Seared Duck Leg with Baked White Beans

duck with baked beans

This is a fairly simple way of turning ordinary white beans into something very special. I normally use navy (haricot) beans, which are the type used with tomatoes to produced baked beans. Here I cooked the beans with a duck leg, but most kinds of meat (and even fish) are good – I’ve previously used pork steaks, sausages, chicken breasts and hake with similar tasty results.

Navy beans originally came from the Americas. The beans became popular in Spain and perhaps slow cooked bean dishes were spread through Europe by the Jews expelled from Iberia (though initially these would have been dried broad beans). It is thought that the bean returned to the Americas in long slow cooked dishes, like cholent, which is probably the origin of cassoulet in France and baked beans in the United States.  If using dry beans like me, do make sure you soak and cook them beforehand. Obviously beans from a jar or tin are ready to use.

duck with piri piri

Seared Duck and White Beans recipe:

1 duck leg per person
1 medium to large onion (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
500g white beans (cooked weight)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
piri piri seasoning (optional)
a splash sherry vinegar
1/8th pint chicken stock
1/8th pint cooking water from the beans
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

I rubbed the duck leg with piri piri seasoning, an hour or so before cooking. This allows the seasoning to permeate the meat. If using dry beans, they need to be cooked ahead of time. I use a pressure cooker, therefore the beans only needed a 60 minute soak in boiling water and 10 minutes pressure cooking. Do reserve some of the bean cooking water for later. If using tinned, use the liquid that the beans come in.

caramelised onion

In an oven proof casserole, caramelise the onion in olive oil, over a low flame, until it goes soft and sticky. Add the chopped garlic towards the end of this process or it will burn.

beans and stock

Mix in the cooked beans, stock, bean cooking liquid, 2 bay leaves, thyme leaves (removed from a couple of sprigs), a splash of sherry vinegar and seasoning to taste. The consistency should be soupy.


Put the casserole, uncovered, into a preheated oven at 180º C for about 40 minutes. The starch in the beans will thicken the dish and a skin will form on top, like a rice pudding.

skin down

When the beans have started to brown on top, scorch the skin side of the duck in a hot frying pan.

crispy duck

Brown the duck, so that the skin becomes crispy – 2 or 3 minutes of sizzling. Do not cook the underneath!

baked beans

Take the beans out of the oven and place the duck, uncooked side, on top of the beans. There wasn’t a great deal of fat left in the pan, so I drizzled what there was on top of the duck. If it had been a fatty bird, I would have kept the fat for a rainy day (or cross channel swim). Return the duck and beans to the oven for 30 minutes. The juices from the duck will leach out during the cooking and add fantastic flavour to the sticky beans.

Serve with a mixed salad and a glass of Zuazo Gastón Vendimi, from the Rioja region in Spain.

About Mad Dog
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6 Responses to Seared Duck Leg with Baked White Beans

  1. Eha says:

    Mad, I have come to love my Saturday morning work sessions because sometime during it a food history lesson lands in my lap ! This one is right up my alley ! My parents having had lots of Jewish friends in Tallinn I was brought up on dishes like cholent . . . way later when I began my own kitchen journey in Australia cassoulet was one of the first dishes to perfect and serve to friends in spite of all the ‘gassy’ jokes 🙂 !! So, I love to cook with beans and I love to splurge on the occasional duck dish and you have no idea how soon yours will be tried !! Have to grin about the Mad addition of piri-piri which makes this recipe your own . . . but thank you for it and the links to follow . . .

  2. Beautiful! We bought back kilos of beans, chick peas and lentils from Spain a few weeks ago to see us through the winter so this is an inspiring dish! Do hope all is well with you…all great here, ripping up flooring is the current project in the new house 😁

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Tanya – I’ve cooked this kind of dish lots of times in Spain. I love the way the starch makes the beans stick together. Good luck with the new house!

  3. Ron says:

    Mad Dog, I love beans and I love duck and I know I’d devour this dish.
    Navy beans, my late dad loved navy beans and always poured syrup on them: I think it was a wartime thing.
    Now let’s talk Heinz white beans and tomato sauce. Whenever my better half is needing to feel her roots, it seems she likes Heinz white bean and tomato sauce over toast. A Uni poverty thing I guess. Is this just Swedish or did you guys send it over this way?

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron – I’m sure you’ll love these beans. They go really well with just about all meat and fish.
      Heinz Beans, as you know, are American, but it’s baked beans taken back to basics. They were classified as “essential food” in the UK, during WW2 food rationing and then became every day essential forever!
      Personally, I prefer real American baked beans with meat and other vegetables – like Brunswick Stew 😉

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