6 x 240g duck breasts, trimmed
100g (1 cup) candied walnuts
jus, warmed, to serve
1.5kg jap or kent pumpkin
100g unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100-150ml pouring cream
250ml (1 cup) good-quality balsamic vinegar
250ml (1 cup) red wine
150g soft brown sugar
1 small red cabbage, outer leaves and core removed, shredded
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).
To make the pumpkin puree, cut the pumpkin half horizontally through the middle. Use a large metal spoon to scoop out the seeds and pith. Put half the butter and 2 garlic cloves in the cavity of each half, season with sea salt and black pepper then wrap tightly in foil. Place on a baking tray and bake for 1 hour, or until very soft. Remove from the oven. Carefully open the foil and leave the pumpkin to cool slightly; discard the garlic. Scoop the flesh into a sieve and let stand for 10 minutes for any excess liquid to drain off. Transfer the pumpkin to a food processor, season with sea salt and black pepper and blend until very smooth. Adjust the consistency with the cream, as needed. Refrigerate until required.
To make the balsamic braised red cabbage, put the balsamic vinegar, red wine and sugar in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the cabbage begins to soften and the liquid has reduced by half. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring often, until no liquid remains and the cabbage is completely cooked and shiny. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Score the skin of the duck breast with a sharp knife and season with sea salt and black pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat and place the duck, skin side down, in the pan. Cook slowly to render down the fat, draining off any excess. Increase the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes then turn over and continue to cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Rest the duck breast for several minutes.
Meanwhile, gently reheat the pumpkin purée and red cabbage if necessary. Dress the mixed herbs with a little olive oil.
To serve, place a spoonful of the pumpkin puree to one side of each serving plate, with a large spoonful of the braised red cabbage alongside. Slice each duck breast into five or six slices and arrange over the cabbage. Top with a small handful of the mixed herbs, scatter over the candied walnuts and drizzle a little of the warmed jus around the plate.