Lamb in Pot

It is citrus season in Tartous. The green trees are fully laden with oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tangerines and mandarins and dotted with various shades of red, orange and yellow. Although the citrus groves have been reduced in size and number, they and the sea still enfold Tartous like caring parents. The weather has been perfect throughout November. It’s a little bit on the cold side in the evening perhaps, but unblemished sunshine prevails all through the day and begs for a special type of Bar-B-Q.
Do you think it’s too soon to post about food again? I guess so, but I can’t resist the temptation. This time though, I am going to write about a big festive meal particularly conceived for the outdoors or the backyard of your home. The recipe calls for a bunch of hungry people. I don’t know how many, but the more, the merrier.
You need 1/2 of a young lamb, potatoes, onions, assorted spices and a bottle of Tabasco. You should also prepare a bowl of rice and get fresh vegetables for the salad of your linking and some Pita bread.
Although, preparing Meat in Pot (Lahme Bil Jarra = لحمة بالجرة ) might require some work, it is really simple in the end, provided you have the place and the time to do it.
I am sorry for not have taken my digital camera for this latest outing (a big mistake). However, I fetched some old photo prints from my album and was happy to be able to retrieve the ones I’ve used in this post.

-You need to buy a big pot (not from the Cannabis variety but from pottery).
-From the butcher shop get one half of a lamb (see illustrated picture below) By the way, the quantity could be reduced if you can only acquire a large lamb. If that is the case, then be sure to buy your favorite meat cuts.

-The lamb is cut in pieces (with bones) small enough to pass through the opening of the pot, but not too small. The meat should be generously rubbed with your favorite spices (use your imagination), Tabasco (or any sauce you like) and salt are added as per preference.

-Peel 2 Kg (4.5 lbs) of large whole potatoes and 1 Kg of onions.
-Insert the meat, the potatoes, the onions and 4 sticks of cinnamon in the pot together.
-Cover the opening of the pot with a piece of cloth and tie it around the neck.
-Punch the cloth with a pencil or whatever and cover the cloth with wet mud. When it’s dry enough to remove the pencil, do so.

By this time a circular hole of about 1 m in diameter and 50 cm in depth (40” x 20”) should have been dug in the ground and filled with either firewood or coal. The fire should be stable when you place the pot on its side in the middle but not aflame. The burning coals should generously surround the pot without actually coming in direct contact with it. The cooking time is roughly 4 to 5 hours. Make sure you keep the coals alive and rotate the pot every 15 minutes or so for even cooking. After a couple of hours, a steady steam vent will be visible from the opening you’ve made with the pencil. Prepare rice as per your own recipe since it goes extremely well with the tender meat.

Don’t worry about over-cooking as long as the fire doesn’t actually touch the pot (it should be close but not in direct contact).
When the aroma overpowers you (just about 4 hours after you’ve started) feel free to remove the pot and prepare yourself for one hell of a delicious meal.
In a clean place, preferably in a large enough pan, lay the pot on its side and tap on its upper half longitudinally with some long metal object to break it nicely into 2 large parts. If it doesn’t break evenly, don’t worry; just be sure to remove all of the broken pieces. Remove the steamy ingredients and place into the serving pan to present on the table. The meat, potatoes and onions are served with hot rice.

Drink your heart out. Beer, wine, soda, whatever you desire, it’s entirely up to you.
I hope you enjoy this very special recipe. While having a good time it wouldn’t hurt if you drink my toast.


Shadi HIJAZI said…
It is never too soon for such yummy posts!

By the way, I am tagging these delicious recipes in my account ;)

I am hoping to have a Tartoussi food encyclopedia there :)

Many thanks Abu Fares, although you made me drool :(
Abufares said…
Hi Shadi
Thanks for your visit and for the promotion.
I am not sure about the origin of the "Meat in the Pot" recipe therefore didn't make the claim that it's from Tartous. However, I haven't had the pleasure of trying it anywhere else except in my hometown. BTW, we also prepare chicken the same way in a very small pot. Lamb could also be substituted by the meat of a young goat. I tried with both and couldn't really tell which is better. They were both extremely delicious. I don't know whether it'll work with veal because very tender, fat and juicy meat is required. We don't eat pork here at all, but I believe that it can be substituted for those who can't get lamb and don't mind eating pork.
I'm telling you all this because I got the feeling that you enjoy food and in order to give some alteratives for those who are going to read the comment section.
Thank you again Shadi.
Anonymous said…
Yani either you have to stop writing about food, or I have to stop reading your blog when I'm hungry, usually late at night with nothing even remotely similar to what you describe in the kitchen. In fact, even my husband is fed up of my mentioning "moussabaha" (or, even worse, the fresh bread) every time we discuss what we're going to eat. It's not like we can hop over to the corner eatery either, this being London! And now lamb!

That said, extremely enjoyable writing as usual! :)
Abufares said…
Hi Rime
I'm sorry. I know I'm getting carried away. Sometimes when I start thinking about a post before lunch this what happens. I was very hungry in my office and suddenly remembered the Lahme Bil Jarra of 2 weeks ago. I knew that I should post about it. Although I didn't write it until later at night the damage was done.
All I can say is that Inshallah one day when you and your husband are here in Syria, we should get together and hopefully make it up to you.
The Syrian Brit said…
Abu Fares,
The sheer thinking about Lahme Bil Jarra makes my mouth water!.. I have last eaten that delightful dish on a trip to Kafroun, when I was in 2nd Year at Medical School (one or two years ago!!..), and I can still taste it!..
And what is the matter with Syrian Bloggers these days??.. First you, then Abu Kareem, then you again!.. all you guys can think of is food, glorious food :-) (Actually, Abu Fares, it is great, so keep up the good work!..)
The Syrian Brit said…
...and by the way, referring to you invitation to Rime, can I come, too??..
Anonymous said…
Ahhhhaaa !! Food again and I am already so hungry!! I have never tried (or even heard) of this method of cooking??! What I have tried here in the land of Downunder, is rabbit wrapped with foil and stuck in the sand under the fire. It was not bad, but I am sure the same can be applied to any meat.
Anyway, It should not be hard to find a Pot (Jarra) here, so, God willing, it won't be long before I tell you I tried it. Otherwise, I will have to wait for when I visit you!
Abu Abdo
Abufares said…
Syrian Brit
You were part of the chain yourself. Remember when you talked about your wife's cooking. We are all either under-nourished or extreme foodies.
You are welcome any time. Just let me know when you're around so that I can Oum Bil Wajeb.
Abufares said…
Abu Abdo
If anyone has the talent to prepare Lahme Bil Jarra it's definitely you. You love food, you have a backyard, you have plenty of lamb downunder and most importantly you have the Dam Al Bared to start with the cooking in the morning so that you can eat around noon.
Let me know when you actually do it. As for enjoying it together over here, you, too are more than welcome.
Shannon said…
Ohhhh, and I love lamb too. Unfortunately I have no way to try out this recipe in my backyard, but maybe I can adapt it to a slow cooker??


I really hope one day I'll have the chance to try this dish.
Abufares said…
OK Shannon, a slow cooker would work. But how about getting a small piece of pottery with a cover then placing the lamb inside and putting the whole thing in an oven. It'll work because I've tried chicken this way before. If the pottery lid is tight and has no opening(s)as we do over here, you might need to displace it a little.
Have a good time and enjoy it.
Unknown said…
OMG that looks YUMMY!!!!!!! I wish I could sink my teeth in such a fantastic dish ... even though it is close to midnight - I woue not be able (nor willing!!!) to resist!! I only heard about such fantastic dishes in the past ... and am about to turn green from envy!
I hope one day I will have the utmost pleasure to be able to taste that as well ... I am droolong for it now already ...
Thanks so much for this GREAT recipe!!!
Abufares said…
Hi Karin
This recipe is great because it's very simple. Cooking in pottery was and still is very popular in rural areas in Syria (and I'm sure elsewhere). The whole secret is in the long cooking time needed for the meat to get done. What's inside the pot is cooked with its own juices with little air contact and controled evaporation.
As usual, all I can say is hopefully one day.
Shannon said…
That's a great idea!! If I can't find good lamb cuts, maybe I'll try the chicken.

All I need now is a pot supplier...I mean a place I can buy a good know what I mean.
Abufares said…
I'm sure you can find lamb and pot in Las Vegas. I mean pottery of course.
What I'm talking about has a diameter of about 12" and has a cover. You can actually use it to serve on the table because it looks real nice. It's the kind that you don't need to break of course :)
I have the feeling that you'd find something like this where they sell products of Native Americans!!! Don't you think?
Dubai Jazz said…
Abu Fares, although I read your post two or three days ago, I didn't dare to comment untill I have had full plate of Shawrma for launch during the past three days! the reason: I didn't want to sound like a famished beast after seeing these photos and reading your yet more delicious descrition! but even that didn't work, you can tell.....
I have no idea where the "Meat in Pot" was originated, but it is definitly in the vicinity of the Lenvant.
Great post Abu Fares, leep up the good work.....
Abufares said…
Hey Dubai Jazz

Sahha wa Hana.
Although the last time I had Lahme Bil Jarra is still very recent, I wouldn't mind having a go at it another time. It probably is the best way (and certainly one of the oldest) to cook meat.
Glad that my post stimulated your taste buds.

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