy’s. Her cooking is perfectly simple and always delicious.



Quality duck breasts, one per person



Large handful of dark sour cherries

Good quality stock (veal is our favourite)

Salt and pepper

Lemon Thyme (optional)


Take duck breasts out of fridge about 30 mins before you want to cook them and turn the oven to around 230°C. 

Take one duck breast per person and with a cruelly sharp knife score the skin to the fat but not beyond. You need to let the rendered fat out, not the meat juices!! Season by rubbing in a little salt and pepper.

Place the breasts skin down on a hot cast iron pan. Turn heat down to medium heat, searing both sides of the breast. When the fat is rendering well, put them skin side up and slide the pan into the oven and note the time. They will take 8-10 minutes. Remember they will continue to cook out of the oven so don’t be tempted to ‘finish’ cooking them in the oven…

Meanwhile start your cherry sauce with a knob of butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Scatter over a very finely diced shallot or two and after a few minutes, add the cherries.

(Unless your partner is a dentist make sure the cherries are pitted). Add half a cup of your best stock, very hot, and cook until the cherries begin to collapse at which stage check the seasoning, add a pinch of salt and a cube of very cold butter. Stir. Reduce the heat. I like a teaspoon or so of lemon thyme leaves popped in about now.

Somewhere in the middle of all this the duck will be done. Remove from the oven and loosely cover with foil and keep in a warm place. Rest for 10 minutes, letting the meat relax so the juice won’t run out all over your plate when you slice them..

Slice the duck. It should be fabulously pink. Serve over the sauce and enjoy with an
outrageously good pinot noir.