Genuinely one of the best lunches I have had in a long time. Although I probably say that quite a lot, I definitely mean it. I love days when I cook from a recipe that I am not sure about and sounds like an odd mixture of ingredients, and it ends up tasting amazing. They had lovely Gressingham duck breasts on special offer in Sainsburys the other day, and I found a pomegranate in the reduced section in Tesco yesterday (£1.25 full price for a fruit the size of a small orange?! I miss the days when they were five for a pound at Oxford market...fortunately I got this one for 50p, and it made me a little bit happy). I know duck goes well with pomegranates from my excessive reading of various recipe books (and because duck and sharp fruit is a pretty standard combination - cherries, quinces, oranges...) so I did a quick google and found a recipe that sounded quite nice.
It was. The duck breasts are coated with honey and pomegranate molasses and pan-fried then finished off in the oven, and served with a pilaff of bulgar wheat, pistachios, dried cherries, red onion, parsley and mint. Sounds like a combination that could never work, but the end result is truly delicious and I urge you to try it. I think the secret is the pomegranate molasses: I bought a bottle in the Moroccan deli in Oxford a few months ago and ever since have been finding recipes that use it. It's just pomegranate juice boiled down to make a sticky syrup, and has a wonderful sweet-and-sour quality to it that enhances everything you put it in. I made a really good Ottolenghi recipe for sardines stuffed with couscous that had pomegranate molasses in it, and also an aubergine and chickpea stew. Its flavour is addictive and intriguing: people always ask "what is it that makes it sort of sweet and sour?" It's a bit like orange flower water in that respect: it adds a flavour note that isn't too overpowering but somehow gives the dish something extra.
It's lovely in this, mixed with caramelised red onion and sour cherries and used to flavour the pilaff, and also rubbed onto the duck to give it a lovely crispy, tangy coating. The duck stays wonderfully moist (hate that word, but there is no alternative really) - I have cooked duck breasts a few times but these were definitely the best I have ever eaten, which may be down to finishing them off in the oven rather than drying them out by cooking in a pan. Although, that said, I could have eaten the pilaff all on its own - I think the key is using vegetable stock (Marigold bouillon powder in this case) to cook it in. The scattering of fresh pomegranate seeds at the end brings everything together, and also makes the dish look beautiful. A wonderfully aromatic, sweet, sour, savoury plate of delights.