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Duck with Celeriac Purée & Thyme Roasted Plums


Creating beautiful food is one of my true passions. Making people happy through the flavour of simple seasonal produce, cooked well is my utopia. Is there anything better than watching friends and family beaming with delight as they taste what you've created and sip away on beautiful wine, talking and laughing into the night?

This week I discovered that plums, in a range of varieties, were looking fantastic, so my creativity for this meal began there: in a plum. The perfect representation of autumn.

I love the way you can be inspired by one ingredient, and then suddenly an entire meal comes together.

My inner monologue goes into over drive when dreaming up ideas for recipes and this time it went a little like this:

"What will I have with plums?

Duck.

Duck and plums. Ugh! Amazing.

Duck, plums and thyme... and a purée. Potato? Nah... boring. Celeriac. Yep. Delish. Duck with Celeriac Purée and Thyme Roasted Plums.

Dinner plans set. Done."

Obviously, my method isn't a major epiphany.

Duck and fruit are always friends, so it was without question going on the menu as the perfect partner to my plums. Then to bring a savoury and earth driven element... that's how I landed upon on a smooth celeriac puree as the final element to bring everything together. I'd like to think it's similar to art in the way that your mind and its knowledge of flavours and textures work to bring together elements of a dish, like elements of an art piece. That's the only way I could describe how the mind of a foodie works, but probably with far more mess (or maybe not!).

So, with the glimpse of a plum sitting pretty on a grocers shelf, came the complete concept of this meal.

To get the best produce I really recommend that, no matter what you're making, you head to a Farmers Markets if you're lucky enough to have one close by. Even if you are able to source your protein directly from the farmer, a small butcher or at the very least a few elements from your meal, it's great to try and support producers and also to know where your food comes from.

For me, I aim to source my ingredients at my Saturday market and this week grabbed fresh duck breast fillets from Burrawong Gaian at my local Carriageworks Farmers Markets here in the Inner West of Sydney. These markets have been a long time favourite of mine. They're truly wonderful as are all of the stall holders.

This meal, despite sounding a little on the 'fancy side', is actually really easy and doesn't require a lot of time of ingredients. Shhhhhhh. No one will ever know.

Give this a go, invite some friends over and wow them with this for dinner.

The flavours are really beautiful!

DUCK WITH CELERIAC PURÉE AND THYME ROASTED PLUMS

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

2 duck breasts, skin on

Olive oil

The Jus

Butter

Red wine

Chicken Stock

Extra sprigs of thyme

Celeriac Purée

1 celeriac, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons, butter

Thickened cream (1/4 cup - a good dash)

Salt and pepper

Thyme Roasted Plums

3-5 Plums, mixed

White balsamic

Caster sugar

A bunch of lemon thyme (use regular thyme if it's unavailable)

METHOD

1. Thyme Roasted Plums - Preheat fan forced over to 180 degrees celsius. Line a baking tray and lay the plum halves randomly over the tray, cut side facing up. Drizzle white balsamic over the plums, sprinkle with caster sugar and scatter the thyme over the top.

Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes. The plums are ready when softened, but not completely broken down.

Remove and set aside. Baste with extra juice from the pan before serving.

2. Celeriac Purée - Meanwhile, place the celeriac, potato and garlic in a pot of water and place over the stove on a high heat.

Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and celeriac are softened.

3. The Duck Breasts - While the potatoes, celeriac and garlic are boiling, use absorbent paper to dry the duck breast skin, then season.

Place a flat base fry pan on the stove over a medium-high heat and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.

Put the duck breasts in the pan, skin side down at the same time you turn the heat on.

Doing this means you don't require much additional fat, as the duck fat will render from under the skin of the duck breast as it heats up.

This process will also create a crispy skin. Turn the breasts after 2-3 minutes, ensuring the skin is becoming golden brown.

Cook the underside of the breasts for 1-2 minutes and then place the breasts on a lined tray.

Put the duck breasts in the oven for 10 minutes, or until almost cooked through.

Remove and cover with foil to rest.

3. Celeriac Purée - Once the duck breasts are in the oven, the potato, celeriac and garlic should now be at the 'softened stage'. Drain from the boiling water. Place the celeriac, garlic and 2 teaspoons of butter into a food processor and process till smooth. Add the potato and process for a very short time 5-10 seconds and then briefly in pulses if additional processing is needed. Do not over-process once the potato is added as it can easily become starchy and glue-like.

Remove to a bowl and stir through the cream and season to taste.

4. Plating & The Jus - Slice the duck breasts, ensuring they pink inside and get the purée, Plums and duck ready to plate quickly after the jus is ready.

The Jus - return the fry pan with reserved duck cooking juices to the stove over a medium high heat. As the juices begin to bubble, add the extra thyme sprigs and cook off until the pan juices begin to reduce.

Add a splash of wine and continue to stir together until this begins to reduce. Once reduced by about a third, add a dash of stock and again continue stirring, while the liquid bubbles away until reduced by half. Season to taste and when reduced by half, add a small knob of butter and stir through.

The jus will then thicken slightly and have a beautiful sheen. At this stage it is ready. Quickly turn the stove off, remove the jus from the heat, strain it into a bowl or gravy boat. Take a spoon of the plum roasting juices, from the bottom of that roasting tray and stir into the jus. This will add some extra flavour and a beautiful red colour.

Plating - Prepare your plates and spoon the jus over the duck. Serve and enjoy!

WINE SUGGESTION

Without doubt, a Pinot Noir. Duck and Pinot: two of the best friends in the culinary world. Get a good one, pour it into a decanter and let it breathe. It is true my friends, a decanter is a worthy investment. It doesn't have to be expensive and it really isn't as wanky as you'd imagine! Ours is a cheap one from Kmart and does the trick. The act of actually pouring a bottle of wine into the decanter does most most of the work, by instantly aerating it, but leave it to breathe for at least 15 minutes to an hour or two and it'll only get better. Trust me.

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People who love to eat

are always the best people.

- Julia Child