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Lamb siniyah

Main Midweek
Serves 4-6
Featured in
Simple cookbook

This is the Middle Eastern equivalent of shepherd’s pie, with a tahini crust standing in for the layer of mashed potato. It’s a rich and comforting dish, making a star of both the tahini and the stewed lamb. The stew can be made well in advance – a day or two ahead, if kept in the fridge or frozen – ready for the tahini sauce and baking. Serve with bulgur or rice.


60ml olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped (250g)
4 medium celery sticks, finely sliced (250g)
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp baharat spice mix
1kg stewing lamb (shoulder, leg or neck), cut into 2cm chunks
500g plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp paprika
60g pine nuts, toasted
40g parsley, chopped
salt and black pepper
200g tahini
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed


  1. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a 20cm wide casserole pan and place on a medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 10–12 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft. Add the tomato paste and baharat, cook for another 2 minutes, then tip into a large bowl. Keep the pan as it is: you don’t need to rinse or wipe it.
  2. Season the lamb with ¾ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Add 1½ teaspoons of oil to the same pan and place on a medium high heat. Add a quarter of the lamb and fry for 3 minutes, turning throughout so that all sides get browned. Transfer to the bowl of onions and repeat with the remaining lamb, adding 1½ teaspoons of oil to the pan with each batch. Return all the lamb and vegetables to the pan and stir in two-thirds of the tomatoes, the paprika, ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and then simmer gently for about 70 minutes, covered, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thick. Check the pan during cooking to make sure the meat is not sticking to the base and, if it is, just add a bit of water and give it a good stir. Mix in the pine nuts, parsley and remaining tomatoes and set aside.
  3. About 10 minutes before the meat is ready, preheat the oven to 180°C fan.
  4. To make the tahini sauce, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, 160ml of water and ¼ teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. The consistency should be pourable – thick like double cream – so add a bit more water if you need to. Pour this evenly over the lamb and bake, covered, for 20 minutes, until the tahini sauce has thickened. Uncover the pan and bake for another 20 minutes, uncovered, for the tahini crust to turn golden-brown.
  5. Remove from the oven. Let rest for 5 minutes and then serve.