From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Fakhid maa riz — Slow roasted leg of Lamb with rice

DSC_0356This is one of the dishes that makes you think of special occasions in Lebanon.  Eid, Al Adha — and Christmas too since we are Lebanese as much as we are muslim. This is serious stuff — for big, extended families gathering for a feast.  And it had better be a real feast or you won’t be hearing the last of it for a long time.  All the preparations for a big holiday — the new clothes, the presents — although back then, it would always just be money , a few lira at most.  And of course always the food — the table groaning under the mezze.  But all only a prelude to the main event — the unveiling of the stuffed lamb on a sumptuous bed of spiced rice and nuts.  DSC_0297It has to be the best, moistest meat.  We don’t go as far as they do in the Gulf where you first choose the lamb at the market, take it to the abattoir to be slaughtered and then dig a deep hole to bury it in whole and leave for hours to roast in its own juices.  But the presentation is still key.  I can remember when there would be some forty of us gathered awaiting the appearance of the magnificent lamb that my father would have ordered from the best restaurant in Hamra.  That touch of theatre still works here in London.  At my biggest events, the unveiling of the lamb in all its glory on huge terracotta plates still produces gasps of wonder and anticipation.  A whole lamb with the head exerts a kind of primitive power.  But no one wants to eat the head here, although for us it is a delicacy.  I am always a little conflicted, too – as I love lambs as animals.  I can remember how my uncles in the Bekaa would rear sheep and bring  home the new born lambs.  One of my uncles was only twelve when he helped deliver his first lamb.  When one of them would go missing, he would be traumatised.  But like me, it didn’t inhibit his enthusiastic participation in the holiday feasts at which his much loved fluffy little charges would be the star attraction… Here in London, we can’t provide the whole sheep so this is a slightly more modest recipe, but the taste is just as good.DSC_0359


For the lamb

IMG_24721 leg of lamb 

1 large spoon of salt

1 tea spoon of cinnamon

1 tea spoon of black pepper

1 tea spoon of white pepper

1 tea spoon of nutmeg

1 tea spoon of cardamon

2 bay Leaves 

1 cinnamon stick

4 large spoons of honey

4 glasses of water

  • DSC_0328In a very deep baking tray place the leg of lamb and rub with salt
  • In a small bowl mix all the spices – cinnamon, pepper, white pepper, nutmeg and cardamon – and sprinkle on the lamb
  • Add the bay leaves, the cinnamon sticks, honey and leave to marinate for couple of hours in the fridge
  • Four hours before you need to serve, add the water and cover the tray with foil
  • Roast the leg in a preheated fan oven, at 220 degrees, for an hour and a half
  • Remove the tray from the oven and turn the leg to the other side, cover with foil and leave in the oven for another 2 hours at a reduced temperature, 180 degrees
  • Check the water level every half an hour and if necessary add hot water
  • Once ready leave to rest for 10 minutes, then remove the meat from the bone and shred into small pieces
  • Serve hot on a bed of rice with nuts — the recipe for this is below
  • DSC_0348Garnish with another sprinkle of nuts on top
  • Keep the sauce and use it as gravy




For the rice

500g of basmati rice 

100g of pistachio nuts 

100g of pine kernels 

100g of almonds 

4 large spoons of vegetable oil to fry the nuts

1 large onion peeled and diced

1 tea spoon of cinnamon

1 tea spoon of black pepper

1 tea spoon white pepper

1 tea spoon of nutmeg

1/2 tea spoon of cardamon

1 tea spoon salt

2 glasses of water


  • DSC_0346Wash and soak the rice in hot water for half an hour
  •  Meanwhile in a large non-stick pot, heat the vegetable oil and fry the nuts separately until golden
  • Start with the pine nuts, followed by the almonds, then the pistachios
  • Remove the nuts from the pan and let them cool down
  • Add the onion to the frying pot and cook until golden brown
  • Drain the rice and add to the fried onion, sprinkle all the spices, half of the nuts, salt and the fresh water
  • Stir the rice and keep at a high temperature until the water starts to boil, then reduce the temperature to the minimum
  • Cover the pan with the lid and leave to simmer for 12 minutes
  • Serve the rice hot and garnish with the rest of the nuts



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