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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Put all the syrup ingredients in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Add 6 tbsp water, season lightly with salt and pepper and simmer over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes until the syrup has reduced by just over half and is very sticky. Remove from the heat.
Put the duck breasts skin side down in a cold frying pan (it's unusual to start frying in a cold pan, but with duck this is often a good idea - it makes the fat render slowly from under the skin, keeping the flesh really moist). Fry slowly for about 15 minutes until the skin is golden. At least 100ml/31⁄2fl oz fat will be rendered from the skin. (Once cool, keep the fat in the fridge – it’s great for roasting potatoes.)
Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Sit the duck breasts skin side up on a rack in a roasting tin. Spoon a little of the syrup on top and leave for 2-3 minutes until sticky. Tip any syrup that drips into the bottom of the roasting tin back into the syrup in the saucepan, and reheat to liquefy if necessary. Repeat this technique – spooning the syrup over the duck and leaving it to stand – until there are three or four layers and you have used up most of the syrup. If it gets too thick, just add 1-2 tbsp water. Conversely, if it’s too thin, add another 1 tbsp sugar. Arrange the orange slices round the duck and spoon the last splash of syrup over the top.
Roast the duck for 8-12 minutes until done to your liking. Meanwhile, cut the figs in half lengthways, tip into a bowl and toss with the olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Heat a ridged cast-iron griddle pan (or a heavy frying pan) on the hob until very hot, then chargrill the figs for 2 minutes on each side.
Once the duck is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 3 minutes, then cut each breast at an angle into two or three slices. Transfer to four serving plates with the orange slices and figs, and garnish with extra bay leaves and the star anise from the syrup.