When you learn that a particular dish sits at the heart of most Middle Eastern wedding feasts, then it's fair to assume it's going to be a little special and most certainly tasty. It was with this in mind that I set to work to make Rawia Bishara's mansaaf, an Egyptian rice with lamb recipe, from her book Olives, Lemons & Za'atar (p157).

Glad to have read the recipe in close detail well in advance, tonight's meal involved multiple steps. It calls for seasoned lamb with stock, which can be found pages earlier in Bishara's book and involves seasoning lamb meat from the leg, searing it in a casserole and then boiling it for about an hour. Pre-planning was essential as not only did I have to prepare the this stage in advance, I also needed to remember to defrost a small half leg of lamb from the freezer. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know our lamb comes from Windshiel Farm in the Scottish Borders.

I prepared the seasoned lamb (allspice, sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg) over the weekend and then stored it alongside the stock in the fridge for a couple of days. Someone once said "success is where preparation and opportunity meet". The early preparation of the seasoned lamb meant that I was cooking a simple 20 minute meal this evening. Hurray!

The pilaf-like mansaaf, involved sauteing the meat pulled from the bone in double helpings of spices. The rice was then coated in melted ghee before the meat was added back along with pine nuts, slivered almonds and stock.

Without access to Egyptian rice, I used basmati, which worked perfectly well. There was a general consensus around the table that tonight's dinner was indeed worthy of a wedding banquet - high praise indeed. It certainly merited the extra effort at the weekend.