4 pears (preferably Comice)
squeeze of lemon
4 duck breasts (I like Magret duck)
1 tbsp groundnut oil
knob of butter
2 ripe figs, quartered
chives, to garnish
FOR THE ONIONS
knob of butter
650g/1lb 7oz red onions, sliced
10 juniper berries, very finely crushed
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp demerara sugar
250ml/9fl oz red wine
Get the pears ready. Cut a vertical slice, about 2.5cm thick, from the centre of each pear, then trim the base off each pear so they stand upright when served. Put the slices in a saucepan, cover with water and add the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender (this should take 2-3 mins for ripe pears, but if they are under-ripe it could take up to 6-7 mins). Remove from the liquid with a slotted spoon then leave to cool and dry on kitchen paper.
Cook the onions. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onions and half the juniper berries. Cover and cook over a very low heat for 15 mins, stirring from time to time to prevent the onions from browning. Remove the lid, stir in the vinegar and increase the heat. Allow the vinegar to reduce until almost dry, then stir in the sugar and wine, and braise for 15 mins or until almost completely reduced. Season, and add the remaining juniper berries, cover and set aside. You can prepare up to this stage several hours in advance.
Cook the duck. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Trim the duck breasts to a neat shape and score close diagonal lines in the skin with a sharp knife. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan or roasting tin on the hob, then put in the duck breasts skin-side down. Cook over a moderate heat until the fat has rendered and the skin takes on a rich golden brown colour – this should take about 10 mins. Turn the breasts skin-side up and transfer to the oven for 6-7 mins. Leave to rest for 5 mins while you finish off the pears.
Just before serving, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan until foaming and fry the pears over a low heat until golden brown on both sides, turning and basting once. At the same time, quickly reheat the onions. Lay the duck breasts on a platter, spoon the onions alongside and stand the pears upright next to them. Dip the figs in the buttery juices to glaze them a little, and use as a garnish with the chives.
628 kcalories, protein 31g, carbohydrate 31g, fat 39g, saturated fat 12g, fibre 5g, added sugar 4g, salt 0.43g