Baked whole lamb

The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Alan Benson


Quantity Ingredient
1 small lamb, about 10-12 kg
salt, for rubbing
2 tablespoons Baharat, plus extra for the chicken, if using
1 teaspoon ground turmeric, plus extra for the chicken, if using
1 small chicken, about 1 kg (optional)
3 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, (optional)
125g ghee, melted

Rice stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons saffron threads, pounded
125ml rosewater
1kg basmati or other good-quality long-grain white rice
125g ghee
3 large onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Baharat
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt, to taste
155g blanched almonds or cashew nuts
80g pine nuts
75g pistachio nuts
60g sultanas


  1. Wipe the lamb inside and out with a damp cloth. Rub the cavity and outer surface with salt, the baharat and turmeric.
  2. If a chicken is being used, wipe it dry with paper towels and rub the cavity and skin with a little extra baharat, turmeric and salt. Insert the shelled hard-boiled eggs in the chicken cavity.
  3. Set the lamb and chicken aside while preparing the rice stuffing.
  4. Soak the pounded saffron in the rosewater for 10 minutes. Pick over the rice, place in a sieve and wash well under cold running water. Drain and set aside.
  5. Melt the ghee in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion until translucent. Stir in the baharat and turmeric, then add the rice and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  6. Pour in 1.25 litres water and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, then cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  7. Fold the nuts and sultanas through the rice, then sprinkle with half the rosewater mixture. Cover and leave off the heat for 10 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  9. Spoon some of the rice stuffing into the chicken, filling it loosely. Secure the opening with wooden skewers.
  10. Sew up the cavity of the lamb halfway with kitchen string and leave the thread hanging. Fill the cavity with some of the rice stuffing, put the chicken in, if using, and fill with the remaining stuffing. Finish sewing up the cavity.
  11. Place the lamb on a large rack over a very large catering-size baking dish. Brush the lamb with the melted ghee. Cover the dish with large sheets of foil, sealing the joins with double folds. Press the foil under the edge to seal completely.
  12. Transfer to the oven and bake for 2 hours. Baste the lamb with the juices in the dish and pour the remaining rosewater mixture over the lamb.
  13. Cover and bake for a further 2–3 hours, or until very tender, basting twice more with the baking juices, and removing the foil 30 minutes before the end of cooking.
  14. Lift the lamb onto a large platter. Remove the string and spoon the stuffing out onto the platter. Set the chicken, if used, on top of the stuffing. The lamb can be carved — but it is much more fun to break off very soft tender chunks of meat.
  15. Enjoy your feast and feel like a sheikh!


  • Kid may be used instead of lamb.
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Middle Eastern
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