Honey-Glazed Duck & Grape Pilaf

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Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

A honey glaze on a roast duck is a difficult thing to get right, because the sugar easily burns, blackening the skin and making it go bitter. The way to overcome this irritating tendency is to reverse the usual roasting procedure and start at a lower temperature, only increasing it during the last 20 minutes of cooking time - and to cook the bird breast down for most of the time. The high fat content of the breast makes duck a suitable candidate for this treatment.

Pilaf has some similarities with risotto in that the rice is first turned in hot butter before being cooked in stock which the rice absorbs. The consistency, however, is much lighter and a long-grain rice — like Basmati - is used. The best way to make a pilaf is to start the cooking in a pan on the hob, transferring the rice with the flavouring ingredients you use to a rice steamer together with a measured amount of stock to finish the cooking. At around £30, rice steamers are not expensive and have the advantage of freeing up space on the hob. When the rice is done, the steamer automatically switches to keep the contents hot and in perfect condition for several hours.


  • 1 dressed duck, weighing about 2.3 kg/5 lb

For the Glaze

  • 5 cm/2 in piece of root ginger
  • 3 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves

For the Grape Pilaf

  • 1 red onion
  • 115 g/4 oz butter
  • 375 g/13 oz long-grain rice
  • 30 g/1 oz slivered almonds
  • 1 litre/ pt chicken stock (if using a rice steamer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the amount of liquid)
  • 225 g/8 oz seedless white grapes
  • salt and pepper



The day before: strip out any excess fat from inside the duck carcass and push a butcher’s hook in at the neck end from which to suspend the duck. With a needle, carefully prick the duck skin all over - you want to pierce the skin but not push the point into the meat.

Make the glaze: peel and chop the ginger. Put this and the other glaze ingredients into a pot large enough to hold the duck. Add 850 ml/1½ pt of water. Boil and stir to mix and dissolve the honey.

Put the duck in the pot and baste it until it has an even coating. Then hang it up to dry in a cool airy spot overnight. If you are doing this in the summer and it is too hot to leave the bird out overnight, hang it to dry in front of a fan for 1 hour or bribe a child to blow it with a hair-dryer on cold. The skin should be dry and shiny.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas4.

Put 300 ml/½ pt water in a roasting tin. Sit the duck, breast side down, on a rack over it and cook for 1 hour. Then turn it breast side up and cook for a further 10 minutes. Increase the temperature setting to 230°C/450°F/gas8 and give it 20 minutes more to crisp and brown — a total cooking time of 1½ hours. If at any time the glaze starts to blacken, cover the bird loosely with foil, removing it for the last 15 minutes.

While the duck is crisping, start making the pilaf: peel and dice the onion and sweat it in 55 g/2 oz butter until translucent. Add the rice and almonds and turn to coat.

If cooking in a saucepan, boil the stock and pour it over. Stir, add 2 teaspoons of salt and put on a lid. Return to the boil, turn the heat right down and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in the grapes and remaining butter, turn to mix and heat the grapes through.

If using a steamer, fry the onion, almonds and rice in a pan before transferring to the steamer and adding the manufacturer’s recommended amount of liquid. When done, stir in the grapes and butter, put the lid back on and leave for 10 minutes to heat through

When the duck is ready, transfer to a serving dish and keep warm while resting for 20 minutes before carving.


Cut the breasts off the duck, cut off the legs and thighs and reserve the carcass for stock. Transfer the pilaf to a warmed serving dish and fluff with a fork before serving.

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