How To Make Lamb Soutribbetjie

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soutribbetjie sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Soutribbetjie over the coals

Lamb ribs are an immensely fatty cut of meat, but properly prepared as with the recipe below, delivers a combination of all that is great about lamb: moist tenderness from the fat and the slow simmering, crisply charred crackling from slow braaing over glowing embers, and the flavour punch that only good, free- range lamb can deliver.

All in all, this counts as my idea of food nirvana. The recipe is from my mom’s old handwritten cookbooks, now worn with age. Growing up in the Free State, braaiing was a staple of our weekend meals and there were usually a few Tupperwares in our fridges at any given time during the week, with chops, ribs and sosaties in their various marinades slowly tenderising and soaking up flavour for the Sunday braai. Saltpetre is available from a pharmacy, and it acts as preservative for the meat. Don’t skip the simmering and drying parts of the recipe, and braai the ribs very slowly, to render most of the fat and turn your ribs into a beautifully crisped-up thing of joy.

Old fashioned coriander rub for lamb ribs – ‘soutribbetjie’

Lipsmackingly good, a true South African classic.

Makes enough for about 2kg of ribs. Your butcher should happily oblige to prepare a whole rack of ribs for the barbecue if you explain what you’re making. Make sure he scores the fatty side, and really work your rub into the cuts for maximum flavour.


2 kg rack of lamb rib, whole

2 T (30 ml) brown sugar

1 cup (250 ml) coarse or kosher salt

1 t (5 ml) saltpetre (ask at the chemist)

1 t (5 ml) ground black pepper

2 T (30 ml) coriander seeds

1 t (5 ml) ground cloves


  1. Toast the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until lightly golden and smelling aromatic. Let cool completely and grind finely with the salt, sugar, saltpetre and cloves.
  2. Rub thoroughly into the ribs and place meat in an airtight container. Leave in the fridge for 3 days, turning twice a day and pouring off any juices that collect in the container.
  3. On the third day, remove ribs from container and hang with a meat hook somewhere airy and dry or leave on a cooling rack to dry out completely.
  4. To cook, place ribs in a large pot and just cover with water. Simmer gently until meat is tender – about 2 hours. Top up with more water when necessary, just enough to cover the ribs. Drain, dry, season well and grill over coals until crispy and done.
  5. gabrielskloof braai sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
    Braai is koning. Photo courtesy RandomHat PR

Recipe from Relish: Easy sauces, seasonings and condiments to make at home, published by Random House Struik 2011 November © Sonia Cabano

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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.