March 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:12 pm

rare duck breast with lavender honey sauce, new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli 

I wasn’t expecting to do another flower entry for WHB quite so soon after my Rosey Lamb, but inspiration struck me on Saturday.

That night I was due to be out late watching a production of Arcadia and I needed a reasonably quick dinner on arrival back home, preferably with the duck breasts in my fridge which needed using a.s.a.p . However, I was quite determined to not return to my fruit sauce rut. Also we had to grab a chinese on the way home the previous night so that cooking style wasn’t allowed.  I turned to the internet for inspiration.

It seems that Trig has a rather useful search engine that allows you to search food blogs. It’s there at the end of his side-bar.  Apparently it originally belonged to Elise at ‘Simply Recipes’ and as soon as I have time I’ll be trying to grab a copy for this site. It was this search engine that led me to this post at Chocolate and Zucchini.

Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of putting lavender with duck before? It seems obvious now. I didn’t want mine to have quite as much spice as Clothilde’s on this occasion. I wanted it to stay very light and floral, just because that was the mood I was in.

So, as I frequently do on occasions like this, I ran over to my spice cupboard, got out all the spices that Clothilde suggested plus any others I thought might work and started tasting. The interesting thing I noticed was that a small amount of ground coriander on its own tastes quite floral and not very curry-ish (if you know what I mean). I thought a pinch of it with the lavender rubbed into the duck would be good but I decided to omit the suggested cumin because that really did taste ’spicy.’

Before leaving for the play, I got Goon to grind some lavender for me. We coated the scored meat side of the duck with this and just a pinch of ground coriander seed. Then we wrapped the duck up in cling film and went out.

When we got back I got Goon to grind another tablespoon of lavender while I very gently infused some melted butter with a sprig of rosemary. I removed the rosemary,  then drizzled in about four tablespoons of  honey. I thinned the mixture gradually with just a tiny bit of chicken stock while stirring and tasting until I thought it was at the right level of sweetness. Finally I added the lavender bit by bit until the flavour balance was right and we had a sweet floral sauce.  At this point I decided it needed some depth so another pinch of ground coriander went in and then I was happy. I had to use a bit of cornstarch to get it to the right consistency, but never mind.

As usual I pan fried my duck. I find the best way to do this is to first remove the white tendon on the breast. This will stop the meat shrinking and seems to stop it becoming tough too. Then score the skin almost through to the meat and cook it skin side down on a reasonably high heat for 10-12 minutes (or a very high heat for 8) then turn up the heat on the hob to maximum and fry it for an additional 1 minute 45 seconds skin side up. This makes the duck a nice rare/medium. 

One thing to note is that too much lavender will make the sauce bitter. I had to rebalance my sauce by adding more honey and stock when I found this out and as a result ended up with too much sauce. As long as you aren’t a moron like me and add the lavender slowly, and taste regularly, it shouldn’t be a problem. 

It was a great success! The coriander, used sparingly, added depth and accentuated the floral flavours in the sauce but gave no detectable ’spicy’ flavour. The honey and lavender sauce was unusual but gorgeous. Goon gobbled it up very quickly. I decided to slow down and savour. The flavours in this sauce are too interesting to rush.

The only thing that disappointed me about this dish was that I wanted the sauce to be actually be lavender, rather than the caramel colour that it was. Even the few pieces of lavender I threw around as a garnish didn’t really stand out as being purple. :(  I somehow think I can’t overcome this problem without the addition of food colouring, which would just be silly. 

Anyway, Goon seemed to enjoy the sauce even more than me. We had our lavender-honey duck with new potatoes tossed in herby butter and simple steamed purple sprouting broccoli, so at least there was some purple on our plates! 

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging this week hosted by Kate at Thyme For Cooking.

Remember, if you’re going to get lavender for cooking make sure that is safe to eat first. Just ask the vendor if it unsprayed. For those of you in London, you can get dried culinary lavender from ‘Herbs from Heaven’ at Borough Market.


  1. Ros, you are not going to believe it, I was checking out your blog when I got your comments in e-mail. :) I saw your blog name on Freya’s blog and came over here to check it out since it was so similar, and was dumbstruck to see how we are kind of doing the same thing with the restaurants and stuff… Hey I swear I didn’t rip off your idea :D

    Comment by Sig — March 21, 2007 @ 5:23 pm

  2. Ros, been going through your site, love that lamb curry recipe. I love SriLankan cuisine, we drive to Vancouver BC from Seattle just to eat SriLankan food, do you have the recipe for Deviled chicken/beef, that’s my favorite SriLankan dish.

    Comment by Sig — March 21, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

  3. Thanks Ros. My dad and I are seriously considering a visit to Borough Market next Saturday lunchtime. It would be nice to meet up with you and whoever if you are planning a shopping trip. If so, email me and let me know. Either way drop me an email and I’ll post you the code for Elise’s search. I’d put in in here, but you have to change all the tag brackets to ascii code and that takes ages.

    Comment by Trig — March 21, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  4. I’ve never used lavendar. Now I’m going to have to find it. Your duck looks done to perfection and I love the sound of the sauce.
    There was a sale on duck breasts last week so I stocked up for warm weather grilling.

    Comment by Katie — March 21, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  5. Just the title of the recipe us enough to grab one’s undivided attention!!! Those slices are perfection!

    Comment by sher — March 22, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  6. okay…. youre inviting me for dinner next time I’m in London, right?? ;)

    I remember seeing lavender farms in Washington and wishing to myself that I was brave enough to use it in cooking.

    Comment by Lea — March 22, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  7. Hi Sig, I’m pretty sure I have a recipe for devilled chicken in a recipe book that Mum gave me. I’ll have a look when I get home. You’ve just reminded me that I was supposed to send another blogger the mackerel and tamarind recipe from it ages ago! Whoops!

    Hi Trig, email on its way.

    Hi Katie, you’ve just reminded me of something I should add to my post - you need to make sure it is unsprayed lavender to make sure it is fit for eating. Good luck in finding some.

    Hi Sher. Thanks! I am very fussy about cooking my duck. It just kills me when it is overcooked!

    Hi Lea, OF COURSE you can come round to dinner when you visit London. That is providing I’m not still living with a pair of anal retentives that will go all funny if I get us ostrich liver.

    Comment by ros — March 22, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

  8. The duck looks superb!

    Comment by James — March 23, 2007 @ 1:16 am

  9. This looks delicious! I have used lavender in cooking before and it gives such a wonderfully exotic flavour! This looks yumaroo!

    Comment by Freya — March 23, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  10. i’ve never used lavender in cooking, although i have some lavender syrup in the fridge… wasn’t sure about how to use it, but maybe a sauce is the way to go! i also had an apricot jam with lavender blossoms last summer, which i will try and replicate this year - not only a perfect combination of colours, but also interesting flavour!

    Comment by johanna — March 25, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  11. I´ve plenty of lavender in my garden. So I´ll try next time. Your dish looks great! :)

    Comment by Helene — March 26, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

  12. James, with all the practice I get cooking duck breasts, I have no excuse to not cook them properly now! I think the best trick I’ve learned for doing this is the removal of the white tendon on the meat. I prefer it when the duck doesn’t shrink. The meat seems a little more tender, cookes evenly AND it feels like you get more!

    Freya, isn’t lavender wonderful? I can’t believe it went out of fashion for so long!

    Johanna, let us know what you use the lavender syrup for. I’ve also seen the flower used with peaches in desserts so I imagine that the apricot and lavender jam must have been gorgeous.

    Helene, I hope it works out! I think using your fresh flowers as a garnish would look wonderful alongside a lavender flavoured dish!

    Comment by ros — March 26, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

  13. Yes, the wonderful search engine created by Elise is a lot of fun. This sounds like a very interesting combination. It’s fun to get some flowery recipes for WHB.

    Comment by Kalyn — March 27, 2007 @ 4:38 am

  14. Ros I have to stop reading your blog in the middle of the morning! It’s making me SO hungry!

    Comment by Lauren — March 27, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

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