Duck or besha  is a favourite of the Mandaean community. They cook it in a way that is quite different to other nations, even the Iraqis and it is eaten sometimes several times a week. This method of boiling the duck in spices and dried limes provides a rich tangy soup to start a meal.






Skill level

Average: 4.4 (33 votes)



  • handful of sultanas
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tsp Mandaean spice mix (cinnamon, clove, black pepper, ginger, sweet paprika, cardamom and nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt


  • 1 whole duck
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp citric acid
  • 5 tsp Mandaean spice mix
  • 3 tsp turmeric
  • 3 dried limes
  • vinegar
  • 1 bunch radish with leaves

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Wash the duck twice in cold water and then again with boiling water so all fat and smell is washed away. Drain thoroughly. Remove the neck and the wings of the duck and keep for later use. Coat the cavity with a mixture of salt and citric acid. This helps tenderise the duck.


Dice the onion and mix with the sultanas and rinse in cold water. Drain and add 2 tsp Mandaean spice mix, 1 tsp turmeric, and salt. Mix together.

Place the duck in a large bowl and fill the cavity with the prepared stuffing. Sew up cavity to secure the stuffing. Take the duck wings and tuck them into the neck cavity to block any stuffing escaping from that end.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and place duck and the neck into pot with 2 tsp of the Mandaean spice, 1 tsp turmeric and 3 washed dried limes. The duck will need to simmer for a total of 2 hours. After the first 30 minutes, turn the duck over and check water level.

After another 30 minutes, remove the duck from the pot and pierce several times with a knife to allow the spiced flavours to penetrate the flesh and cook the duck from the inside.

Skim off the fat from the surface of the broth and keep to one side in a fry pan. Remove the dried limes which should have softened and in a bowl mash them and return to the broth.

Put the duck back in the pot up the other way, cook for a further 40 minutes.

Heat the skimmed duck fat in the fry pan. Add 1 tsp each of turmeric and Mandaean spice mix to the fat. Remove the duck from the pot, place in the fat and fry each side until golden brown. Remove the duck wings and it is ready to be served.

This duck is traditionally served with radishes, washed radish leaves and pickled vegetables.

Strain the broth from the duck and serve as a delicious soup.