Mostarda is a traditional Italian condiment that combines the vibrant flavours of fruit and mustard. Originating from Northern Italy, Mostarda is made by cooking whole or diced fruits, such as pears, cherries, figs, or quinces, in a sugar syrup infused with mustard oil or mustard seeds. The result is a unique and complex condiment that strikes a delightful balance between sweet, tangy, and spicy flavours. Mostarda is typically an accompaniment to cheese, cured meats, and roasted meats, where its fruity sweetness and piquant mustard notes create a harmonious contrast. This versatile condiment adds a burst of flavour to a variety of dishes and is a cherished part of Italian culinary traditions.
While Mostarda is traditionally made with candied fruits, this version uses fresh blackberries at the height of the season and Dijon mustard instead of the elusive mustard oil.
1 duck breast, at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 1/4 cups blackberries (or one-pint container)
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped pistachios (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Trim the fat around the edges of the duck to give a nice rounded look to the skin side.
Pat the bird dry and season with salt.
Allow the underside of the duck to rest on the thyme sprigs to absorb some flavour.
Cut 4 blackberries in half lengthwise and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine all the mostarda ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. If necessary, skim the sauce as you go.
Discard the garlic and bay leaf .
When the sauce is ready, set a medium ovenproof frying pan over high and place a small bowl and spoon next to it, so you can collect the duck fat once it renders.
Sear the duck breast, fat side down, until the fat begins to render.
Carefully tip the pan and scoop out the fat by the spoonful as it renders, making sure not to disturb the duck breast.
Reduce the heat to medium-high if the duck is getting too dark.
The goal is to render down the fat and crisp the fat at the same time and not have it burn!
Once the fat looks like it has reduced by half and the fat cap has a nice, even brown colour, flip the breast over and put it into the oven for 7 minutes.
Remove the bird from the oven and let it rest 4 to 5 minutes before slicing.
Slice the duck in thin pieces, blotting any juices as they run out, and transfer to a serving plate.
Spoon about 1/4 cup of the sauce overtop, garish with the reserved 4 sliced blackberries and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios.
TIP: You can make your plate really shine with a second sauce! Simply purée a summer green, such as radish leaves, arugula or spinach, with some olive oil and salt.
Joanna Notkin is a designer at heart, and food is her passion. With an eye for detail and a love of all things seasonal and local, Joanna approaches food in a way that is delicate and thoughtful. She brings together the flavours of each ingredient while honouring the fact that we truly eat with our eyes.