Duck and plum is a classic combination – and easy to cook
JP McMahon: ‘What is it about autumn that makes me want to eat more duck?’
‘Wild duck has a central place in our food story.’ Photograph: iStock
What is it about autumn that makes me want to eat more duck? It’s not like ducks are unavailable throughout the year, and there are some fantastic Irish producers such as Skeaghanore Duck in Co Cork.
But there is something about this bird that encapsulates the autumnal experience of eating in Ireland. I don’t know if it’s because wild duck has a central place in our food story – we’ve been eating it since our ancestors arrived here 10,000 years ago – or if it’s because duck pairs so well with so much autumn fruit, such as plums and elderberries.
Elderberries are something that you need to gather swiftly as the weather and the birds are on the way to get them. Adding a handful of elderberries to any meat sauce gives it a touch of the wild and local, as well as a gentle fruitiness. Pickling elderberries is a great way of preserving the fruit. Bring 300ml of vinegar, 200ml of water and 100g of sugar to the boil and then add your berries. Allow to cool and then bottle it.
How to cook duck with plums
Duck and plum is a classic combination and we’ve paired the two in our tapas bar, Cava Bodega in Galway, for nearly 12 years now. For the sauce, we use PX sherry, which is a sweet Spanish sherry made from Pedro Ximénez grapes.
Score the skin of the duck breast, season with salt and cut it in two. Heat a little oil in a pan and place the duck in it, skin side down. Keep the heat to medium to allow the fat to render. When the skin is nicely caramelised, flip the duck over and cook on the other side for a minute.
Tip any excess fat from the pan, and add eight pieces of fresh plum and 250ml of PX sherry. Transfer to a 180 degree oven and cook for three minutes for medium rare. Remove from the oven and allow the duck breast to rest before carving.
Due to the sweetness of the sherry, I usually add a little PX sherry vinegar (Don Carlos has a good one that is widely available) for acidity.