Lamb fattah

Lamb fattah

Cairo Kitchen
Jonathan Gregson

Fattah is an umbrella term for a whole family of decadent dishes served at big festive occasions as the main attraction. The word ‘fattah’ means ‘crumbs’ or ‘little torn pieces’ and refers to the most humble common ingredient of the dishes, namely the bits of pitta bread that are dried or fried and used to soak up flavours and add crunch. The following recipe is the version of Maher and his wife Taya’s cook, Osta Sayed, and the copious quantities of garlic give it real boldness, which is well balanced by the vinegar.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg lamb shank or leg, cut into pieces
1 onion, quartered
5 cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
20g salt

For the rice base

Quantity Ingredient
400g short-grain rice
100g vegetable oil

For the fattah sauce

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 garlic cloves, crushed
150ml white vinegar
1kg pureed tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper

For the toasted bread

Quantity Ingredient
3 baladi breads, cut into cubes
30g butter, melted

For the garlic and vinegar dakka

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
100ml white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin


  1. Pour about 3 litres water into a large pot and bring up to the boil. Add the lamb pieces, onion, cardamoms, bay leaves and salt. Cover and cook for 2 hours over a low heat or until the meat is cooked and tender.
  2. To make the rice base, wash the rice under cold running water, then soak in fresh water for half an hour.
  3. Into a medium-sized pot, add the oil, drained rice and some salt and stir for 5 minutes over a high heat. Add 500 ml boiling water, stir and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes over a low heat until the rice is tender and has absorbed the water.
  4. To make the fattah sauce, in a hot saucepan, heat the oil, then sauté the garlic for 3 minutes until golden in colour. Add the vinegar, puréed tomato and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over a low heat for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring from time to time, until thickened to a sauce-like consistency.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  6. To prepare the bread, put the bread on a baking tray, brush with the melted butter on both sides and toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread is crisp and toasted.
  7. To prepare the garlic and vinegar dakka, in a hot saucepan heat the oil and sauté the garlic until golden in colour. Add the vinegar, cumin and 50 ml water and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. After the lamb is well cooked, strain the broth and set aside over a very low heat to keep hot. In a large serving dish, place a layer of the crisp bread, then drizzle some garlic and vinegar dakka over it. Layer the rice over the bread, followed by some fattah sauce, and then place the lamb pieces on the top. Ladle some of the warm lamb broth over the bread and rice for flavour and moistness.
  9. Drizzle some extra fattah sauce over and serve immediately with extra dakka and fattah sauce on the side.
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