Stuffed Onion Rolls

This is a Saudi Arabian dish and was adapted from that curious book Memory Recipes of Desert Storm which was published following the Gulf War. I met the author, Monica Gabur, and it is the only time I have ever tried to negotiate with someone in full purdah. Not easy I can tell you. The recipe is a bit fiddly but worth the effort, unlike another recipe ‘Lamp feet with toes’ which turned out to be lamb’s trotters with toast!


  • 4 large onions
  • 450g/1 lb minced lamb
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • 200g/7oz chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tbsp oil


Peel the onions carefully, cutting off the root ends. Cut one half of the onion from top to bottom leaving the other half intact. Put in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain cool and separate carefully into layers. Mix together the cinnamon, allspice, mince, tomatoes and breadcrumbs and add seasoning. Place a tablespoon of the stuffing on each onion slice and roll up tightly. Line the bottom of a heavy saucepan with the unused onion pieces. Pack in the rolls closely, seam side down. Mix sugar and lemon juice with half a cup of water and pour over the rolls. Top with the oil. Place a small upturned saucer or plate over the rolls to prevent unrolling. Simmer gently over a low heat for 1 hour adding water if necessary. Transfer to a serving plate.