Recipe: Pan roasted duck breast and char-grilled asparagus


HOME-cooked food is the theme at Benicks, the restaurant at The Chequers at Woolmer Green, but this description hides a multitude of surprises from head chef Ben Francis. His duck dish here sounds simple, but the use of asparagus, chilli and ginger is a fair indication of the inventiveness for which he is noted and which for him makes the job all the more interesting.‘My granddad was a chef for a while and always very passionate about cooking and I guess it’s rubbed off on me,’ he says. Ben attended catering college in Ware and has been at The Chequers, run by his family, for seven years. He is famous for his pies, served on Wednesdays and Saturdays and ranging from the usual like steak-and-kidney to a World Cup special with wild boar, impala, ostrich and blesbok, but customers also enjoy treats including sticky chicken and rack of ribs with home-made barbecue sauce.


Ingredients2 duck breasts6-8 asparagus spears½ pint good quality veal or chicken jus1 tbsp fresh chopped coriander1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated1 Birdseye chilli, deseeded and chopped2 tbsp clear honey1 clove garlicSplash of full-bodied red wineOlive oil and a knob of butter for frying

Method>> Put butter and a little olive oil in a heavy-based pan over medium heat. Sweat down ginger and garlic for 1 min without colouring, then add chilli and cook for further 2 mins. Add a splash of red wine and reduce by half. Add honey and stock, simmer for 10 mins or until reduced by about a third. Finish with coriander and season to taste. Set to one side.>> Score the skin of the duck breasts and season both sides. Heat a dry, heavy-based, ovenproof pan over high heat, place duck breasts in pan skin side down, and fry for 2-3 mins or until golden brown. Turn them over and place pan into a pre-heated oven at 180º for 10 mins for a medium duck or add 5 mins for well done. Remove from oven and cover with foil and allow to rest. >> Put sauce back on a low heat. Dress asparagus spears with olive oil and season. Place on a pre-heated griddle pan and cook for 3-4 mins, turning occasionally, until griddle lines appear on both sides. (Can be grilled if you do not possess a griddle pan).>> Slice the duck breasts lengthways, arrange the asparagus on warm plates and place the duck on top. Drizzle with the chilli sauce.>> Serve with your choice of potatoes – suggested accompaniment, Lyonnaise potatoes.

Benicks at The Chequers Inn16 London RoadWoolmer Green SG3 6JP01438