Fiddly to prepare but worth the effort, this is an impressive dish to serve as a family feast. Ask your butcher to remove the bones from the lamb and have a large needle and strong thread on hand. Serve with salad or cooked vegetables.
- 30 g unsalted butter
- ¼ cup blanched almonds, halved
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
- 250 g coarse lamb mince
- 1 ½ cups long-grain rice, rinsed, drained
- 1 ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp Lebanese mixed spices (see Note)
- 3.5 kg lamb shoulder, breast and ribs in one piece, bones removed
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.
The following recipe has been tested and edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the podcast.
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the almonds and pine nuts and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft.
Add the lamb mince and cook for 10 minutes, stirring to break up the lumps, until browned.
Add the rice, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and the mixed spices and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic.
Add the almonds and pine nuts and 500 ml water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the water has evaporated. Spread on a tray to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking dish with baking paper.
Remove excess fat from the lamb and spread on a flat board. Fold the ribs over the shoulder and using a strong needle and thread, sew along two sides to make a pocket. Place the rice stuffing in the pocket and then sew to close completely. Season the lamb with the remaining olive oil, salt and black pepper. Wrap the lamb tightly in foil and place in a deep baking dish. Add 500 ml water to the tray and bake for 1 hour.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C, adding another 125 ml water to the baking dish. Bake for a further 2 ½ hours, adding 125 ml water every 30 minutes to keep the lamb moist.
Remove the lamb from the baking dish and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
Slice the lamb thickly and serve warm.
• Lebanese mixed spice is available from Middle Eastern grocery stores. If unavailable, combine 1 ½ tablespoons ground black pepper, 3 teaspoons allspice, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Photography by Alan Benson