Ramadan recipe: margat hamidh helou – sweet and sour stew

Throughout the holy month, 'The National' is teaming up with Table Tales to share daily recipes to experiment with at home

Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savour the quintessential dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of recipes – one for each day of Ramadan – pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.

Raghad Al Safi's recipe for margat hamidh helou, a sweet and sour lamb stew, features in her cookbook, The Iraqi Table. The hearty dish pairs sweet dried fruits with succulent meat and flavoursome spices.

“This recipe probably borrows from Iranian influences, which often pair fruit with meat for a wonderfully complex sugary and savoury combination," says Al Safi.

“Cooking the fruit releases a syrupy tartness that contrasts beautifully with the deep, salty taste of the lamb.”

A handout photo of Raghad Al Safi, author of The Iraqi Table (Courtesy: Raghad Al Safi) *** Local Caption ***  al06mr-emirateslit-alsafi.jpeg

Raghad Al Safi’s margat hamidh helou – sweet and sour stew

Serves 4-5


  • ¼ cup dried golden prunes
  • Water as required
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500g lamb
  • 1 ½ cups dried apricots
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 2 tbsp saffron water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 2-3 tbsp date syrup
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • ¼ cup fried almonds


  1. Soak the dried golden prunes in water for three hours and drain thoroughly.
  2. Chop the lamb into 2-centimetre cubes.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil and cook meat over a high heat until it is brown. Add two cups of water and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Add drained golden prunes with apricots, prunes, saffron water, salt and ¼ cup of water, and bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Add raisins, lemon juice, date syrup, sugar and cardamom. Stir and continue to simmer for two minutes.
  7. Dissolve the corn flour in half a cup of water and add to the mixture. Stir and continue to simmer until sauce thickens – approximately two minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and garnish with fried almonds.

This dish has been brought to you by Raghad Al Safi, author of The Iraqi Table, and curated by international recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavour to recipes of the Middle East