Turkish-Style Lamb Smothered in Yogurt with Parsley Salad

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

You'll find Mediterranean people cooking lamb with milk or yogurt in a wide arc from Rome to Lebanon, including Apulia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Thrace, Kusidasi, and numerous countries in the Middle East. This Turkish version of the famous dish, Elbasan Tavasi, is particularly delicious, emerging golden-brown and bubbling from the oven.

Start the dish the day before, cook the lamb slowly, then chill it overnight so you can remove all the fat, gristle, and bone. Drain the yogurt for the sauce. I like to use split lamb shanks with the bone—the result is juicier and more flavorful than boned meat. The next day, assemble the dish, smother the meat in the yogurt sauce, and bake in the oven. Serve with a parsley salad or bulgur pilaf with walnuts.

If you own an electric slow-cooker, definitely use it to make this splendid dish. If not, follow the Note on for oven-braising.


  • 5 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 small lamb shanks, cracked (about 2½ pounds)
  • 3 scallions, trimmed
  • 3 green garlic shoots or 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons (all-purpose) flour
  • cup milk
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
  • Parsley Salad


  1. Drain the yogurt in a paper towel—lined colander set over a bowl in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. You need 2½ cups.
  2. Place a small cake rack in the bottom of an electric slow-cooker. Add 1 cup water and the bay leaf. Place the lamb shanks, scallions, and garlic in the pot. Cover and cook on low until fork-tender, about 9 hours.
  3. Remove and discard all bones, gristle, and membranes. Cut the lamb into bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl or container. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the cooking juices over the lamb. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, lift off and discard the congealed fat on the surface. Let the meat return to room temperature.
  5. About 1 hour before serving, preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the lamb and meat juices in a single layer on the bottom of a greased large, shallow baking dish (9 by 12-inch or 11 by 17-inch). Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the whole eggs, egg yolk, and flour to a smooth cream. Gradually add the drained yogurt and the milk, whisking until smooth. Season with the allspice and salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the oven, pour the yogurt mixture evenly over the lamb, and return to the oven to bake until the topping has set, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the broiler. Broil the dish for about 2 minutes, rotating it until the topping is nicely browned. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter with the hot pepper until sizzling. Dribble the butter over the top and serve with the parsley salad