Sweet spiced duck breast with beetroot and ginger relish

roasted duck with species and beetroot relish

The moment I saw this Yotam Ottonlenghi’s alternative Christmas menu, I knew I had to do it. It didn’t take too long to convince three mobile calorie intake units friends to join me in cooking duck for the first time in years this journey. Lucky ladies – it was probably the best meal I cooked this year…  As usual, Yotam instructions were so precise that even duck seems easy to cook.

What I could not anticipate was the several dishes of beetroot which followed this one.  After an unfortunate chain of events, otherwise known as #beetrootgate, I ended up with a lot – and when I say a lot I really mean a lot – of beetroot in the fridge. Enough to keep this blog busy for the next couple of weeks…

A big thank you to T., my suffering sous-chef for this menu.

Sweet spiced duck breast with beetroot and ginger relish (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)


For the duck

  • 4 duck breasts, 800g in total
  • 1 tsp ground star anise
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp sunflower oil
  • Salt and black pepper

For the beetroot relish

  • 6 medium beetroots, peeled and sliced 1mm thick
  • 300ml red-wine vinegar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp flaked chilli, or more if you like it spicy
  • 15g peeled ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 Sichuan peppercorns


Score the duck breasts in three or four parallel lines on an angle across the skin, taking care not to cut through to the meat. Place them in a medium-sized bowl and add the star anise, cloves and oil. Rub the spices into the duck so the breasts are well covered, cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Meanwhile, make the relish. Mix all the ingredients in a large saucepan and add a teaspoon and a half of salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beetroot becomes tender, the liquid thick and all but reduced entirely. Remove from the heat and set aside somewhere warm.

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6, and heat a large, heavy-based frying pan on medium heat. Add half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter-teaspoon of black pepper to the duck breast bowl and mix well. Place the breasts skin side down into the hot pan – you won’t need any oil because of the amount of fat in the duck skin – and cook for four to five minutes, regularly spooning out the fat that’s released into the pan. If the skin is getting too dark too quick, lower the heat a little.

Once the skin is a dark golden-brown and crisp, turn over the breasts and sear on the flesh side for three minutes.

Transfer the breasts to a baking tray and finish cooking in the oven for about three minutes, until cooked to medium. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for five minutes.

To serve, slice the breasts on an angle and lay on a plate. Spoon some beetroot relish on to each breast and pour over a little of the syrup. Scatter a few thyme leaves on top and serve immediately