Main course


Shuwa is the national dish of Oman, and is traditionally served at Eid during the breaking of the Ramadan fast. Like many very old dishes, the origins of shuwa lie in the need to preserve food for a long time. Nomadic Bedouin tribes would routinely need to cook energy-dense goat and mutton, and they would employ a method that involved burying spiced meat in the ground with the embers of the evening fire. In the morning, the meat was cooked and could be unearthed and taken with them. The first time I had shuwa, it was cooked in this way in the Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum.

The recipe given here is lightly adapted from that of Omani Instagram chef @chefjjskitchen. The smoke of the dying fire is recreated by trapping a wood or coal ember under some tin foil for the final cooking step. If you do this, you have to accept that your entire house will smell of smoke for a week. Don’t say you were not warned.

This dish is traditionally eaten with the hands and is accompanied by a flavoured rice similar to pilau rice (see notes).


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By Chef JJ Serves: A family
Cooking Time: 9 hours


  • For the lamb:
  • 1 leg of lamb
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloved and peeled
  • For the spice mix:
  • 6 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tbsps white vinegar



Blend all the spice mix ingredients in a blender.


Make s series of piercing cuts in the lamb and rub the spice mix all over, working it into the cuts. Keep a small amount of the spice mix back for later. Leave to marinade for 4 hours.


Heat an oven to 150˚C.


Stuff each of the cuts with a clove of garlic. Wrap the lamb up first in baking paper and then in foil and make sure it is tightly sealed. Place in a roasting tin a third full of hot water and bake in the oven for another 4 hours.


When the meat is in the oven, lay a fire outside with wood or charcoal in order to get a decent ember for the smoking step.


Smother with the rest of the spice mix, cover loosely with foil and return to the oven at 180˚C for 20 mins.


Tuck in the ember, cover and return to the oven for a final 20 mins.


Serve with pilau rice or similar.


From our 'Little Black Book page, we have 'Rice, pilau Atul Kochhar:' 1:1 w/w rice:water. Sauté cardamom, cloves and chopped onion in butter and add a dollop of yoghurt. Sauté the rice in the mixture for 1 min. Add the water and boil. When you can see the top of the rice emerging from the water, cover the rice with a wet towel and lid. Put the covered pan in an oven for 10 minutes, or leave on a very low heat on the hob. Then, leave covered for 15 minutes off the heat. Consider adding dried lemons along with the spices.

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