Thornhill Duck with Sweet Potato Fondants – A firm favourite

Thornhill Duck with Sweet Potato Fondants

Thornhill Duck with Sweet Potato Fondants

In today’s blog post I am going to share with you the recipe for one of our most loved dishes, ‘Breast of Thornhill Duck with Sweet Potato Fondants’. I also want to give you some of the background to the dish as well and explain why it is so close to my heart.

I love using good local produce in my cooking and probably one of the best examples of this is the duck we serve in the restaurant. ‘Thornhill Duck’ is a business that is literally five minutes away from the restaurant. But when I say business but I should probably say friend as Ken Moffit, who runs ‘Thornhill Duck’, is exactly that. He started on his own farm but has now moved to a state of the art facility and supplies duck and goose all over Ireland. He has been supplying the restaurant for over 20 year and rears a specific breed called a Peking Duck which are smaller than usual and are specifically bred for flavour. (Thornhill Duck are not available to buy in the shops but you can collect from Ken).

It is an absolutely beautiful duck and Ken is so consistent in what he produces and his geese are also magnificent. We are very proud to use Ken and he is a great example of the fantastic local produce that is available right across Ireland. We really are so fortunate to have people who are so dedicated to producing such quality.

The majority of our producers come from within an hour and a half of the restaurant. It is important that people know where their food comes from. As chefs we have a responsibility to know everything about our food so that we can tell our customers exactly where everything on their plate came from.

Ken has starred in a few of my TV programmes over the years and his duck is getting famous in its own right! We would have many guests who come to the restaurant and they specifically ask for the Thornhill Duck. I suppose you could call it one of our signature dishes in the restaurant. In fact Duck has always been a popular dish at the restaurant right back to when my mother used to roast the duck whole.

In this recipe I find the the honey and clove sauce with the duck to be such a great combination. The sweet potato fondants go really well and then the creamed cabbage finishes it all off.

People love finding a new way to cook a favourite such as cabbage and this recipe gives you the perfect opportunity to do just that. So I would say to anybody to give this recipe a try. Some might say that it looks complicated but a lot of it can be prepared before hand. You can do the fondant, the purée, the sauce and the cabbage all ahead of time and then you only have to worry about cooking the duck and this recipe will really give you a chance to learn a great way to cook duck.

This is one of the dishes that we cook at the Neven Maguire Cookery School and people are always blown away by how good their dish tastes after they have cooked it.

Recipe is below and I hope you enjoy cooking this dish as much as I do.



  • 4 each of 275g (10oz) duck breasts, well trimmed

  • 1 tblsp cracked black pepper

  • sea salt

  • 1 tblsp clear honey

Creamed savoy cabbage
  • 1 tblsp rapeseed oil

  • 100 g (4oz) carrot, finely diced

  • 75 g (3oz) celeriac, finely diced

  • 2 tblsp softened butter

  • 350 g (12oz) savoy cabbage, tough stalks removed and finely sliced

  • 200 ml (7fl oz) cream

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sweet potato fondants
  • 2 sweet potatoes, each at least 8cm (3in) long and 4cm (1 1/2in) across

  • 25 g (1oz) butter

  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 300 ml (1/2 pint) chicken stock (page 253)

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

Spinach/Watercress purée
  • 50 g (2oz) spinach or watercress leaves, tough talks removed

  • 100 ml (3 1/2fl oz) rapeseed oil

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Celeriac/Sweet Potato purée
  • 550 g (1lb 4oz) celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks

  • 200 ml (7fl oz) cream

  • 200 ml (7fl oz) vegetable stock

  • 20 g (3/4oz) butter

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Honey and clove sauce
  • 4 tblsp clear honey

  • 2 tblsp dark soy sauce

  • 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar

  • 2 tblsp light brown sugar

  • 2 tblsp tomato ketchup

  • 2 tsp whole cloves

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garlic confit
  • 300 ml (1/2 pint) duck fat

  • 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves (but not peeled)

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6) and preheat the grill to medium.

  2. Score the fat on the duck in a criss-cross pattern. Season the duck on both sides with the cracked black pepper and salt. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium to high heat and add the duck breasts, skin side down (this helps render the duck fat, giving it a crispy skin,) and cook for about 2 minutes, until the skin is crisp.

  3. Turn the duck breasts over and cook for another minute, then transfer the frying pan to the oven and cook for 8 minutes for a pink finish or 10 minutes if you prefer your duck a little more well done. For the last few minutes of the cooking time, brush the skin of the duck breasts with the honey, which will give a wonderful flavour and caramelise the skin. Leave to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes, without covering.

  4. To serve, carve the duck breasts into thin slices and arrange on warmed plates on a bed of creamed cabbage with 2 of the sweet potato fondants to one side. Add the spinach and sweet potato purées, then drizzle over the honey and clove sauce. Finally, garnish with the garlic confit.

Honey and clove sauce
  1. Place the stock, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and cloves in a small pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer vigorously for 5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened to a sauce consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste, then pass through a sieve into a clean pan, discarding the cloves. Reheat gently and use as required.

For the cabbage
  1. Heat a pan over a medium heat. Add the oil and gently sweat the carrot and celeriac for 3–4 minutes. Add the butter and once it has melted, tip in the cabbage and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the cabbage is wilted.

  2. Pour in the cream, stirring to combine, then allow to simmer and reduce until slightly thickened. Season to taste and use as required.

  3. Note: This can be made up to 12 hours in advance, then cooled and kept covered with clingfilm in a bowl in the fridge until needed. Place in a pan and reheat gently, stirring occasionally.

Sweet potato fondants
  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and trim down until they are 8cm (3in) long so you are left with cylindrical sections. Place these on your chopping board and cut each one into 2cm (3/4in) slices, then use a straight-sided cutter to stamp out 8 x 4cm (1 1/2in) rounds.

  2. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter and oil. Add the sweet potato discs and cook for 2–3 minutes on each side, until golden. Season to taste and pour in enough stock to come three-quarters of the way up the sweet potatoes.

  3. Add the thyme sprigs to the fondants, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10–12 minutes without moving the potatoes, until all of the stock mixture has gone and the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Turn the discs over carefully with a spatula. You will notice that the bottoms have started to brown and caramelise. Cook for 3–4 minutes, until browned and completely tender.

  4. Note: Make the sweet potato fondants up to 2 days in advance and keep covered in the fridge until needed. Reheat on a baking sheet at 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) for 10 minutes. They also keep well in a cool oven.

Spinach/Watercress purée
  1. Blanch the spinach or watercress in a pan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds, then refresh quickly under cold running water. Drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper.

  2. Place in a Thermomix or blender for 5–7 minutes, adding the oil in a slow, continuous stream until the purée comes together. Season to taste and use as required.

Celeriac/Sweet potato purée
  1. Place the celeriac (sweet potato) in a pan with the cream and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes, until the vegetable is completely soft.

  2. Once the celeriac (sweet potato) is cooked, place the mixture into a Thermomix (see page 273 for details) or blender and blitz until smooth. Add the butter and blitz again for 5–7 minutes. Season to taste and use as required.

Garlic confit
  1. Warm the duck fat in a pan until it’s no longer solidified. Add the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs and simmer very gently over a low heat for about 40 minutes, until meltingly soft. Remove from the oil and gently squeeze the cloves out of their skins. Use as required.

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