A leisurely lunch with a friend called for something different and special. In my meanderings around new followers’ blogs I came across one of Tatjana Ostojic’s travel posts. In it she made reference to a favourite dish of hers – Mansaf.
Mansaf is a traditional Arabic dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur. It is the national dish of Jordan, and can also be found in Palestine, Iraq, Southern Syria and Saudi Arabia.
It piqued my curiosity. Finding a ‘westernised’ recipe for this traditional dish provided me with the ‘something different’ I had been looking for. I was lucky enough to get some help, and some of the traditional spice blend, from another friend who, I discovered, cooks it as it is the national dish from her husband’s homeland.
Given that there were some specific dietary requirements I had to adjust the recipe. This is not something I usually do the first time around when trying a new recipe. However, I was confident it would work. Also, I had a pre-cooked piece of roast lamb in the freezer which I wanted to use. So I guess you could say my version of Mansaf was made with twice cooked lamb.
I found it to be a simple, easy to follow recipe.
Here it is – my changes are in brackets:
2 kg of lamb, preferably with bones, cut into thick pieces
2 cups plain yoghurt (I used homemade lactose free probiotic yoghurt)
1 large onion, chopped
1 egg white, beaten till frothy
2 tsp cornflour (I used potato flour as it is gluten free)
1/4 cup clarified butter
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pine nuts
freshly ground black pepper
1.5 tsp turmeric
.5 tsp allspice
1 small piece cinnamon stick
(I used the spice blend my friend gave me)
3 cups basmati rice (I used a red/black/wild rice mix)
Place yoghurt, egg white, cornflour and 2 tsp salt in a heavy based pan and stir gently just enough to blend. It is very important to use a wooden ladle and to always stir in the same direction throughout the whole cooking process. Otherwise, the yoghurt will curdle.
Place the pan over medium heat and stir constantly with wooden ladle. Heat the mixture until it begins to boil, stirring continuously in the same direction. Lower the heat and leave to gently boil uncovered for 3 – 5 minutes until thick. (I found that it did not take long at all as it had started to thicken while I was stirring.)
Place lamb in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil skimming the surface to remove scum. When boiling and well skimmed add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and boil gently for 30 minutes. (The lamb I used was precooked so I put it into water and brought it to a boil as I was preparing other ingredients. By the time the yoghurt was made the lamb was virtually ready for the next step too.)
Heat butter in frying pan and add pine nuts and almonds. Fry until golden and remove. Drain butter back into pan.
Add onion and fry gently till transparent. Stir in turmeric, allspice, cinnamon bark and cook a further 2 minutes. Then add to the boiling lamb. (I used onion powder and the spice blend.)
After lamb has been cooking for an hour remove lid and let liquid reduce until it only half covers the lamb. (My liquid was almost reduced enough by the time the yoghurt was ready. I left the lid off.)
When reduced add yoghurt sauce, shaking pan to blend it with liquid. (I had to stir it a little – in the same direction always.) Let the mixture boil gently on low heat until the lamb is tender and the sauce is thick.
In the meantime cook the rice. Once cooked place it on a large warmed serving platter and sprinkle half the nuts on top. (I left the nuts in a separate dish.)
When lamb is ready, remove the meat and place on top of the rice and nuts platter and sprinkle the rest of the nuts all over.
Place the cooked yoghurt in a separate warmed serving bowl. Serve with flat bread if desired.
This meal was delicious. The lamb was incredibly tender. We used the left over cooked yoghurt for dinner, adding it to a lentil, turmeric lemon soup I made. And as a dip for some chips. Yum!
© Raili Tanska
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