SHUWA (Pit Roasted Lamb Wrapped in Banana Leaves)

SERVES 6 to 8 people


Spice Paste
¼ cup cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
8 to 10 cloves garlic
1 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
1 ¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3 tbsp distilled white vinegar
6 tbsp vegetable oil

5 to 6 pounds lamb shanks or other small bone-in lamb cuts, about 8 pieces.
Kosher salt
Banana leaves, thawed if frozen

To make the spice paste, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Place in a blender or small food processor with the garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, salt, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, vinegar, oil, and 2 tablespoons water; pulse or puree until relatively smooth (there can still be some texture from the seeds).
Transfer to a bowl or jar, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next day, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and allow the meat to rest at room temperature 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously season the lamb with salt; massage each piece with the spice paste, being sure to
completely coat every surface but not slathering it on too thick (you’ll want it to harden and dry a bit as it cooks). There should be little to no paste left over.
Wrap the lamb pieces separately in banana leaves, completely enclosing each and making little
parcels. Line a roasting pan or 9 by 11-inch baking dish with a large whole banana leaf, letting it hang over both sides of the pan. Place the wrapped lamb parcels, -seam side down, in the pan and tightly enclose with the overhanging banana leaf.
Roast until the lamb is cooked through and falling off the bone, 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours. Some of the spice rubs should caramelize and form a bit of a crust.
Let rest 10 minutes . Remove the lamb from the banana leaves, discarding the leaves, and serve with steamed basmati rice.
One of the most iconic of all Omani dishes, shuwa, is typically reserved for celebrations like Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr or weddings, and traditionally involves slathering a whole lamb, goat, or cow with oil and Omani spices, wrapping it in banana leaves, and lowering it into a pit filled with embers to slow-cook for a day. The process of making shuwa brings together families and entire villages who share the burden of digging the pit and hauling the meat out of it, as well as the pleasure of the luxurious meal that follows. The slow-roasted spices permeate to the bone, and the oil creates a crispy, charred crust on the outside of the meltingly tender meat. Our recipe is adapted for the oven for those of us without access to a smoker or cooking pit.
Gaspare Greco is the Executive Chef of Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdhar Resort and has been at the helm of the resort’s restaurants and lounges since February 2017. In his current role he ensures the highest level of service at all of the resort’s dining options. Menus cater to all tastes, from Omani cuisine to South East Asian Cuisine and traditional English afternoon tea.
An industry veteran, Gaspare previously held the role of Executive Chef for Anantara Kihavah Resort and Villas in the Maldives, where he oversaw the operations of five dining outlets and two bars, spanning from poolside to fine dining. He also oversaw the pre-opening for Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara where he created the F&B concepts and designed the menus.
During his tenure he received the prestigious Minor 2014 Award for Excellence for Best Culinary, beating off competition from 135 Minor Hotels and Resorts. With a career spanning over 25 years, Gaspare has travelled the world, heading up kitchens in luxury hotels in Beirut, Bahrain, Dubai, West Indies, Bahamas and Canada. He was featured in the BBC’s World Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby in 2018.
Gaspare, a Canadian national, has a financial background and holds both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Diploma in Hotel Management from Centennial College in Toronto. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Hotel/Motel Administration Management from Centennial College School of Business.