Lamb with Rice and Yogurt Sauce
This is recipe requires hard-to-find ingredients.
Mansaf, a dish of Bedouin origins, is Jordan's national dish and eaten throughout the Levant. In its original Bedouin incarnation, it was a simple dish of lamb or camel cooked in an aromatic broth and served with bread. In the early 20th century, as the dish became popularized among the settled population, it acquired its present structure: the lamb is now served on a bed of turmeric-infused rice and topped by a yogurt sauce. It's been 20 years since my last physical sojourn into Jordan and I don't actually remember eating this particular dish there, but the flavors were very familiar and welcomed.
While this is not a complicated dish to make, it's most prominent ingredient, jameed can be hard to find. It's a type of yogurt traditionally dried and made into balls that had to be reconstituted, but now also available in liquid form. You can find it online in the US and at some Middle Eastern markets. I found it at our local Indian store, which is quite large. While some people who can't find jameed substitute it with Greek yogurt, I think you need the real thing. You also need actual plain yogurt, I used a European style one and it worked perfectly.
Mansaf is served on shrak bread, a flat bread available in Jordan. In the US, the recommendation is that you use tortillas. You can eat the whole dish with your hands if you tear a piece of the bread or tortillas and use it to hold the meat and rice.
The recipe I followed called for 2 lbs of lamb and recommended bone-in lamb. I think there is enough rice and sauce for at least 3 lbs, so if I made it again (and this would be a great dish to make for guests with adventurous palates), I'd use at least that much lamb. I used a combination of lamb neck and lamb shoulder chops. I hadn't used the neck before, and I wouldn't again - hidden in the package there were huge bones that couldn't be sectioned off. The lamb shoulder was a better cut, but next time I might just use a boneless leg.
For the lamb
- 2-3 lbs lamb
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamon pods
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- salt to taste
For the Rice
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- 2 cups short grain rice, rinsed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- salt to taste
- 2 1/2 cups water
For the Jameed Sauce
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 17.6 fl oz package of liquid jameed
- 2 Tbsp ghee (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
For the finished dish
- 1-2 pieces of shrak bread or 3-4 burrito size flour tortillas
- 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup almonds or pinenuts, toasted
Cook the lamb
Cut the lamb into chunks.
Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the lamb and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the lamb and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the lamb from the water, set aside, and discard the cooking water.
Add ghee to the pot and melt over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened. Add the lamb, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt and saute, stirring frequently, until the lamb is browned, about 5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the lamb again, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer until the lamb is cooked through, about an hour. Remove lamb from the pot and set aside. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and discard the rest. Wipe clean the pot.
Meanwhile, cook the rice
In a separate medium pot, melt the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir, making sure all the grains are covered in ghee. Add the turmeric and salt. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is cooked.
Once the lamb is ready, prepare de Jameed sauce
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt and the cornstarch. Whisk in the jameed. Whisk in the reserved lamb cooking liquid. Set aside.
Return the pot where you cooked the lamb to the stove, add ghee and melt it over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Whisk in the jameed mixture and bring to a boil. If not using garlic, simply pour the jameed mixture into the pot and bring to a boil over medium-heat.
Add the reserved lamb. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cook for about 10 more minutes.
To Assembly the dish
If using tortillas. Heat an un-greased frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a tortilla and heat for about 30 seconds, remove and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas.
Place shrak bread or tortillas in a large platter. Laddle some of the jameed sauce onto the tortillas. Spread the rice on top. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to the top of the rice. Laddle additional jameed sauce on the lamb. Sprinkle parsley and toasted almonds or pine nuts and serve.
Adapted from Amira's recipe at Amira's pantry
Jordanian Recipes | Marga's International Recipes | Marga's Best Recipes | Marga's Food Blog | E-mail