Duck with apricot and ginger sauce while the sun goes down on my plated shot.

Duck with apricot and ginger sauce (1 of 8)There is a little bit of a back story to this post. The back story revolves around the plated shot and the arrival of winter. Having been in France in the holliers earlier in the year, I decided that I should do something with duck. The duck we get in Ireland is very different to the delicious, fatty, plump birds one encounters in La Belle F. However, I was not going to be put off by that. Nor was I going to be put off by the second class apricots we get here on this rain sodden outpost. No, I was going to do a great job with reasonably good ingredients. In fairness the duck here is very good, just not as great as that available over there. The apricots though, needed a bit of help. However, I digress….

I will run through the recipe quickly. Principally because I want you to feel the pressure I feel as we move into Winter every year. The pressure of the fading light.

Photo observation 1. My initial shot of the ingredients (above) was taken mid afternoon. Plenty of light, nice soft shadows and good depth of colour. I hope you agree. 

Ingredients for duck with apricot and ginger sauce: 

  • 2 duck breasts
  • 12 nice plump apricots (if you can get them)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2cm of ginger, chopped roughly
  • A couple of teaspoons of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to season

Slice through the skin and fat of the duck breasts and season them well with salt and black pepper.

Nothing wrong here. Nice looking bit of duck that.

Nothing wrong here. Nice looking bit of duck that.

Photo observation 2: Despite the duck breast being a pretty featureless thing, I managed a nice enough “slice of life” photo. “Slice of duck fat” in fact. Sill plenty of light.

Next stone the apricots and lay them out artistically.

Note the lovely autumnal tones. There is a hint in there for me.

Note the lovely autumnal tones. There is a hint in there for me.

Photo observation 3: The light is still good on the sliced apricots. But, the angle is getting pretty low. I need to hurry!

Slice the ginger and add it, along with the lemon juice and apricots, to a saucepan. Sprinkle in the sugar.

I love a good pouring shot. This one is not bad...

I love a good pouring shot. This one is not bad…

Photo observation 4: Enough light to capture the sprinkling sugar reasonably well. However, I had to ramp up the ISO (A very technical term, particularly for me).

Bring this to a boil and simmer until the apricots are reduced to a quivering mess. Just like I’ll be if I don’t get on with this.

"Good enough to eat." as they say.

“Good enough to eat.” as they say.

Photo observation 5: We have a roof window just over the cooker. Hence the lovely, natural light in the saucepan in this shot. 

Let the apricot mess cool a bit and then put it in a blender. Give it a whizz until it turns to a nice purée.

On a positive note, you will have far too much for the duck dish.

On a positive note, you will have far too much for the duck dish.

Photo observation 6: This is beginning to feel like a western. The blender casts a long shadow. 

Heat a frying pan to medium and place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the pan. No oil needed.

I have to admit they look tasty in this shot.

I have to admit they look tasty in this shot.

Photo observation 7: It’s that roof window giving the extra bit of natural light. However, it’s back to the island unit for the next shot…

When the duck is nicely browned on the skin side, flip it over and give it another couple of minutes. These breasts are not big enough to need finishing in the oven.

Damn! Worrying about the light means I overcooked them.

Damn! Worrying about the light means I overcooked them.

Photo observation 8: More ISO than you can shake a memory stick at and there still is lots of long shadow. I should have taken the lights out. (I didn’t) I should have used the reflector. (I did).

Another case of fretting about the cooking led to the duck being a bit better done than I would like it. Plate up the dish and serve on some artistic looking beans with two big potatoes hidden well outside the shot.

The sun sets on my best effort at an autumnal dish.

The sun sets on my best effort at an autumnal dish.

Final photo observation: Bugger it all to hell in a hand-basket! If I just had a little more natural light, this might have been a decent photo. I might have plated it better. I might not have had to focus on a quarter of the plate. I might not….. Story of my photographic life. 

To finish on a positive note, the apricot and ginger sauce was delish. There was loads left over and it was excellent on my muesli the next morning and on some ice cream that night. It was a dark night. No light, certainly not enough to take a decent photo…

Written by
No comments
  • Ah, the pain of chasing the light. Being polar opposites, we here are once again enjoying longer days and more light. (Not that it always helps my photos, as well as often experiencing the time constraint of ‘people wanting to actually eat the food.’ How rude.) I actually enjoy a bit of dark moodiness in a photo and the apricot sauce looks tops.

    • Thanks for that. I suppose I will get my revenge in six months time. I too suffer the hungry hoard looking to be fed. You are very kind in your comments. So kind in fact that I fixed that typo and deleted your other message!
      Best,
      Conor

  • Excellent! You did very well with the fading light too 😉

    • Thanks MD,
      The setting sun provides some lovely opportunities for the perfect shot. However, the fading light continues to fade and it rarely happens to be in the right place when the dinner is on the table. Such is life.

      • On the bright side, the setting sun does, of course, signal that it’s time for a drink 😉

  • OK, this is going to sound annoying, but couldn’t you simply, well, start earlier? Or make it for lunch instead of dinner, so as to have better light?
    I do adore a nice juicy bit of duck, and despite the slight extra done-ness and given the tastiness of the accompaniments, I’d be snarfing this down at light speed with far too little appreciation of the angst and effort that went into its production. Your photography is always impeccable, and I suggest only you will notice when the shadows are a little long or the colours not quite as intense as you’d like. The food speaks volumes…

    • Thanks for the excellent suggestion Kate. However, “earlier” would mean not taking the bike out and cycling up the Wicklow Mountains. If I don’t do that, I get very grumpy and tend to not want to cook the dinner, let alone blog about it. It’s a conundrum. You are too kind on the photos.
      Best,
      C

      • Ah, understood. We shall be sympathetic about your imaginary lighting issues, then! Good grief man, if I could take photos like you I’d be exceptionally smug.

        • Kate,
          You are good for my heart.
          Bless you,
          C

  • This is a nice looking duck! It fits the season perfectly.

    • Thanks indeed. It would fit the photos better if the season weren’t so dark in the afternoons.

  • When I saw the first photo I thought “where on earth is the duck?” All was revealed as I went to the trouble of reading the whole article, I should rephrase that as “the pleasure” rather than the trouble.

    • You are far too kind Mum. Now I’ll have to cook it for you!

  • Beautiful dish, I would never have thought to put apricots with duck. I feel your pain with the light situation but I have to say your pics did not suffer much. Stunning as always.
    I’m dreading trying to get half decent shots over the coming months. I bought daylight lamps last winter but I would have been better off with the flash!

    • I’m doing some stuff at present using a combination of ‘daylight’ bulb lighting and flash to fill in any of the hard shadows. By the time I have finished processing them, they look OK. Nothing beats natural light.

      • True, but I’ve never seen a bad pic on your blog. I’m half sorry I didn’t plan ahead for months and make everything during the summer to get good shots!

        • I would love to do that. However, planning ahead is not my strongest point.

  • Hi Conor, a very original and tasty recipe.
    I have taken note.
    This weekend invitare some friends to eat.
    A greeting and thank you. I like your website.

    • Thanks Victor,
      That’s good to hear.
      Best,
      Conor

  • The fair state of Queensland, in it’s wisdom (they say it will fade the curtains and confuse the cows) does not use summertime, so I’m still chasing the light downunder. I think you managed the fading light well. BTW, the duck looks delicious

    • Thanks Sandra,
      There isn’t enough light here to fade a curtain, unfortunately. The cows are ambivalent though.
      Best,
      C

  • Understood, natural light is the only way to capture these shots, especially food, but I wouldn’t have given it a thought if you hadn’t mentioned it. Looks delicious as ever, honest.

    • You guys get an extra half hour of an evening, given your position on our west coast. I could do with it!

      • There’s always something to be grateful for I suppose. 😉

  • I would gladly take your worst shot – and some of that duck, too! 🙂 Looks incredible with that sauce!

    • You are a very kind frau indeed.
      Best,
      Conor

  • We are about to go “into the dark” with our damned Daylight Saving Time! It will be dark soon before I get home to even start cooking after work! That being said, probably 70 percent of my photos are taken under lights, so really, don’t worry yourself. Or you can. I only blog for fun and hopefully a place to send my daughter when she goes off to college in two years and won’t have to keep texting me for “that recipe!” “It’s on my blog, dammit!” 😀 Anyway, the duck sounds delish, the peaches are adorable, and the photos are just fine in my book.

    • I know exactly what you are talking about Kathryn. My problem arises when I do my prep in natural light and then when I go to take the final few shots, I have to get the lights out and set the thing up under them. Then there is a lack of consistency and I get frustrated. We also have that lovely time of year when there is too much natural to get the lights right but not enough to shoot without. Arrrggggghhhh!

  • Hi Conor, good story and nice recipe. Fruit and duck are always a winner, and with the ginger you take it up a notch. I’d like a glass of Gewurztraminer with this.
    There is not enough natural light in my kitchen, so I use ‘daylight’ studio lights year-round. Still, I don’t come close to your photography.

    • I have a couple of 800 watt equivalent daylight studio lights. I can really only fit one of them into the kitchen. I really need to get a decent flash set up. Either that, or I need to get over my angst. A Gewurzt would be lovely, for sure.
      Best,
      Conor

      • Sounds like I have something very similar. They do fit, but then they are in the way of cooking. So I tend to use only one as a compromise.

        • I use the one and a reflector or one and a flash and a reflector. It’s getting complicated!

  • What happens if you lay out the apricots non-artistically? 😉
    I’m always looking out for new ideas to artistically cook duck, I love this, it looks fantastic! So this is completely pan fried (with no added oil), no oven whatsoever? I’ll be giving it a try.

    • Hi Sofia,
      No oil at all. I actually poured oil off during the frying. They give up a fair bit of fat, pretty easily. No oven. Mind you, they are fairly thin relative to larger, French duck breasts.
      One last point, I shudder to think what would happen if there was a lack of artistry in the apricot photo!
      Best,
      Conor

  • Ah yes, the bane of our existence, winter nights. Our clocks change back this weekend and it’s going to get even worse! Time to start playing round with the light box again. Thank goodness for the tripod. That sauce looks really good.

    • Thanks Virginia, Our clocks went back on Saturday last. Even less time to cook in light. The sauce was really excellent and lovely on my breakfast, as I said but probably did not emphasise enough.

      • Wish they would bloody well leave the time alone! Gets harder to adjust as I get older. I bet that sauce would be good on a number of things.

  • Still absolutely stunning Conor. Love this recipe and your photo’s are always an inspiration, as well as your musings…

    • Too kind. Too kind by half. If I could see you I would thank you!

  • You had me laughing out loud this morning…. I was worried my coffee was going to end up all over the keyboard! We were in Ireland this summer and loved how the light didn’t start fading until well into the evening. Even with the challenges of the setting sun, your pics and “frenzied” commentary are wonderful, and the duck with apricot ginger sauce looks delicious! So glad I came across your blog! Looking forward to reading more…

    • Thanks so much for this lovely comment. Sadly, the light, like the summer is a fading memory right now. Please come back soon (to Ireland and the blog).
      Best,
      Conor

  • Conor, I’ve just come across your blog whilst idly browsing the web (whilst I’m supposed to be working!) for some culinary inspiration & I love the look of this duck recipe – will definitely give it a go! Perfect for wife & I – however I also have to feed 3 growing teenagers who need food by the ton so won’t be giving any of these tasty delicacies to them – looks too good to waste on the kids! Great blog & I look forward to exploring further!

    • Buy lots of potatoes and fry them. Add lots of salt and feed the teenagers. That is about all they are interested in at that age. Perhaps they are interested in other things. But, they will never tell you what they are. Thanks for stopping by and for the very kind comments.
      Best,
      Conor

  • We’re “falling back” tonight. Ugh. The duck sounds (and looks!) great, though finding decent apricots here is impossible.

    • Impossible here now too. Roll on next summer. Or, at least, summer time.

  • Wow, Conor. I never thought about the problems you visual culinary arts (or is that visually culinary?) people have. It’s much easier being an out-and-out spoofer. I can do that in any light, presuming I have enough candle power left in the garret to thaw the joints in my fingerless gloves.

    • I an see what you are doing there Sparling. Creating one of those damn pen pictures while wearing mittens!

  • Reblogged this on foresterman.

Join the conversation, you know you want to....

%d bloggers like this: