Braised Duck Breasts with Rowanberries and Ginger

This recipe was inspired by my visit to the National Gallery’s Soundscapes exhibition last summer. The idea was that six paintings would be exhibited together with a specially composed soundtrack – two senses would combine to result in an experience which was more than the sum of their parts. I thought it would be fun to add in taste and smell too, so my companion and I tried to conjure up the food that might go with the painting as well.

The first painting we looked at was Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Lake Keitele.  It depicts a tranquil lake in Finland. I thought of a flask of hot coffee as I contemplated this lovely scene, but my co-researcher was more creative. She picked up on the birdsong she was hearing and thought of game birds – duck or grouse. She also internalised the cool, northern feel of the painting and thought of woodland fruits – specifically rowan berries.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1865 - 1931 Lake Keitele
I thought of sitting on a bench, watching, with a flask of hot coffee beside me.

What to pair this duck and rowan berry combo with in terms of sides and wine

So this is a recipe which combines duck and rowan berries (aka mountain ash berries). You can buy dried rowan berries from Amazon – and the thing to do is to rehydrate them by soaking them in rum. Their initial bitter taste cuts well through the richness of the duck and pairs well with the ginger.

In terms of pairing with wine, a good choice would be a Berry Bros & Rudd Good Ordinary Claret. This lovely wine smells a little of violets, and has flavours of black cherries and liquorice.

Serve with Artemis mushrooms; or with pak choi and spring onions and crusty bread; or add a cup/240 ml of red vermouth and serve with aubergine and pumpkin seed rice; or with simple roast celeriac and stir fried cabbage.

Because of the long cooking this dish is perfect for post-theatre – leave in the oven on a low heat and it will be ready when you return.

Leftovers are good for lunch the following day, on toast.

For a great post on rowan berries follow this link to the ForagerChef blog.

Recipe for Braised Duck Breasts with Rowan berries and Ginger

Serves 4


  • 4 carrots, washed and chopped into coins
  • 5 sticks of celery, destrung and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped fine
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed with 2 tsp smoked salt
  • 2 tsp dried rowanberries soaked to cover in rum (good substitutes for rowanberries are cranberries; or you could use juniper berries)
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • 6 cm/1½” piece of ginger, grated
  • Olive oil
  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • 5 spring onions, tough papery outside skin taken off, chopped very thin (coin width) – use about 1”/2 cm of the green part.
  • Indonesian long pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Fry the duck breasts in a hot frying pan, with a little olive oil to brown.
  3. Put the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, ginger and rowan berries into a large flattish ovenproof dish.
  4. Drizzle over some olive oil and the juice and zest of the orange.
  5. Lay the duck breasts over and grind over the pepper.
  6. Cover with foil and cook for two or three hours.
  7. Slice the breasts down diagonally and serve on a bed of the vegetables, sprinkled with the spring onions.
This post is dedicated to my god-daughter, Rowan.

Music to cook to

Below, listen to The Rowan Tree performed by Jim Reid

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