My Citizens! Your scintillating culinary North Star – the well-spiced and occasionally smoky Suzerain who alone is TFD! – today wishes to issue forth a rare recipe in English for your enjoyment and immediate attention! This slow-cooked leg of lamb from the distant country of Oman is like nothing you have ever experienced!
Oman is a small country in the Middle East that punches far above its weight in the culinary arena!
Omani cuisine is influenced by Arab, Iranian, Indian, Asian, Eastern Mediterranean, and African cuisine, reflecting Oman’s position as a vast trading empire at the intersection of traditional spice trade routes. Dishes are often based on chicken, fish, and lamb, as well as the staple of rice. Most Omani dishes tend to contain a rich mixture of spices, herbs, and marinades.
Pork consumption is forbidden to Muslims in Oman, in accordance with Sharia, the Islamic law. Although Omani cuisine varies within different regions of Oman, most dishes across the country have a staple of curry, cooked meat, rice, and vegetables. Soups are also common and are usually made from chicken, lamb, and vegetables (e.g., smoked eggplant). The main meal is usually eaten in the middle of the day, while dinner is lighter.
Shuwa (BBQ in Arabic) is supremely tender from many hours of low and slow cooking, flavored with a plethora of rare Eastern spices (and a bit of chile heat as well!) and served with rice flavored and colored with the world’s most exotic spice: saffron (as well as a host of other flavorful ingredients).
It is indeed Middle Eastern BBQ, and is even cooked in a similar fashion to Hawaiian Imu pig – traditional chefs cook it in a covered pit in the ground, wrapped in banana leaves for up to 48 (!) hours, though 12-24 is closer to the norm. If you speak harshly to this piece of meat, it will literally fall apart. It is the ultimate get-together celebratory dish in Oman, and there are sadly very few recipes for it in English.
Citizens, you pretty much NEED this in your life. 🙂
As noted in this lightly-edited excerpt from thasneen.com:
Shuwa is not just my family favorite recipe…it’s a whole Nation’s favorite main course. Shuwa is a typical Omani delicacy prepared only on very special occasions. Eid is probably the most common occasion hence “The meat festival.”
The method of preparing shuwa is elaborate. The meat is marinated with spices and then wrapped in sacks made of dry banana or palm leaves. These sacks are then thrown into the underground sand oven, which is covered with a lid and sealed so that no smoke escapes.
In some villages, the meat is cooked for 24 hours while in others it is believed that meat tastes better after 48 hours. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is impregnated with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste, usually served with rice.
For a video description of how Oman BBQ masters make this dish, I think you will enjoy this one I found.
This dish is truly magnificent as part of an unmatched feast when paired with my other favorite Oman dish – the delicious vegetable soup known as Shurbah. The spice mix known as Baharat is not only lavishly used in this recipe, but also in my recent post detailing how to make Bahraini spicy shrimp balls.
Citizens, this is a rare and unspeakably delicious recipe that I hope you will see fit to make this weekend or sometime soon – it is truly one of my favorites!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
- 1 bone-in leg of lamb
- 1 large head of garlic, peeled
- 3 tbsp. white vinegar
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1 tbsp. Kosher salt
- 3 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp. Korean gochujang or Chipotle paste for a smoky flavor (TFD change – original calls for ground, dried hot Chile such as Chile de Arbol ground to a paste with some oil)
- 4 tbsp. Baharat spice mix, made from:
- 2 ½ tablespoons freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons freshly-ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon freshly-ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon freshly-ground allspice
- ½ tablespoon freshly-ground cinnamon
- 2 ½ teaspoons freshly-ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon freshly-ground cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon paprika (it’s not traditional, but I like smoked Spanish paprika – use regular paprika to go old-school)
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons crumbled dried rose petals, optional but strongly recommended
- Fragrant rice:
- 20 saffron threads
- ½ onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup fine wheat vermicelli
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- ¾ tsp. black peppercorns
- 3 green cardamom pods, husks removed
- ¼ stick cinnamon
- 3 allspice
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock
- juice from ½ lemon
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Banana leaves
- Chopped parsley, mint and cilantro
- Pomegranate seeds
- Cut many slits into the lamb leg. Put the lamb leg on top of the banana leaves.
- Combine all the marinade ingredients (including 4 tbsp. Baharat mixture) in a blender, then pour over meat.
- Rub the marinade into the flesh, being sure it gets into the slits. Close up the banana leaves around the leg and tie them up into a parcel around the lamb.
- Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- Place the marinated meat wrapped up in the banana leaf in a roasting pan and cover, then roast in a 250 F pre-heated oven for 4 hours or until leg is well cooked, basting the package with the pan juices every 30 minutes and turning over once or twice.
- Then, uncover and roast at 350 F for 20 minutes, turning the meat over once. If the banana leaf dries out, you can wrap it with aluminum foil.
- Cook until the meat is fall-apart tender!
- You can also cook Shuwa in the traditional Omani way by cooking it in a drum or by digging a pit. For this, you will have to burn the wood down to glowing red-hot coals.
- If cooking this way, follow the lead from the video in wrapping the meat with lots of banana leaves in a rattan covering, then tie up the whole package with chicken wire. Once the shuwa is in the pit or drum, just put the lid on or cover without making the drum or pit airtight.
- Let it cook for 12-24 hours before digging it up.
- Regardless of cooking method, allow the lamb to rest, still covered, for about 30 minutes while cooking the rice.
- Place the saffron threads in a small bowl or cup and cover with 4 tbsp. warm water. Leave to soak until added to the rice.
- Toast the spices (except the ginger) in a dry hot skillet until fragrant.
- Pour the olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed pan and place over a low heat. Gently sauté the onion for a few minutes until softened and translucent.
- Roughly break up the vermicelli and stir into the oil, allowing the pieces to color and brown in the oil.
- Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil, then mix in the soaked saffron threads (and the water they were soaking in) and the toasted spices. Cover everything with the stock and bring up to the boil.
- Cover the pan with a lid. Keeping the heat low, allow to cook for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. Fluff up the rice with a fork, adding a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.
- To serve, unwrap the rested lamb and carve into generous slices. Place the slices on the mixed herbs, garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately with the rice on the side.
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