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Duck breast with a sort of Scottish barley sauce.

This recipe is adapted taking great liberties from Dabbous The Cookbook. Ollie Dabbous makes what he misnames a dish of roast goose. In fact he seals the breasts in a vacuum bag and cooks them in a 113.4° waterbath before frying them on the stove The seared goose is sauced with barley milk strained and thickened with kuzu, then served with glazed Pardailhan turnips, a varietal available, he says “only a couple of months in late autumn/early winter.” This requirement sits ill with Dabbous’ conviction that goose “is a fantastic meat that deserves to be eaten more than once a year.”

Not much remains here of Dabbous’ recipe, but even so its pedigree will be obvious. Domestic cooks will not obtain goose breast without the remainder of the bird, which anyway is too grand not to roast in the traditional manner. Even supermarkets, however, stock decent duck breasts and they are an entirely acceptable alternative. Rather than lose the rustic texture of the barley, this recipe purees it rather than throwing it away and therefore can dispense with the kuzu. Finally, bog standard yellow turnips, whether mashed or roasted, are just as nice with the duck and its barley as the elusive Pardailhans.

dabbous_the_cookbook.jpgFor the barley sauce:

  • ½ cup barley
  • about 1 quart milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2-3 cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon mace
  • salt


The turnip:

  • a yellow turnip, skinned, trimmed of its woody core and cut into 8 wedges
  • neutral oil to paint the wedges
  • salt and pepper


The duck:

  • a drip of neutral oil for painting the duck
  • 4 boneless duck breasts, skinside scored in a crisscross pattern; try not to pierce the underlying meat
  • salt and pepper

  1. The day before you want to cook the duck, make the barley sauce by simmering all the ingredients but the salt until the barley is plump or tender: Plan on 2 hours but the required time can vary a lot. Season the sauce with salt and steep it overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325°.

  1. Paint the turnip wedges with the oil, season them generously, wrap them loosely in foil and roast them until tender, usually in about 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. Puree the barley sauce with a hand mixer or food processor and reheat it gently.
  3. Paint and season the duck breasts and cook them, skin side down, to crisp it and render its layer of fat, them flip them to quickly sear the other side. You will want a deeply burnished brown skin and meat that remains pink to rosy. Let the duck rest for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Pool the sauce on each plate, top it with a breast and flank it in turn with 2 wedges of turnip.
  5. Serve the duck with Cumberland sauce or a currant jelly, red wine and shallot reduction.


-A recipe for Cumberland sauce is in our archive.

-To make a currant jelly, red wine and shallot reduction, boil together about ½ cup each of red currant jelly and red wine with a minced shallot and decent dose of cayenne until you have reduced it to about ⅓ its original volume.

-Lamb steaks cut from the leg, broiled, grilled or fried to a rose tint, are equally as good as duck with all the above

-The barley sauce is a sort of Scottified bread sauce using one of the northern nation’s two staple grains. You could substitute the other, oatmeal, for the barley.

-You could also boil, drain and mash the turnips; butter them with rash generosity, season them with salt and white pepper. It also would be wise to adhere to the advice of Christian Isobel Johnstone from Meg Dods’ Cook and Housewife’s Manual. “Mashed turnips… are considerably improved by the Cleikum seasoning of ginger, which, besides, corrects the flatulent properties of this esculent.”