Make this impressive Lamb and Apricot Pine Nut Pilaf for your next festive gathering

It’s a one-pot meal fitting for any time of year.

It’s a one-pot meal fitting for any time of year

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

This is a lovely one-pot dish, studded with fork-tender chunks of lamb, spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, clove and other heady spices. Apricots add a sweet tang, as well as a bright hit of colour to this rice dish. Serve it alongside eggplant borani to feed a crowd at your festive gathering. 

Lamb and Apricot Pine Nut Pilaf

The lamb broth can be prepared up to 2 days in advance, with the lamb and broth stored in the refrigerator separately in airtight containers. 

*You can cut the lamb into these small bone-in pieces using a meat cleaver but it will take a little elbow grease. Ideally, your butcher can do this for you.



  • 2 cups basmati rice

Spice sachet

  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tsp black pepper berries
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 cloves garlic

Lamb broth

  • 2-lb lamb, (preferably lamb shoulder) cut into 1½-inch bone-in pieces using a meat cleaver (or ask your butcher to do this)*
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled, root left in tact, marked with an ‘X’ on top’
  • 2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt

Pilaf base

  • 2 tbsp neutral oil (grapeseed or sunflower)
  • 1 medium medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ dried apricots, halved


  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp thyme


Prepare the rice:

Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Soak basmati in cold water for 1 hour. Set aside. 

Prepare the spice sachet:

Cut a piece of cheesecloth or muslin into a 6x6 inch square. Place the cardamom pods, cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, black pepper berries, ginger and garlic in the middle. Bring all four sides of the cheesecloth or muslin together to form a pouch. Secure with a piece of kitchen twine long enough to hang from your cooking pot. Cut off any excess cheesecloth or muslin.

Prepare the lamb broth:

In a stockpot (6-quart), add the lamb, water, onion, salt and spice sachet (ensure that the twine is hanging from the side of the pot and away from the burner). Place the stockpot on medium-low heat, cover with a lid, and allow to simmer until the meat is tender, about 1-1½ hours, checking the meat every 20 minutes; the meat should be tender, but not falling off the bone and the cooking time can vary, depending on the meat you use. When the lamb is tender, discard the spice sachet and the onion, and using a sieve, drain the stock. You should have approximately 4-5 cups of stock. Set the meat aside.

Prepare the pilaf base:

In a large (6-quart) heavy-bottomed pot add the oil and the onion and sauté until a deep golden colour develops, about 10 minutes. Decrease the heat to low, and add the apricots, rice, lamb, and 3½ cups of the stock (you can freeze the rest and use to flavour soups, for example). Bring the stock to a boil, then cover the pot with a tea towel, and place lid snugly on top, then tie the corners of the tea cloth into a knot on top. Allow the rice to steam for 20 minutes. (Do not open the lid midway through the steaming process.) Turn the heat off and allow the rice to rest for 15-20 minutes.

To serve:

Transfer the rice to a serving dish. Tip: use a wide rimmed spatula or the saucer of an espresso cup when transferring, to prevent the delicate rice from breaking.

Garnish the rice by scattering the thyme and toasted pine nuts over top. 

Serve with eggplant borani.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Shayma Owaise Saadat is a Food Writer and Chef. She lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey at or on Instagram as @SpiceSpoon.


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