Grilled Cumin Lamb Belly

One of my favorite value cuts of lamb, this pint-size sister to beef’s brisket-plate-flank is stellar on the grill. Pressure tenderized, then rubbed with aleppo chile and whole cumin seeds and charred over hot coals; every bite is a smoke-streaked mouthful of tender happiness.

Sajira  & Tangier N.23 – Recipe by Christian Leue

Serves 4


2 lamb breasts (about 1.5 pounds each)
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 Tbsp Tangier N.23
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 small onion
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp aleppo pepper or Izak N.37 (if you prefer no heat)
2 Tbsp sajira
1/4 cup whole cumin seeds
Olive oil


1. Score the lamb breasts along the ribs on the fat cap side, add to pressure cooker along with 1 cup water, 1/4 cup pomegranate syrup, Tangier, garlic, onion, and salt, bring to pressure and cook for 40 minutes, then quick release. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can also braise them in the oven for 2 hours at 350°F, just add an additional two cups of water to the pot).

2. Start a hot fire on a grill outdoors and prep for direct cooking. If you don’t have access to a grill they can be grilled under the broiler.

3. Save the cooking liquid for another dish (it makes a great base for kharcho soup), and allow the lamb to rest and cool slightly.

4. Mix the aleppo or Izak with the sajira and cumin and enough olive oil to form a loose paste. Brush each belly on the fat cap side with the reserved pomegranate syrup, then coat thoroughly with the blend.

5. Grill cap side up for 4-6 minutes, covered, or until deeply browned, carefully flip the bellies and grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes more. A little bit of burning is ok. Reverse the order of these directions if cooking under a broiler.

6. Remove to a cutting board and slice the meat from the bones and into large chunks, the remaining bones can be crisped up to gnaw on later.

7. Serve with fluffy Turkish pide or other flat bread, grilled lemon halves, and chopped cilantro.

Fun to try

• Shred the meat and try it as a taco filling paired with finely chopped red onion and zhoug crema.

• Use black vinegar and Sri Lanka N.14 in the broth and whole cumin with crushed chilies and ground sichuan pepper for the crust for a northern Chinese twist, serve with fluffy white rice and a salad of shredded scallions, jalapeño, and cilantro with a bit of black vinegar and oil.


Food image and recipe © Christian Leue

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