syrain lamb stew john gregory-smith

To celebrate World Refugee Day I am sharing a recipe that I was taught how to make in Lebanon by Aziza Bakar, a Syrian refugee from Aleppo that I was lucky enough to have met last year. In her tiny kitchen, we sat around a precarious gas burner and she whisked up this sensational lamb stew, flavoured with fragrant Lebanese seven spice and plenty of black pepper.

The children laid mats on the floor of their sitting room/bedroom and we sat together to eat. They told me how they arrived in Beirut to escape the war in 2011. Aziza’s husband, Mahmoud, is a painter and has been looking for work for several years. Money is extremely tight and they have been largely confined to their tiny three room apartment. The married couple have nine fabulous children, the eldest two at a local school.

Each family member receives $27 a month from World Food Program to pay for food, rent and electricity. Just take a moment to think about this, it’s just over twenty quid. That’s what we would spend on lunch and a coffee any day of the week. This kind, considerate family never asked for help and even hated me giving the kids chocolate. But we must act now. Please have a look at the amazing work World Food Programme does and consider donating some cash to help them feed families like Aziza’s all over the world.


  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Chuck the onions and pepper into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes until glorious golden and soft.
  2. Put the garlic, Lebanese seven spice, Aleppo pepper flakes, black pepper and a good pinch of salt into the pan and mix well. Add the tomatoes, red pepper paste and mix together. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until the tomatoes have mostly broken down.
  3. Put the lamb into the pan and pour over 150ml of just boiled water to help loosen the sauce. Mix well. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 12-15 minutes until the lamb is just cooked through. Remove the lid and increase the heat until bubbling gently. Reduce the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle over the tahini and garnish with the pine nuts and coriander. Serve immediately with rice and salad.

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp Lebanese seven spice
1 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
¼ tsp black pepper
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper paste
600g boned lamb leg, thinly sliced
4 tbsp tahini
10g pine nuts
A handful of coriander leaves
Rice and salad to serve
Sea salt

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