Duck Breasts with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

I was once taken to Rosa Mexicana, said by many to be the best Mexican restaurant in Manhattan, and was served an exquisitely subtle dish of duck in pumpkin seed sauce or pipian. The elusive sharpness came from the green tomato or tomatillo, with its papery husk. This is not easy to find here. You could use physalis or Cape gooseberry which is a close relation, but it will change the colour of the sauce. I have retained the rich green colour of the sauce and slightly altered the flavour by using a firm under-ripe kiwi fruit, or alternatively, you could use a squeeze of lime juice. This recipe works well with chicken, with duck and with wild duck. Wild rice makes a very good accompaniment.


  • 4 duck breasts, off the bone
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 oz / 85 g toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1–2 green chillies (or more to taste), seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 oz / 30 g coriander, chopped
  • 1 oz / 30 g watercress leaves, chopped
  • 2½ fl oz / 70 ml duck stock or water
  • 1 firm, under-ripe kiwi fruit


Remove the skin from the duck breasts, season lightly, and poach in stock or water for 5–8 minutes. Remove and put to one side. To make the sauce, gently fry the seeds, and then the onion, chillies and garlic in the oil, until the onions are soft and wilted. Stir in half the coriander and watercress and the stock or water and simmer for a few minutes. Peel the kiwi fruit, roughly chop, and put in a blender or food processor with the sauce and the rest of the coriander and watercress. Blend until smooth, then return the sauce to the pan set over a gentle heat. Put the duck breasts in the sauce, and cook the two together for 4–5 minutes before serving.