Beyran soup

Beyran soup

Slow-cooked lamb soup with garlic and green chillies

Lisa Cohen and William Meppem

This hearty soup comes from Gaziantep in the south-east of Turkey, where it’s eaten as a warming breakfast dish – especially during the long cold winters. Beyran is served in soup restaurants known as metanet lokantasi, which translates as building strength of body as well as spirit.

It requires a fair amount of strength and spirit to eat a traditionally made beyran as it includes sheep’s cheek and the solid tail fat from the fat-tailed sheep found all around the Middle East. (This solid white fat is the cooking medium of choice in the eastern and southern parts of the country, but it is rather terrifying to Western palates.) An authentic beyran is also full of garlic, and you’ll probably be offered a couple of sweet and spicy cloves to munch on as a breath-freshener as you head off to join the world again. Our tamed-down version uses lamb shanks, which provide a similarly melting texture without the fat. For the truer Gaziantep experience, add the extra garlic clove at the last minute.


Quantity Ingredient
3 lamb shanks
1 whole head garlic, cut crosswise
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 carrot, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
2 litres water
150g short-grain rice
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, roughly smashed, (optional)
chilli flakes, to serve
lemon wedges, to serve
long green chillies, to serve


  1. Put the lamb shanks, garlic, onion, carrot, bay leaves and water into a large, heavy-based saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, skimming away any fat and impurities that rise to the surface, then immediately lower the heat. Simmer very gently, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, skimming from time to time. Check after an hour and top up with more water if necessary.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, then carefully ladle the stock into a container, discarding the solids but reserving the lamb shanks. (Don’t be tempted to tip everything into a sieve: the less you disturb the solids at this stage, the clearer the final broth will be. I find the best method is to use a sieve to keep the solids submerged while you ladle out the liquid.)
  3. Rinse the rice thoroughly under cold running water. Bring to the boil with 300 ml reserved lamb stock in a small saucepan, then lower the heat and drizzle in 1/2 teaspoon of the extra-virgin olive oil. Simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.
  4. While the rice is cooking, remove the meat from the lamb shanks and tear it into small shreds. Bring the remaining stock, the shredded lamb, smashed garlic clove, if using, and remaining extra-virgin olive oil to a gentle simmer.
  5. When ready to serve, place a spoonful of rice in the centre of each warmed bowl and distribute the shredded lamb evenly between them. Pour on the hot stock, then sprinkle the soup with chilli flakes and serve with lemon wedges, long green chillies and plenty of soft Turkish bread alongside. Squeeze on the lemon, then crunch on the chillies and chew on the bread as you slurp up the soup!
Middle Eastern
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