Duck with pearl barley and blackberry sauce

The richness of duck is brilliantly offset by fruity sauces, such as with this fresh blackberry one. The sharpness of the berries cuts through the fattiness of the duck and balances the dish perfectly. Duck breasts should be served pink in the middle to ensure the dense meat stays tender, so don’t be tempted to cook it for much longer than the time stipulated.

Serves 4

Serves 4




  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • Sea salt

For the braised pearl barley:

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery sticks, trimmed and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • 250g pearl barley
  • 200ml white wine
  • 1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 rosemary sprigs

For the blackberry sauce:

  • 100g fresh blackberries
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 100ml port
  • 300ml beef stock or jus

Cooking instructions

  • For the braised pearl barley, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the leek, carrots, celery and garlic, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the pearl barley and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the wine and bubble over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until it has almost all been absorbed, then stir in the hot stock and herb sprigs.
  • Cover tightly with a cartouche (a circle of baking parchment or buttered greaseproof paper) and cook over a low–medium heat for 20–25 minutes, until the barley is al dente. Keep warm and discard the herb stalks before serving.
  • Meanwhile, for the blackberry sauce, put the blackberries, sugar and port into a saucepan, cover with a lid and cook gently for 5–10 minutes, until the blackberries are soft but still holding their shape (you don’t want them to become too soft and lose their shape).
  • Pour the beef stock into a separate saucepan and heat gently until hot, then remove from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the softened blackberries to the beef jus pan along with 50ml of the blackberry cooking liquor (discard the rest) and stir gently to combine. Keep warm while you cook the duck.
  • Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/Gas 9.
  • Lightly score the fat on each duck breast using a sharp knife, then season each one with salt. Put the duck breasts, fat side down, into a cold, heavy-based ovenproof frying pan. Cook over a low–medium heat for 8–10 minutes, allowing the fat to render. 
  • Turn the duck breasts over so that the fat is facing up, then transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 4–5 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the meat is browned on the outside but pink in the middle. Remove from the oven and let the duck rest for 5 minutes before carving.
  • Spoon the braised pearl barley onto serving plates, place the duck breasts on top, then pour over the blackberry sauce.

Read more in Gordon's recipe books...

Recipes extracted from Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay and the Bread Street Kitchen Team, published by Hodder & Stoughton, £26