Duck breast with Madeira sauce

Ireland is a country rich in history and culture, the rolling emerald hills are dotted with many castles, forts and churches which were once the heart of the country. Exploring Belfast conjured up many memories of moments in history, especially the Titanic. In 1911 the RMS Titanic finished construction in Belfast and sat proudly as the largest ship afloat ready to make the voyage from the United Kingdom to New York.

While in Belfast I was fascinated to learn more about the food on board the ship. I love history and of course food, so when the two are entangled I can’t help but be intrigued. The Titanic was rich and opulent and represented a new world and the food tailored to reflect this. Although there were different menus for different classes, overall the standard of food was befitting this magnificent ship. The third class passengers certainly ate better than they did at home!

A typical meal for each class:

First class:
Roast squab with saffron vinaigrette
Roast duckling with apple sauce

Second class:
Spring lamb with mint sauce
Roast turkey with cranberries

Third class:
Rice soup
Roast beef with gravy and vegetables

To try and incorporate these ideas, on the show I prepared duck breast with madeira sauce. While simple to make, it is elegant looking and rich in flavour and my homage to the chef who went down with the ship and the recipes he created on board.

For me, there are two key elements to this dish. Firstly the duck breast, and making sure the skin is crisp. I like to start by scoring the breasts and then placing in a cold pan. The fat melts, leaving the skin crisp. Secondly, the madeira sauce. A wine popular in years gone by, it reminds me so much of the Titanic and provides the dish with an extra depth of savoury winey flavour.

Duck Breast with Madeira  Sauce_RESIZED

Duck Breast with Madeira Sauce

Serves 2
Preparation 5 minutes
Cooking 10 minutes


2 x 200g duck breast fillets, skin on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable Roesti
1 potato, peeled and grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 white (or yellow carrot), peeled and grated
1 zucchini or courgette, grated
½ egg, beaten
1½ tablespoons (30g) butter

Madeira Sauce
½ cup (125ml) madeira or sherry
½ cup (125ml) chicken stock
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of ½ lemon or to taste


Cut deep slashes in the duck skin. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a cold medium frying pan, skin side down, place over medium heat, for about 6 – 8 minutes or until skin is well browned and fat rendered. Turn duck breasts and cook, flesh side down for two minutes for medium-rare or longer if you prefer. Transfer to a warmed plate and cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for five minutes while you make the sauce.

Meanwhile to make vegetable roesti remove excess water from vegetables by placing all in a clean tea towel and squeezing over a medium bowl. Tip water out of bowl, add in vegetables and combine with egg. Melt half the butter in a small frying pan over medium high heat then add the vegetable mixture. As vegetables begin to cook and soften push down with a potato masher to flatten. When cooked on one side, cover pan with a plate and invert it. Add remaining butter to the pan and slip the roesti into the pan, uncooked side downwards. Push down again.

For sauce: pour duck fat from pan and deglaze pan with madeira, chicken stock and red currant jelly. Whisk to combine. Add strained orange and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a little water if the sauce evaporates too much.

To serve, slice roesti in half and place on serving plate. Top with duck breast, carved into thick slices and spoon over the sauce.

Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Ireland starts on Lifestyle FOOD on Monday 20 May
Dates and times:
Monday 20 May at 7:30pm and 11:30pm
Saturday 25 May at 11:00am
Sunday 26 May at 11:30pm
Click here for more information

Lyndey Milan, Australian home cook hero, combines a thirst for life and a sense of fun with a love of good food and sparkling shiraz. A familiar face on television and in print, she been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine for over thirty years.

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