Mallards with Sweet Onion Compote

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Cooking for Christmas

Cooking for Christmas

By Josceline Dimbleby

Published 1978

  • About

Mallard, or wild duck, are completely different from commercially bred ducks. They have much darker, gamier flesh and are less fatty. Although they are not an economical buy, I snap them up whenever I see them in shops because they taste so good. For a meal over the Christmas season when there aren’t too many of you, mallard make a real treat. I usually serve duck with brown rice and a crisp green vegetable; or for this dish a simple green salad is good.


  • 2 oranges
  • 2 mallards, weighing about 1½-2 lb (750-1 kg) each
  • olive oil
  • salt

For the compote

  • lb (750 g) small onions
  • 2 oz (50 g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) olive oil
  • 2 oz (50 g) walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 1 oz (25 g) currants
  • 1 oz (25 g) sultanas
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) bottled green peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) paprika
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml spoon) ground cloves
  • 2 rounded teaspoons (2 x 5 ml rounded spoons) whole-seed mustard
  • 2 tablespoons (2 x 15 ml spoons) coarse-cut marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) red wine vinegar
  • sea salt

For the Sauce

  • 4 fl oz (125 ml) red wine
  • 4 fl oz (125 ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) dark soy sauce
  • sea salt, black pepper


Heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/400°F/200°C. Put half of one orange into the body cavity of each duck. Rub the outside with a little olive oil and salt and put towards the top of the oven, basting often, for 40 minutes.

While the ducks are cooking, make the compote. Peel the onions and cut them in quarters. Melt the butter with the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, the walnuts, the currants, sultanas and the green peppercorns. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the onions are completely soft. Then stir in the ground ginger, paprika, cloves, the mustard, the marmalade and the red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and return to the heat for another 5 minutes.

When the mallards are cooked hold them upside-down for any juices to pour out of them into the roasting pan and then put the ducks on a carving board. Pour most of the fat from the pan. Add the juice of the second orange to the pan with the red wine, the water and the soy sauce. Season with black pepper and salt and let it bubble fiercely in the pan on top of the stove for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a gravy jug and spoon the onion compote into a warmed serving bowl to accompany the duck.