Babylonian Cooking

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Babylonian lamb stew with beets
Recipes are for 2 full portions or 15 bite-size servings


  • 1 pound of diced leg of mutton or lamb
  • 1/2 cup of rendered sheep fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of beer
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped arugula
  • 1 cup of Persian shallots or spring onions
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 pound of fresh red beets, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup of chopped leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic

For the garnish:

  • 2 teaspoons of dry coriander seed
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped kurrat or ramps/wild leek


  1. Heat the fat in a pot wide enough for the diced lamb to spread in one layer.
  2. Add lamb and sear on high heat until all moisture evaporates.
  3. Fold in the onion, and keep cooking until it is almost transparent.
  4. Fold in red beet, arugula, cilantro, Persian shallots and cumin. Keep on folding until the moisture evaporates and ingredients emit a pleasant aroma.
  5. Pour in the beer. Add water. Give the pot a light stir. Bring the pot to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat and add leek and garlic that you crush in a mortar.
  7. Let the stew simmer until the sauce thickens after about an hour.
  8. Chop kurrat and fresh cilantro and pound it into a paste using a mortar.
  9. Ladle the stew into plates and sprinkle with dry coriander seed and the kurrat and cilantro paste. The dish can be served with steamed bulgur and naan-bread.


Recipes are for 2 full portions or 15 bite-size servings


  • 14 ounces barley seeds
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ ounce kurrāth or spring onion
  • ¼ ounce cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 3½ ounces leeks 
  • 2 tablespoons oil of untoasted sesame 
  • 6 ¼ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

For making the sourdough bread (bappiru ‘beer-bread’):

  1. Wash the seeds and soak them in water overnight. Dry them, toast them lightly, and then grind them into flour.
  2. Make the flour into dough by adding warm water. Let it ferment slowly for about 12 hours in the refrigerator.  
  3. Shape dough into clumps, sprinkle them with salt, and bake them in a medium-hot oven (375ºF) for about 20 minutes, or until they are done. Let the bread cool completely and then coarsely crush it.   

For making the broth:

  1. Chop kurrāth or spring onion and cilantro, and set aside. 
  2. Pound the garlic and leeks together into paste using a mortar.
  3. Heat the sesame oil in a pot and add the mashed garlic and leeks, stirring constantly, until they start to produce a pleasant aroma, a few minutes.
  4. Add water and salt, stir the pot, and let it simmer gently for about an hour. About 15 minutes before the pot is done, stir in the set-aside chopped leeks and cilantro.   
  5. Just before removing the pot from the fire, scatter the crushed bread all over the stew, give it a gentle stir, and then serve it.    

Recipes by Gojko Barjamovic and Nawal Nashrallah

Babylonian cooking