Braised Duck Legs


This is a hearty Iranian stew, traditionally made with game birds and meatballs. Here, I have used duck legs instead and made the sauce as a separate chutney. You can serve this chutney with fish and chicken dishes, too.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus roasting the aubergines/eggplants
Cooking Time: hours


  • 4 duck legs, skin on
  • 4 tsp finely chopped mint leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped mint leaves, to sprinkle
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional), to sprinkle
  • Chelow Rice, to serve

For the Fesenjân Chutney

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 cm/2 in piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 500 g/1 lb 2 oz roasted aubergines/eggplants (see Roasted Vegetables), flesh chopped into cubes
  • 60 g/ oz/½ cup walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • 4 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3. Lightly pierce the duck skin all over the legs with the point of a sharp knife or a skewer, being very careful not to puncture the meat, as this would make it toughen during cooking. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Put a large dry frying pan that is wide enough to fit the duck legs in a single layer over a medium heat. Add the duck legs to the pan, skin-side down, and sear for 5–10 minutes until the skin is browned and much of the fat has been rendered.
  3. Transfer the duck legs to a wire rack with a roasting pan underneath to collect the fat, and cook in the centre of the oven for about 1½ hours, until the meat is cooked through and tender and the skin is golden and crispy. Meanwhile, leave the frying pan to cool. If you want the skin to be more crispy, during the last 10 minutes of cooking, change the oven setting to grill/broil (or heat a separate grill/broiler and move the pan into it), then grill/broil on high for the last 2–3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pour 250 ml/9 fl oz/generous 1 cup boiling water over the cooled duck fat in the frying pan. Stir the mixture, which will have all the rich flavours of the duck, then set aside.
  5. About 15 minutes before the duck will be cooked, make the fesenjân chutney. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and ginger, then cover and sweat for 2–3 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes and cinnamon and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant, then pour over the reserved duck water from step 4. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, add the chopped aubergines/eggplants and walnuts and mix well. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the pomegranate molasses. Adjust the seasoning to taste, if needed. Sprinkle the duck legs with mint and pomegranate seeds, if using, and serve with the chutney and Chelow Rice.