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Bob Hart’s recipe for duck breasts on the BBQ

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs
Article image for Bob Hart’s recipe for duck breasts on the BBQ


There was a time – in the 50s or early 60s – when a duck dish was top of the pops in posh Australian restaurants.

The dish was called duck (or duckling) a l‘orange and, regrettably, it was not very good.

The idea was sound: a sturdy and not too old breast of duck was cooked through, on a pan or in the oven, and served with an orange sauce.

But sadly, that sauce was inclined to be sickly sweet and not, considering the distinguished origins of the dish, quite what the French had in mind.

The original name for the dish was duckling bigarade, a provencal word. And “bigarade” are very special oranges: the ones we call “seville” oranges which are our favourite marmalade oranges, and deliciously and distinctively sour.

But somehow, that sourness got lost in translation. Which is no reason for us to give up on the dish now, after all these years, when we can give it renewed credibility by cooking it on a barbecue. Try this:

Pick up a couple of duck breasts from a reliable butcher and, if has not been done, neaten them up by triming them carefully. Salt them with sea salt and refrigerate overnight if you can, or for a couple of hours at least.

Take them out of the fridge an hour before cooking to bring them back to room temperature, and score the skin in a couple of places with a sharp knife.

Now, pick up a jar of Seville orange marmalade: there are several good ones on sale, or maybe you have an aunt who makes it. Warm about 1-2 tbs of it in a small pot with a splash of water, a splash of cider vinegar, and a sprig or two of fresh rosemary. Simmer this glaze for a minute or two and you are ready to go.

Fire up your grill, ensuring it is clean and oiled, taking it to a tick over 200C, and you are ready to go. Charcoal, as always, works best because you can use a chunk of pecan in the fire, but a gas grill will also do a fine job.

Pepper and slightly oil (with EV olive oil) the duck and place it on the grill at 45 degrees to the bars, and drop the lid.

Give it 3-4 minutes to sear, lift the lid, flip the breasts, brush each of them with the hot orange glaze, and drop the lid. Give them another four minutes, flip the breasts, turn them through 90 degrees and again paint with the orange glaze.

Flip them again in four minutes, touching up with the glaze, and they should be done. If you sense they need a touch more, or you don’t like a touch of pink in your duck breasts, give them another minute in each position on the grill, using up the rest of the glaze. Remember to rest them, loosely tented in foil, when you take them off.

Then, serve them with anything you like, but I especially like them with buttery, mashed sweet potatoes.

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs