Although spring has officially sprung here in the northern hemisphere, the evenings are still chilly enough to want warming food, so here’s a luscious, comforting recipe that can make a great family supper or an easy dish for entertaining.

It also has a wonderfully calming effect on the brain, making it good for anxiety, so if stress is a factor in your life right now, this is definitely a dish to put on the menu regularly. If you’re veggie, just replace the duck with reishi mushrooms to get that hit of neurotransmitter magic.

Duck is a fantastic source of GABA which calms and stabilises the brain, and affects our personality, directly dictating how we handle stressful events or circumstances. Clammy hands, headaches, allergies, blurred vision, hyperventilation, depression, loss of concentration, aggression, OCD, irregular heartbeat, and insomnia are all signs of low levels.

This lovely meal, with duck, and other co-factor foods in anxiety reduction like lentils, spinach, carrots and mushrooms, is an ideal way to use food to fight anxiety! So, keep calm and eat up…..

Honey and Balsamic Glazed Duck with Lentils
Serves 2

2 large duck breasts
celtic or sea salt
150ml/5fl oz balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
225g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely diced
100g mushrooms (preferably wild)
1 leek, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
225g Puy lentils, washed
375ml red wine
570ml/1pint chicken or vegetable stock
50g unsalted butter
4 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
225g baby spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the pancetta/bacon and cook over a medium heat until it is crispy.

Add the onion, celery, leek, garlic, mushrooms and carrot and cook for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the puy lentils.

Add the wine chicken stock to the lentils and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has reduced.

When the lentils are 20 minutes away from being done, dry the duck breasts with kitchen paper, and score the skin to release the fat. Rub the salt into the skin of the duck breast. Gently heat a large frying pan and add the duck breasts, skin side down. Cook over a low heat for 12-15 minutes, draining the fat as it is released. You can pour the fat off as it’s released and keep it for roasting potatoes.

When the skin is crisp and brown with the fat rendered out, turn over and cook the flesh side for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the pan.

Pour the balsamic vinegar into the frying pan and add the honey. Place over the heat and gently reduce by half. Brush the duck breasts with the balsamic glaze, cover and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes somewhere warm while you finish the lentils.

Stir the butter, parsley and spinach into the cooked lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Place a spoonful of the lentils onto the centre of each
serving plate. Slice the duck breasts and place on top of the lentils. Serve immediately.