Lamb’s neck stuffed with raisins and grapes. Photo by Matan Choufan
The recipe is inspired by one called bidaya wan nihaya (meaning “beginning and end”) from the 13th century Syrian cookbook “Scents and Flavors,” which contains 635 recipes from the Caliph’s court. The dish’s name nods to the use of grapes (the beginning) and raisins (the end). In addition to enriching the stew with a sweet, earthy flavor, the fruit lightens the dish, making it perfect for hot summer nights.
1 neck of lamb or mutton, deboned and butterflied (ask your butcher)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
For the stuffing:
1 cup rice, short grain or jasmine
5 tablespoons high quality olive oil
5 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
A handful of raisins (dark, light, or a combination of both), soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
1 small onion, grated and squeezed
1 teaspoon baharat spice mix
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup grapes (green, black, or a combination of both)
A handful of raisins
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
1 cup stock (vegetables, meat or lamb) or boiling water
¼ cup of husrum or verjus (pressed juice of unripened grapes) or 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Prepare the stuffing: Bring plenty of water to a boil in a large pot over a high heat. Add the rice and cook (like pasta) for 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to its highest temperature on the grill setting/broil. Lay the butterflied neck of lamb on the work surface and rub the inside with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper and massage well.
Place the stuffing in a line towards the end closest to you, roll the meat gently to a roulade and tie with butcher’s thread (alternatively, use toothpicks to secure the roulade). Rub the roulade with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper and massage well. Using a sharp knife, score the roulade in several places.
Place the roulade in a roasting pan and tuck into the hot oven until nicely brown on all sides, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and reduce the temperature to 400°F / 200°C on a conventional setting.
Meanwhile, arrange the roasting ingredients in an even layer around the roulade. Important note: If using pomegranate concentrate instead of husrum or verjus – add the pomegranate molasses to the stock or boiling water, mix well and then pour. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour.
Reduce the temperature to 325°F / 160-170°C and roast for 2 more hours. Occasionally, remove the foil and cover the meat with the roasting juices.