Dinner, Lamb, Lunch, Meats

Ground lamb with pistachios, pine nuts, sumac, and a side salad

Spicy lentil soup with sausage on alickofsalt.com

This is the most labour-intensive recipe posted here so far, but it is a delicious one. It is a Middle Eastern dish heavily adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. It is actually the cover recipe of the book, to give you a sense of what I mean by ‘heavily adapted.’ The original recipe calls for using yields from three other recipes to make it, harissa and preserved lemon peel, and Zhoug. I use none of these here, but I bring in ingredients from all into the dish.

There are quite a few exotic spices in this recipe, the most exotic of which is sumac. Sumac is a slightly tart spice that can be used as a salt replacement. It is a beautiful purple color and the reason the lamb in the picture looks the way it does. You may have seen it in salt shakers at Middle Eastern restaurants. If your grocery store doesn’t carry it, check Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shops or look for it online.

The recipe calls for ground seeds so if you have a mortar and pestle, it’s time to break it out! If you can’t be bothered, use already ground spices. We used our brand new mortar and pestle but we only had caraway and cumin seeds on hand and we used already ground coriander. Directions on how to prepare your own ground spices are below in the Tips section.

We serve it with two slices of toast and a salad with carrots, beets, avocado, pomegranate seeds (when they’re in season), and a simple dressing.

Low-sodium ground lamb with pistachios, pine nuts, sumac, and a side salad

Highly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Braised eggs with lamb, tahini & sumac’ from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Ground lamb with pistachios, pine nuts, sumac, and a side salad on alickofsalt.com

Serves 4


  • Lamb dish

    • 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
    • 1 large onion, finely chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 12oz (340g) ground lamb
    • 2 teaspoons sumac, plus extra to finish
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • 1/2 cup (50g) toasted, unsalted, shelled pistachios, coarsely ground (see Tips below for directions on toasting nuts)
    • 7 tablespoons (50g) toasted pine nuts
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds (see Tips below for directions on grinding spices)
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup (120g) low-sodium chicken stock
    • flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, to finish
  • Side salad

    • 3.5oz (100g) baby spring mix
    • 1 carrot, grated
    • 1 beet, grated
    • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
    • 4 tablespoons (60g) pomegranate (optional)
    • olive oil, to taste
    • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste


  • Cook lamb

    1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium-high heat (I used a 12″-inch stainless steel pan). Once hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion softens and becomes translucent, about 6 minutes.
    2. Raise heat to high and add the lamb, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until it is well browned, about 5 to 6 minutes.
    3. Season with sumac, cumin, and ground pepper and cook for another minute.
    4. Turn off the heat and stir in most or all of the pine nuts and pistachios — we reserved some to use as a garnish. Also stir in at this point the ground spices (coriander, caraway, cumin), red pepper flakes, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Set aside while you prepare the salad.
  • Prepare salad

    1. Combine all of the salad ingredients. If you wish, before combining, set aside some of the avocado and pomegranate to use as a salad garnish.
    2. Plate the salad.
  • Prepare to serve

    1. Return the lamb dish to the stove and add in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the stock evaporates, about 5 minutes total.
    2. Plate the lamb dish and season with any leftover nuts, parsley or cilantro, and sumac.
    3. Serve at once. We served it with two slices of bread on the side.

Process photos

Chopped onion and minced garlic
Chopped onion and minced garlic

Cooked onion and garlic with uncooked ground lamb
Cooked onion and garlic with uncooked ground lamb

Toasted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped, and pine nuts
Toasted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped, and pine nuts

Adding the first set of spices
Adding the first set of spices

Adding most of the nuts, the second set of spices, and the lemon juice
Adding most of the nuts, the second set of spices, and the lemon juice

Almost ready to serve
Almost ready to serve


Sources of sodium

  • Lamb
  • Low-sodium chicken stock

Approximate sodium intake per serving: 66 mg

  • 48.75 mg from the lamb, which has 65 mg per 4 oz serving (113 g)
  • 17.5 mg from the low-sodium chicken stock, which has 140 mg per 1 cup (240 mL) serving
  • These values are calculated from the nutritional labels of the ingredients I used


  • Toasting nuts

    To toast your own nuts, first preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts out onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Toast pine nuts until they are slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Toast shelled pistachios until they are fragrant, about 6 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a cool surface right away to prevent them from overcooking in the warm sheet.

  • Grinding spices

    If you want to grind the spices using a mortar and pestle, start out by heating a small, dry frying pan over low heat. Add the coriander, caraway, and cumin seeds and, stirring occasionally, lightly toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the toasted seeds to a mortar and grind to a powder using a pestle.
    Spice seeds Spice seeds in mortar Ground spices

  • A more authentic version

    If you want to use harissa, preserved lemon peel, or Zhoug:

    • I’ve replaced the harissa with the freshly ground spices (coriander, caraway, and cumin) and crushed red pepper flakes. The original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons harissa paste.
    • I’ve replaced the preserved lemon peel with the freshly squeezed lemon juice. The original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of finely chopped preserved lemon peel.
    • The recipe suggests using either 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves or 1 tablespoon Zhoug. I used a couple of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves per dish instead.

Did you make this?

  • If you recreate this recipe, I’d love to know! Leave a comment here and tag @alickofsalt on social media.

2 thoughts on “Ground lamb with pistachios, pine nuts, sumac, and a side salad

    • Sabina says:

      I feel misled. I thought Tiglath-Pileser III was still alive.

      Also, compliments followed by blatant lies are no compliments at all.



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