Photography By : Sukaina Rajabali
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Shakriyeh – lamb shanks and hot yoghurt stew

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Whenever there was a festive occasion, the Syrian women in my family would make this incredibly tender and flavoursome dish. The lamb is simmered until it is tender in aromatics, which infuses the meat with wonderful flavour. Syrian dishes are often made with yoghurt sauces. In this case the yoghurt is hot, and the most important part of the recipe is that it does not split in the cooking process. My mother insists that the yoghurt needs to be newly opened from its container, that you have to stir the yoghurt in one direction only and that you may not taste the yoghurt before it boils fully. I still follow these directions while making shakriyeh – and the yoghurt indeed never splits.

  • Serves Six

Ingredients


  • 6 lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 litres of hot water
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • a handful of cardamom seeds (around 6g)
  • a generous pinch of cloves (around 3g)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 2kg yoghurt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 175g vermicelli
  • 375g short-grain rice, rinsed
  • 50g pine nuts
  • cracked black pepper
  • 5 spring onions
  • 12 radishes

Cooking Instructions


  1. Place the lamb shanks in a large pot filled with boiling water. Add the onions, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, cloves, half the salt and half the pepper to the water.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 2-2 ½ hours or until the lamb is tender. Skim the fat that surfaces to the top of the water using a spoon to leave a clear broth for the end.
  3. In the meantime, make the rice by adding a little butter and vegetable oil to a pot. Add the vermicelli and fry until golden brown.
  4. Add the rice, stir to combine then fill with water and cook the rice as directed on the pack, usually about 20 minutes, covered on a low heat. Keep the rice warm once it is cooked.
  5. In the meantime, heat another frying pan over a medium heat, add a little oil and butter, and then fry the pine nuts until golden brown. Place them on a plate lined with paper napkins.
  6. Once the lamb is ready, remove the shanks from the pot and keep them warm. You can take the meat off the bones or serve them whole.
  7. Pour the cooking liquid through a sieve and discard the onions and aromatics. Set the strained broth aside.
  8. In a large pot, whisk the yoghurt with the egg, cornflour, remaining salt and pepper and 250ml of the strained cooking liquid (add more if you desire).
  9. Turn on the heat and, stirring constantly, cook the yoghurt over a low heat until it comes to a simmer. Cook it for another 2 minutes once it boils, then turn off the heat.
  10. Place the lamb shanks in a large and deep serving dish, cover with the hot yoghurt, pine nuts and finish with cracked black pepper on top. Serve the shakriyeh with rice, fresh spring onions and radishes on the side.

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