Katif ghanam with kabsa rice

  • 4–6
  • 4 hours 30 minutes plus 4–12 hours for marinading

This beautiful slow-cooked lamb dish from Imad Alarnab is served over a dish of spiced, raisin-studded red pepper rice. Imad notes that you can also swap out the rice, and instead add onions, carrots and potatoes to the lamb when you wrap it in foil, to slow-cook alongside the rice. Imad has recipes for how to make kabsa spice and baharat from scratch in his cookbook Imad’s Syrian Kitchen.

This recipe is adapted from Imad’s Syrian Kitchen by Imad Alarnab (HQ, HarperCollins Publishers, £26)

First published in 2024
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Red pepper rice



Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a large container


Rub the marinade all over the lamb so it’s completely covered. Cover and marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, ideally overnight


When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/ gas 3


Take the lamb from the fridge, then get a high-sided oven tray and line with a layer of foil and a layer of baking paper, large enough to cover the lamb. Add the garlic and herb sprigs to the middle, followed by the lamb and all the marinade. Fold the foil and baking paper over the lamb like a parcel, then flip it over and wrap it again in another layer of foil so the lamb is tightly wrapped and there are no gaps. The lamb needs to cook in its own juices, so it’s really important that it’s completely covered at this stage


Place in the oven and cook for 4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. Remove from the oven, unwrap, increase the temperature to 200°C/Fan 180°C/gas 6 and roast until browned on top


When the lamb has about 1 hour to go, start the red pepper rice. Wash the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear, then add to a bowl with enough water to cover. Soak for 30 minutes

  • 400g of long grain rice

Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat, then add the cumin seeds and toast for a minute


Add the peppers and red onions and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until they get a little colour

  • 3 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 red onions, cut into slices 1 cm thick

 If you are using the chilli (or two), slice them in half lengthways and add to the pot along with the spices, salt and tomatoes


Fill the empty tomato tin with water and add it in, then bring everything up to the boil


Put the lid on and turn down to a bubbling simmer for 25–30 minutes


Taste the sauce, making sure the seasoning is right, then drain the rice and stir it into the pan along with the raisins


Bring the rice back up to the boil, then put the lid on and immediately turn it right down to the lowest simmer for 15 minutes. Take off the heat, leaving the lid tightly on, and rest for 10 minutes. Lift the lid on the rice and stir it gently with a fork to break up the grains


Serve the lamb over the rice, and garnish with cashews and micro parsley

First published in 2024

A successful restaurateur and chef in Syria, Imad Alarnab left his home country in 2015, after war broke out, to seek refuge in the UK. His kind-hearted nature and excellent cooking meant he quickly built a following here, and he now brings authentic Syrian cooking to London at Imad’s Syrian Kitchen.

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