Wednesday 24 May 2017

Syrian Lamb Pillau

Syrian Lamb Pillau

A healthy family meal with subtle flavours. This is Levantine cuisine, but also attributed to the Syrians. I learnt this at a young age from my mother's closest friend. I consider her my aunt, perhaps not by birth or by blood, but by affection and choice. She is the most wonderful cook and human being. She has the magic to create and has always been the most gracious hostess. She is proud of her beautiful home; her table laden with a delicious array of dishes is the norm and never an exception. 
With her beloved Syria clearly under attack, she is heartbroken. Wars destroy, and yet, sadly, mankind repeatedly repeats these horrid mistakes. 
We are often at similar crossroads, having been displaced or displaced by war and by choice. The constant thoughts about borders in general, the decision to publish the next cookbook is "Food Across Borders"-how Parsi Food has survived despite the community often crossing borders in large numbers. 
In that context, this recipe is offered as a "candle of peace and hope." In remembrance of my aunt and all the others like her from Syria who wish they had peace and the free will to live in their own homeland. Food is a universal language which showers us with the warmth of caring, harmony, and joy. May the continuity of such delicacies honour Syria's rich culture, history, and heritage over the centuries.

A simple dish of meats, eggplants, tomatoes and rice.

Served 6 to 8 persons

1 kg lamb/mutton/goat meat, in pieces, bone in
1 large onion, cut up in pieces
8 cloves
8 peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
8 cups water

2 eggplant/aubergine; 16 to 18 thick slices
olive oil to brush it
sprinkle of salt

oil to fry
2 large onions, sliced finely 
400 gm of hand cut mince of lamb/mutton /goat  boneless meat

2 large tomatoes sliced
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

3 cups washed basmati rice
3 tbsp tomato paste
juice of one large juicy lemon 

Step 1 

Then, in a large stock pot, cook the meat, onion, cloves, pepper corns, cinnamon, cardamoms, and salt in 8 cups of water until tender.

Top it up with water as needed allowing for about 6 cups of stock  to be left over when done. Strain the stock through a sieve and keep it aside. 

Step 2 

Roast the aubergines on a cookie sheet till golden brown, brushed with olive oil. Sprinkle it with salt after it is done. 

Step 3

 In a skillet, heat the oil and fry the 2 onions until caramelised to a golden brown. Take out and set aside.

In the same skillet, fry the hand-cut, chopped meat until nicely browned.

Sprinkle it with salt and add the garam masala; continue to cook it for a minute or two. Remove it from the flame and keep it aside.

To assemble

 In a large lightly greased pot, arrange the two sliced tomatoes on the bottom.

Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over it and spread the fried chopped pieces of meat all over it. Please take the larger boiled pieces of meat and cover them with half the roasted aubergine slices. Cover the eggplants with the washed rice.

3 cups of washed basmati rice. Pour 5 cups of the meat stock over, ensuring the rice is completely covered. Bring it all to a rapid boil and allow it to cook until you see the top of the rice cooking. Now add the last cup of stock, mixed in well with the tomato paste and lemon juice.

Finally, add the rest of the roasted eggplant or aubergine slices.


Cover the pan tightly and steam for a good 25 minutes until the rice is cooked through. Allow it to rest for another 10 minutes and then overturn it onto a platter.


Add your favourite cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or other mild crushed whole spices if you wish, instead of the garam masala. 

You may need a third extra eggplant or aubergine to get the number of slices needed. The roasted aubergine gives the dish creaminess.

Save the pine nuts for sprinkling at the very end if you do not like them ''cooked''.

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on Amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.

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