To Salt and Poach Duck Breasts

This is a Welsh recipe that comes from The First Principles of Good Cookery by Lady Llanover, first published in 1867. It is a curious book, written in the person of a hermit passing on the principles of good cookery to the traveller, and covering such diverse matters as the management of hedgerows, the rearing of goats and beekeeping, as well as the art or science of making soup and how to ‘potch a dish of eggs for a weak stomach’.


  • 4 duck breasts
  • 2–3 oz / 60–85 g coarse sea salt


Rub the duck breasts all over with the salt, and put them in a shallow dish. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days. At least once a day, rub the salt in again. On the third day, rinse all the salt off, and put the meat in an ovenproof dish in a roasting tin. Pour on enough water just to cover the duck breasts, and then pour 1–2 in / 2.5–5 cm water into the roasting tin. Bring the water in the roasting tin to the boil, then turn the heat down as low as possible, or transfer to a preheated oven at 150°C / 300°F / Mark 2. Poach, uncovered, for about 1½ hours. The duck will be tender and cooked through rather than pink. Serve hot with an onion sauce, or allow to cool, slice and serve with salad.