Spiced Duck Breast with Hazelnuts

, from Issue #56. August, 2015
Photography by Manja Wachsmuth .
Spiced Duck Breast with Hazelnuts

Rich duck breast loves the warm peppery notes in the quatre épices (a spice mix common in France, see recipe below), which makes a stunning pan sauce when combined with the toasty hazelnuts and orange.

Serves: 4


Quatre épices 
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger

4 duck breasts, skin on
2 teaspoons quatre épices

2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
finely grated zest and juice 1 orange
¼ teaspoon quatre épices
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup good beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
⅓ cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and freshly
ground pepper


Quatre épices: Combine the ingredients and store in an airtight jar.

Duck: Lightly score the skin of the duck with a sharp knife.

Sprinkle both sides of the duck with the quatre épices and season with salt.

Place skin side down in a cold sauté pan and place over a medium low heat. Cook for 10 minutes until the skin is crisp and a good golden brown. Turn over and cook for 3–5 minutes or until done to your liking. Transfer the duck to a plate and cover loosely. Don’t wash the pan.  

Sauce: Drain off the excess duck fat, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until melted, stirring constantly. Add the vinegar and let it bubble up, scraping up any sticky bits on the base of the pan.

Add the orange zest and juice, quatre épices and the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, season and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then whisk in the butter to make a glossy sauce. Stir in the hazelnuts and parsley and any resting juices from the duck.

To serve: Slice the duck thickly and arrange on plates. Spoon over the sauce and serve with a salad and the potato galette if desired.

Pantry note: Quatre épices translates as “four spices” and is one of the staple spice mixes used in the French kitchen and traditionally contains pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Despite its name, quatre épices may contain more than four spices and is used in charcuterie, braised meats and stews, vegetables, in gingerbread and with game.