Mortar and pestle soup with chickpeas, lamb and flatbread

Mortar and pestle soup with chickpeas, lamb and flatbread


Mark Roper

Dizi became one of our favourite quick-and-easy lunch dishes during our travels, and we would actively seek out specialist restaurants, with their large ovens full of neat rows of individual stoneware dizi pots.

It’s a simple enough idea: small chunks of meaton- the-bone are simmered slowly over several hours with potato, tomatoes, beans and a piece of lamb tail fat, which releases an unctuous richness during the cooking. To serve, the broth is poured into a bowl onto pieces of flatbread and slurped up with a squeeze of sour orange or lemon. The bone is then fished out of the dizi pot and discarded, and the remaining meat, fat and vegetables are pounded to a coarse paste using a special dizi pestle. This tasty mush (for want of a better word) is eaten with plenty more flatbread, pickles, onion, sour orange (or any citrus, really) and fresh herbs (try tarragon, mint and basil). It’s far from refined, but unspeakably delicious.

This version omits the scary lamb tail fat to suit Western palates and health concerns, and it is probably a tad more spiced than authentic dizi. The longer you can simmer the lamb, the better the result.


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 lamb shanks
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 small shallots, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
8 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 litres water
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
12 small tomatoes
fresh herbs, onion wedges, citrus wedges and flatbread, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based casserole dish over a high heat. Add the lamb shanks and season with salt, then brown all over and remove from the pan.
  3. Add the shallots, garlic and spices to the pan and fry over a medium heat for a few minutes until the vegetables soften. Stir in the tomato paste and fry for a minute, then stir in the chickpeas. Return the lamb shanks to the pan with the thyme and bay leaves and pour in the water. Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 2–3 hours, or until the meat is falling away from the bones.
  4. Tuck the potato and tomatoes in among the lamb shanks and return the pan to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the potato is tender
  5. Lift the lamb shanks from the soup and remove the meat from the bones. Break the meat roughly into smallish chunks and return it to the pan.
  6. Encourage everyone to eat the dizi the authentic Iranian way. You may not have a dizi pestle at home, but after you’ve drunk the soup, you could use a mortar and pestle, or just mash the meat and vegetables in your bowl with a fork. Scoop it all up with flatbread, add herbs and onion and squeeze on citrus juice – delicious!
Middle Eastern
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again