Zab (Roast Lamb)

Zab is the name given to a Somali dish of roast lamb or goat served over a bed of rice. The dish is usually served during weddings or community gatherings known as Zab or alla bari. Consequently many call the dish Zab.

When I came to Australia I cooked Zab almost every other week. This was a great way to bring together my husband’s extended family and for my children to get to know their family and learn about the Somali culture.

I cooked my first Zab when I was fifteen years of age for twenty people at my niece’s wanqal (a traditional Somali naming ceremony). This was a great achievement for me, and years later Zab has become my signature dish!

This is a slow cooking dish, but most of the work will be done for you by the oven so don’t be scared to try it. I guarantee you that the results will be worth it!

Serve the big chunks of tender meat on a bed of rice in a big dish for a Zab effect. There should be plenty to share for more than eight hungry people!

If you have leftovers wrap the lamb in baking paper and a layer of foil paper. Store in the fridge for up to three days.  Sliced pieces of the meat make a great sandwich filler for the kids school lunch.

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Zab (Roast Lamb)

Recipe by:


4kg of spring lamb (This is about half the lamb. Ask your butcher to cut it in big chunks)
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
1 teaspoon of coriander powder
I teaspoon cardamom powder
5 black peppercorns, ground
I large piece of fresh ginger crushed (this also tenderises the meat)
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Salt to taste
I large green and one red capsicum
2 large onions
1 bunch baby carrots, trimmed


1. Marinate the meat in large dish with spices, garlic and ginger for two hours in the fridge or preferably overnight.
2. Transfer to a big sauce pan – we have a special sauce pan for just this dish!  Add all the other ingredients except for the vegetables and place on the stove. Make sure your lid is airtight. Cook for an hour on stove on low heat. It will brown and you might be worried the meat is burning during the first ten minutes, but don’t worry as this gives the meat a delicious smoky flavour.  The meat will produce steam which will add to the meat’s juices.
3. Transfer the dish to a hot oven and cook for a further two hours or until meat is tender.
4. Chop the vegetables and add
5. Uncover the pan and let the meat and vegetables cook for a further 30 minutes. Usually its own juices are enough and if dry add a little bit of water. By this time the meat should be falling off the bone.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10 + people

13 Responses to “Zab (Roast Lamb)”

  1. Kat

    I’ve just discovered this site, I love somali food.
    Is Zab the same as arosto? If not could you also do a recipe on arosto.

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Kat, yes zab is a name for a feast and sometimes used for this dish, but arosto is made in the same way. Arosto basically means roast.

  2. Kevin Taulbee

    Can you suggest a type of rice and any traditional spices to make this dish complete? Also,

  3. Gyanol

    I have been looking for this Cooking article since long time. Thanks author.

  4. Cynthia Miller

    It’s a pleasure, thanks for sharing this awesome info with us enjoyed every bit of it.

  5. Jim

    Is Zab also known as Hanid (Khanidh)? I enjoyed this delicious meal many times in my local Somali café – whole leg served with bariis. The cooks were from Mogadishu but my friend from Hargeisa had never heard the name Hanid.

    • Somali Kitchen

      Zab is similar to hanid (xaniid). Xaniid is actually the Yemeni word for a similar dish. The word xaniid is more commonly used in the Somali region of Ethiopia but the name has become more commonplace.

  6. geraldine l. cole

    HI! I just found this site! I had this dish several times and love it!
    Thanks for posting the recipe but did I miss the temperature for the oven?
    Could you please let me know what temp I should cook this in the oven?
    Thanks so much!


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