Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

We had a little taste of the Middle East this past weekend. Ro-Ri San took us to the Midtown Global Market in downtown Minneapolis. The market has fresh and prepared foods, restaurants, and arts and crafts from around the world. Our visit was centered around the Holy Land Grocery & Deli featuring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. The setting is like a bazaar with groceries spilling onto the aisles.

It was a busy place with lots to see and taste. There was a sampler spread of pitas, flat breads, feta, hummus, olives, and dates throughout the bazaar. The place was filled with the aroma of kebabs and grilled meats. It seemed like a world away from Minneapolis…..

We had a wonderful lunch at the Holy Land Deli. Some of the delicious food we ate were falafel, moussaka, kebabs and tabouleh, chicken gyro, roast chicken, and hummus. The falafel was excellent – crunchy on the outside with a soft inside. The vegetable moussaka was more like a stew but it was really good.

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

For dessert, we had kataifi and baklava. They tasted very similar to each other. Kataifi is made with a form of shredded phyllo pastry. Both have the same filling of walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and honey…..very sweet but delicious.

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

After lunch, I did some grocery shopping. I saw a great looking chunk of lamb shoulder roast and decided to change my Midwest Easter dinner plans for a Middle Eastern dinner instead. I immediately thought up a menu for the meal…

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb
Saffron Pistachio Pilaf
Vegetable Moussaka… to follow
Spring Greens, Strawberry, and Feta Salad… to follow

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

Some of the other ingredients and foods I bought were sumac, pita, Deglet Noor dates, and Greek feta.

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

The first time I ever tasted sumac was at an Iranian restaurant. It has a slightly tart and lemony flavor and is great sprinkled on roasted meats. The pita breads are really fresh as they are made here in Minneapolis. Deglet Noor dates have a caramel color and is medium firm. I like it as it is not as sweet as other soft dates. It is really good as a snack and for baking. There were 4 kinds of feta being sold – Greek, Egyptian, Bulgarian, and French. They all looked very fresh and I had a hard time trying to decide which to buy. In the end, I went with the Greek feta. I will try the others in my next visit.

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 (4lbs to 5 lbs/1.8kg to 2.2kg) lamb shoulder or rib roast
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp sumac
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over lamb roast. Press sumac and rosemary over entire piece of lamb to form a crust. Drizzle olive oil over crust and let it marinade for several hours. If possible, leave overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
  3. Place lamb on a shallow pan and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C) and continue roasting for another 1½ hours or until thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 160°F (17°C) to 165°F (74°C) for medium doneness.
  4. Remove and cover with foil. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Two other ingredients that are often used in Middle Eastern cuisine are saffron and pistachios. I combined both ingredients to make this fragrant and fluffy pilaf garnished with pistachios. The pilaf had a hint of sweetness from the golden raisins.

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

Saffron Pistachio Pilaf
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 servings
  • ¼ tsp saffron
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups (400g) basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2½ cups (600ml) water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup (80g) golden raisins
  • ½ cup (50g) toasted pistachios
  1. Soak saffron in 2 tablespoons warm water for 20 minutes.
  2. In a medium sized pot, add olive oil. Sauté onions until soft. Add basmati rice, stir to mix well with onions, about 2 minutes. Add saffron mixture and water. Bring to a boil, add salt and golden raisins.
  3. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Turn heat down to the lowest setting and leave pot on the stove for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and remove pot.
  4. Allow rice to sit for 10 minutes. Dish onto plate and garnish with toasted pistachios.
  5. Serve immediately.

Sumac and Rosemary Crusted Lamb with Saffron Pistachio Pilaf

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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  1. denise @ quickies on the dinner table says

    What a spread! I would go nuts in such a place LOL Hubby knows better than to take me to a food bazaar!

    The roast looks fantastic and I can see that your pilaf is cooked to perfection – so fluffy and grainy! Been on the lookout for sumac but never seen it.

    I do find most Mid Eastern desserts extremely sweet but I love the cookies stuffed with pistachios or dates. Great post – looking forward to the next instalment :)

  2. Cooking Rookie says

    Your lamb looks so juicy and delicious. Every time I place meat in an oven it turns out too dry. Don't know what I'm doing wrong :-(
    Also love the idea of adding pistachios to the rice :-)

  3. tigerfish says

    I hardly have Middle Eastern food, just once or twice, maybe? I love the idea of pistachio in the pilaf rice. The lamb looks huge – no wonder such a long time to cook it :O

  4. Rumana Rawat says

    This is looking awesome… love it, i wish i would have been there to help u in eating, hehehehehe:-)

  5. Cinnamon-Girl says

    All of the market food looks so delicious! So does your crusted lamb! And the rice – such delicious flavors. You made a wonderful feast!

  6. Biren says

    denise@quickies on the dinner table – It was a fun outing. The food was really good and we ate too much. Had to skip dinner 😀

    If you can find a middle eastern store in Singapore, they will probably have sumac.

    The baklava was sweet but a small slice is okay, right? Thanks for the compliments.

    Tina – Thanks!

    5 Star Foodie – My boys really enjoyed the lamb and the pilaf :)

    Sarah Naveen – It was very satisfying and very filling :)

    Cooking Rookie – I used to cook my meat to death too. It takes a little practise but eventually you get the hang of it. As I rarely cook a chunk of lamb like this, I had to check the internal temperature two or three times to get it just right.

    Kamalika – Thanks and we did have fun at the market :)

    bunkycooks – Sumac has subtle lemony flavor and is really nice on roasted meats and vegetables.

    Yasmeen – Thanks for visiting and for the nice comments :)

    tigerfish – We don't eat Middle Eastern food that often too, but it is really tasty. Love their pilafs and some of their vegetarian dishes. Actually, that was the smallest piece of lamb being sold there.

    Rumana Rawat – Thanks! Would love to share it with you :)

    Cinnamon-Girl – Thank you and yes, the market foods were delicious.

    Anna – Thanks for visiting and for your nice comments :)

  7. Jay says

    Hy Biren,

    Chanced upon ur blog, while blog hopping..wonderful n healthy collection of recipes u have…glad to follow u…do drop in at my blog sometime…

  8. Mother Rimmy says

    What a fun shopping experience! I've never cooked with sumac. What does it taste like? The whole meal looks fantastic!

  9. Cajun Chef Ryan says

    Wow! Does this look like some good eats! Saved this one for future reference when I can eat meat again.

    Bon appetite!

  10. Lea Ann says

    Wow, this deserves a standing ovation! Thanks for stopping by my blog, I've subscribed to yours and look forward to more from your kitchen.

  11. Biren says

    Kathleen – Thanks! I had fun preparing the meal.

    Jay – Thanks for visiting, following and the kind comments :)

    Mother Rimmy – It was fun and we really enjoyed it. Will visit again as there are so many types of cuisine there to explore. Sumac has a lemony taste and is nice sprinkled on roasted meats.

    MaryMoh – There was lots of food and we all ate too much :)

    Cajun Chef Ryan – It was all very tasty. All the best with the diet.

    Lea Ann – Thank you. I enjoyed visiting your blog and hope to continue sharing recipes with you :)


  1. […] One of the first recipes in the cookbook that caught my eye was Roasted Pork Chops with Jeweled Rice Pilaf. I did not make the pork chops and cooked the pilaf on the stove instead of in the oven. I used up the little homemade ghee I had left and changed some of the spices and ingredients with what I had on hand. This fragrant and tasty rice makes a lovely side dish. It can definitely stand on its own if you are not big on meat. For a simpler version, do check out my Saffron Pistachio Pilaf. […]

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