Lamb and beans the French way. To most Americans, accustomed to pork with their beans, lamb with white beans is an unusual combination. But it’s an everyday meal to the French, particularly those from Brittany. The beans are cooked until tender, combined with garlic, onion, herbs and plum tomatoes, and then cooked again for several hours with the lamb. We like our roast lamb fairly well done, while the French prefer it pink. A meat thermometer is a great help in roasting it to just the right degree.

Traditional Leg of Lamb with White Beans


1 lb. dried white (Great Northern) beans
8 c. water
1 tbsp. margarine or butter
4 small onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small tomatoes, peeled* and seeded**
2 tbsp. thyme
2 c. water
1- to 3-lb. leg of lamb
4 to 6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. margarine or butter
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped


1. Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with 8 c. water.

2. Boil beans for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. In the same pot, melt the butter on low heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until translucent.

4. Add the beans, the minced garlic clove, tomatoes, thyme, and 2 c. water.

5. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. If water evaporates, add another cup.

6. While beans are simmering, heat oven to 425°F. Wash meat under cool water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan.

7. Peel 4 to 6 cloves of garlic and slice each of them down the middle. Make small cuts in the sides of the roast and insert garlic.

8. Sprinkle the meat with salt and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. (Allow 10 to 15 minutes of baking time for each pound.) Baste frequently with drippings.

9. Sprinkle finely chopped fresh parsley over the beans. Dot the beans with butter or margarine when ready to serve with the lamb.

Preparation time: 2 hours

Serves 6

*To peel a tomato, place it in a small saucepan of boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool until the tomato is warm but no longer hot. Use a small paring knife to peel off the skin. It will come off easily.

**To seed a tomato, cut the peeled tomato in half and use a paring knife to cut out the seeds.