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Friday, 26 August 2011

Tagine of Lamb, Prunes & Apricots - Wrapping Up Ramadan Recipes on a Sweet-Savoury Note

For this Recipe in Arabic, follow this link

Serves 4 | Easy
This dish is filled with exquisite flavours and its savoury sweetness makes
it a perfect end for a month's recipe collection packed with good food
Ramadan is unwinding, and will soon be leaving us to get back to our busy daily routines. I am hoping that all the good food prepared and had during Ramadan has inspired a return back to the kitchen and home cooking. There is nothing better than home-cooked food! Best of all is the gathering of a family over a home cooked meal, sharing their thoughts, their day and simply being together as a family. These are the essentials of family living and the memories of your children in the making. With Ramadan coming to an end, take the good things and infuse them into your family life; if not daily, at least regularly. Try and slow down, enjoy your family, kids and cooking. Find that Balance, there is no better Reward!

To a month's full collection of recipes - that will remain on this blog for you to revisit - I wrap up Ramadan Recipes with a Sweet-Savoury dish that will tickle your taste buds. Tagine of Lamb and Prunes is a Moroccan Cuisine Classic. It is a dish with distinguished flavours, with a deep rich sauce that will satisfy your cravings. The sweetness of the prunes and apricots is balanced by the seasoning, spices, and the melt-in-your-mouth lamb meat making this dish the perfect wrap for this year's Ramadan Recipes!

Fruits and Nuts add flavour and texture to your food,
the art is in finding the balance

A dish about Balance! The art in making this dish lies in finding the balance between the sweet and the savoury flavours. If you add too much fruit, the tagine will come out too sweet, and somewhat tiring for the palate. If you barely add the fruits, the flavour will be shallow and incomplete. The addition of orange blossom water is classic to this recipe, but make sure you do not over do it as it will add a bitter note to your tagine. It can be omitted, but then it won't be the classic Lamb & Prune Tagine. In fact, a slight hint of orange blossom water lends this dish its distinguished flavour, and almost takes you to the streets of Casablanca in the open market where hints of this smell are always present. It is customary to serve this dish with a side serving of green and black olives, the savoury flavours of which will perfectly suit this tagine. Tagine is commonly served on its own, or with a side serving of bread. I like to have it with a side of couscous, as I find the textures to be great together. Here is how it's made...

I have used boned lamb shanks,
and roughly chopped them
You Need
8 lamb shanks (on the bone or boned)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1 ltr hot water
1 small bunch coriander, finely chopped
1/4 cup prunes, roughly chopped
4 dried apricots, sliced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orrange blossom water
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp ground corriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
Toasted Sesame seeds for garnish

In a large saucepan, slightly heat the olive oil, add the blanched almonds and sautee till golden. Add the chopped onion, and cook stirring for a minute. Do not brown onions.

Add the lamb and stir to cool the onions down, season the lamb with salt, black pepper, turmeric, saffron threads, ground corriander, ground ginger and toss to coat.

Once the lamb has slightly browned, add the hot water, the cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes are over, add the sliced apricots, roughly chopped prunes and whole cloves, simmer covered for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a seperate bowl, mix together the melted butter, honey, orange blossom water and ground nutmeg till incorporated. Add chopped coriander and stir to coat with the orange blossom infusion.

Once the 20 minutes are finished, add the coriander mixture into the simmering pot.

Increase the heat, and bring to a rapid boil, let the mixture slightly reduce and caramelise. Do not over cook the mixture and do not let it dry out. The idea here is to slightly reduce, in order to concentrate the flavours. Remove from heat and stand for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with bread or couscous on the side. Enjoy!

Hope you have enjoyed My Ramadan Recipes, Welcome to all the new followers and thank you all for the fabulous comments and the many emails. I always love to hear from you. I have tried to get back to as many of you as I could, and for those to whom I haven't, I will be doing so ASAP.

I continue to post recipes all year long, from various cuisines, with various techniques and will continue to talk to you about good food, traditions and food preparation practices so make sure to keep on dropping by and stay in touch.

Will be announcing New courses soon, I have many fabulous courses to come, and looking forward to welcoming you in one.

Ramadan Kareem, and Eid Mubarak to all of you out there :)

Monday, 22 August 2011

A chat with the man behind Zalatimo Sweets Co about Middle Eastern Sweets, their traditions and culture & Zalatimo's Date Mamool Recipe!!

With the Holly month of Ramadan unwinding and Eid right on our doorstep; there is no better time to talk about traditional Arabic sweets :) 

During Eid, it is customary in the Middle East to offer guests Maamool (Samolina cookies filled with dates or nuts), together with other assorted Arabic sweets. Middle Eastern Sweets are by all means a treat, both to the palate and the eye. They are always filled with nature's best produce. From all kinds of nuts to dates, they are never short of goodness! Other ingredients such as sweetened white cheese, Ashta (cream or milk curds) as well as the finest clarified butter (samneh) are also generously used in the making of these delectable desserts. These mouth-watering sweets are usually oozing in the finest sugar syrup, making them rich in sweet flavours and a satisfying end to any meal! If you have never tried any before, make sure you do as you are missing out on a great deal!

Middle Eastern sweets are reflective of this Region's culture. There are many traditions around them, that even what you choose to offer is usually governed by the occasion. Different occasions call for different desserts, like Maamool for instance is usually served during both Eids. In big occasions like weddings and engagements Knafeh is the dessert to serve... and so on. 

Abdallah Zalatimo,
GM Zalatimo Sweets Co

Since we are talking about Arabic sweets and culture, then who better to talk to than the very people who have become synonymous with the best quality Middle Eastern Sweets? 

I have had a chat with the man behind one of the region's finest Middle Eastern Sweets labels, Abdallah Zalatimo, the General Manager of Zalatimo Sweets Co LLC, about Middle Eastern Sweets and traditions, as well as about the inspiring journey of establishing this great company and its products... here is what we talked about;

Abdallah, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into Zalatimo Sweets Co 

My name is Abdallah Zalatimo.  I am 46 years old.  I have a MBA in marketing.  I attended the university of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania and graduated in 1986.  Upon graduating, I returned to Amman to expand the family business out of Jerusalem into Amman, Jordan.  I have been at work in Zalatimo Sweets since 1986.  I am married and have two children, a 17 year old boy and a 14 year old girl.  

When not at work, what do you enjoy doing the most?

In my personal time, I enjoy reading, cooking, the sea, and traveling.  I exercise daily to stay fit and healthy and it is also a great stress release mechanism.  

When you decided to work in Zalatimo Sweets, was your decision influenced by the family? How did you decide to go into this line of work?

My family did not influence me to join the family business.  I was being trained in marketing and was working in the US with a financial management company.  So I was as far away as possible from the family business.  I think the history of our family business influenced me more.  I was intrigued by our family history which was in the business of making sweets and pastries for over 120 years back then.  Many people spoke so highly of our business and of the family members who had managed it.  My father and uncles were not involved first hand since my father and uncle were doctors and my other uncle was an engineer.  I felt that there was a vacuum in the business and that it was dying slowly since the only people running it were quite old at the time and had little energy to cope with the challenges of the modern world.  The vacuum presented me with a challenge that I took when I joined the family business.  But this decision was only made 6 months before I graduated. 

Old City Jerusalem in 1800's

When Zalatimo was first conceived as an idea, what inspired it? 
(For those, unfamiliar with Zalatimo Sweets Co, here is a bit of a background about this amazing company that has shaped these sweets and the culture around them)

In the year 1860, Mohammed Zalatimo opened a small pastry shop in the old city of Jerusalem to make a pastry called "Mutabak". Due to the limited space in the Original Zalatimo Sweets store, "Mutabak" was offered as a take away product and only in the morning for breakfast. In addition to "Mutabak", a few other specialty sweets were made on a daily basis. Later, Mohammad Zalatimo, due to the growing demand for the high quality sweets he offered, rented the shop next door so that he could offer seating to the growing number of customers visiting the shop in the ancient walls surrounding the Roman built Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Zalatimo Sweets Company was established in Amman- Jordan in 1986 and has been expanding both locally and regionally since then. With more than 6 shops in Jordan, and having opened branches in Qatar, and 2 in Bahrain. We export our products on regular basis to KSA and USA. 

How many people worked in Zalatimo when it first started, and how many kitchens and workers do you have now?

Zalatimo Sweets started out with 3 people in one location in 1860 and today we are about 250 persons in 3 production facilities.  

What is Zalatimo's reach now? how many shops do you have?

We have 6 shops in Jordan, 2 in Bahrain, and one in Qatar.  We export our products on a regular basis to Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

Tell us a little bit about Arabic sweets; what are the main characteristics and how different are they from European and other sweets?

I always prefer to call Arabic sweets Mediterranean sweets or Middle Eastern sweets.  The origin of most of our sweets, and cuisine for that, is from the Turkish cuisine.  After 500 years of being occupied by the Ottoman empire, our cuisine was changed for good.  Most of the ingredients in our sweets are not originating from the area.  Actually, their origins are in Turkey.  Such as the pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, butter, flour, etc… The main characteristic of our sweets is the importance of the presence of nuts, syrup or sugar, and flour or semolina.  We also use a large amount of clarified butter (semneh) and cheese or cream (milk curds).  The main flavoring that is added is either rose petal water or  citrus flower water.  These in themselves identify the Mediterranean sweets.  We do not use chocolate or fruits or milk in our sweets at all.

Assorted Middle Eastern Sweets by Zalatimo Sweets Co

Are Zalatimo's Middle Eastern Sweets seasonal - limited only to Ramadan & Eid - or do they work for other seasons and occasions?

We have a wide variety of sweets that are demanded year round.  Some like Mamul are more seasonal but others like baklawa are demanded year round. 

Our cuisine's sweet varieties are very traditional, and have hardly changed or evolved through time. As a huge and reputed Arabic sweet establishment, do you consider creating brand new sweets recipes to contribute to the development of the pastry section of Arabic Cuisine? 

We have tried introducing new ideas over the years and they have been met with little interest and find very modest success.  We continue to try but I think that new ideas will catch on once we have the younger generation - people who are 22 and below - become more of a purchasing power.  I think the biggest change we have made in our sweets is to make them less sweet and less rich (using milder butters) than what my great grandfather used to do.  And this is primarily due to the changing tastes of our quality conscious consumers.  People in Jordan don’t ask mush for new products and are content with the traditional products.  I think it has to do with the way people live in Jordan.  In Lebanon, however, they are more innovative in their approach to our sweets but again, at the end of the day, the volume is in the traditional sweets.  

Our products are associated with occasions and it is difficult to change people’s consumption habits during special occasions (for example, Eid means mamul dates and pistachios, visiting somebody ill means taking assorted sweets as a gift, engagement means konafe, Ramadan means sweets made with Kishta (milk curds),  etc…)  we will keep trying to introduce new items and hope that we can keep up with our customer’s ever changing tastes.  

In the same light, Arabic sweets are known to be very indulgent. Do you try to go with global trends, such as catering for the health conscious, or diabetics...etc? Is there a "Healthy" line at Zalatimo Sweets Co? 

When you choose to eat Mediterranean sweets, I do not believe in cutting corners.  But that is my belief relating to all foods as I tend to think of myself as a purist when it comes to food.  Either eat it as it was meant to be or don’t.  For those attempting to lose weight, then minimizing the portion is the best way to go.  That is it!  There is no alternative to flour for those who are gluten intolerant, there is no alternative to most of the ingredients that we use without greatly compromising the integrity of the product.

The only exception is sugar. About 5 years ago, we began introducing a diabetic line of products that uses a sorbitol and maltitol based sweetener.  They have done great and we continue to expand this line in terms of volume and assortment.

Are there future plans to grow and explore other foreign markets?

We are currently available in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States.  Our future plans are to further expand out of Jordan, primarily in Saudi Arabia and then to the other Gulf states.  Maybe we will expand in the US in the longer term.

What is the formula of success in this field, from the experience of one of the most successful establishments such as Zalatimo Sweets? What do you advise aspiring Arabic Pastry Chefs?

I think that the most important element of success in any culinary or pastry discipline is to consistently pay attention to details and the use of top quality ingredients.  Mediterranean pastries are steeped in heritage so it is very important to know the history of what you are making to be true to the origins of the desert, or else you should give it a new name. 

I am sure that Zalatimo's recipes are secret family recipes, but everybody loves a real good recipe! There is no better Middle Eastern Sweet Recipe than that of Zalatimo, so if we asked you to share one with us, would you?

To my surprise, Abdallah was generous and kind enough to share with us
Zalatimo's Best Loved Dates Maamool Recipe (Samolina Cookies filled with dates)!!

Zalatimo's Dates Maamool Recipe by Abdallah Zalatimo
For Cookie Dough 
You Need
1 1/2 Kg Samolina
3 cups flour
1/2 Kg Clarified Butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Orange Blossom Water
1/2 cup Rose Water
1 cup Water
2 tbsp yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp Mahalb
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

For Filling 
You Need
1/2 Kg pitted Dates
4 tbsp Clarified Butter
a sprinkle of Mahlab

In a large bowl, mix samolina, sugar and mahlab till well mixed. Add clarified butter to the samolina mixture and mix using only the finger tips without kneading. Cover the mixture and let it set for 6 hours.

20 minutes before the end of 6 hours, place the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and mix to incorporate. let the yeast mixture stand for 20 minutes.

When 20 minutes are done, sprinkle the yeast mixture over the set samolina mixture and rub the mix between your palms for 10 minutes to incorporate. Add the rose water and enough water to get a moist sticky dough (about 1 cup) Let stand for 1 hour. Rub all the ingredients again until the mixture comes together and becomes more like a dough.

Take a small piece of the Samolina dough (size depending the size of mould you are using), place in your left palm, and with your right index finger, press the dough inwards from the centre facing you, to create an opening for the filling. Fill this opening with a tsp of filling and gently forld over the dough to close the opening. Place the filled cookie in the mould and gently press. Flip the mould, and tap it against the table or counter top to release the cookie. Repeat, till all quantity is finished. Let the mixture stand for 1 hour. Then bake till done and slightly golden.

Zalatimo maamool's are the best you can ever have. They are a Eid tradition since childhood, I love them. They go very well with Traditional Arabic coffee (Ahweh Sada)! YUMMY....  

Zalatimo Dates Recipe in Arabic

For step by step tutorial on making Maamool, and for my 3 different fillings check out my post on Maamool
Ramadan Kareem!

Thank you for reading this post, hope you have enjoyed reading the post as much as I have enjoyed chatting with Abdallah Zalatimo. Arabic sweets are heavenly, and if you haven't had them before make sure to do so, you are in for a treat. would love to hear your experiences with Maamool and Arabic sweets, so please share with us, leave a comment ...
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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Carpaccio of Beets with Sherry Vinaigrette - One delectible Appetiser!

Serves 6   |   Easy
For this recipe in Arabic, Click this link

This is a fantastic Vegetarian Appetiser. If you are not vegetarian,
you can add crumbles of goat's cheese or blue cheese for a heartier dish

Beetroots are gorgeous! Not only do these sweet vegetables taste delightful, but they also look stunning. Within the same beetroot, you might be lucky and get all shades of the colour ruby red, from light to dark and when thinly sliced they appeal to the eye. Bringing colour into food, is one way to turn the appetite on, and there is no better way to bring fabulous colour than with beets!

Slice the beets at 0.75mm (very thin) and they become translucent which
will show the different shades of colour in each slice.  Beauty!

When beets are cooked in boiling water till tender, and then sliced very thin they become translucent and  almost see through. Line them on a plate overlapping the sides, and they will look great. This is one of those dishes that look so delicate and taste just as delicate. Therefore don't try and overpower the flavour of the beets with too many additions. I kept it simple with a delicate Sherry vinaigrette seasoned with wild Thyme.

This is a full on vegetarian appetiser. If you are not vegetarian, and would like to have it as a main salad, you can add some assorted leaves and sprinkle with crumbled goat's cheese or blue cheese and some coarsely chopped walnuts.

TIP for even more colour, mix red and yellow beet slices.
score beets with a fork and cook in
boiling water till tender

You Need
3 large beetroots, cooked in boiling water till tender, cooled
1 red onion, very thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp baby watercress
2 tsp dried wild thyme leaves
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Black pepper to taste

As you start preparing this dish, soak the thinly sliced red onion in the sherry vinegar, and set aside.

Score and cook beets till tender. Peel and slice very thinly (here I have sliced them at 0.75 mm). Set aside to cool.

Sherry Vinaigrette 
When done slicing the beets, remove the onions from the vinegar and place in a separate dish.

Make the Sherry Vinaigrette: In a bowl, add the dried wild thyme leave (rub them between your fingers first) to the sherry vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Stir to incorporate the flavours. Pour the olive oil, in a thin steady stream while continuously whisking or stirring, until the mixture looks emulsified (incorporated and not separated).

Sprinkle some olive oil and a little sherry vinaigrette at the bottom of your serving dish, then sprinkle with a little black pepper. Start lining the sliced beets overlapping the sides.

When the whole plate had been lined, top each beet slice with a thin pre-soaked red onion slice. Lightly pour the vinaigrette over all slices. Sprinkle with baby watercress and some extra dried thyme leaves.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Serve with your salad and appetiser buffet. You can also plate these individually and place them on top of dinner plates as a ready appetiser.

Ramadan Kareem!

Thank you for reading this post, hope you like this Salad. Give it a try and let its goodness speak :)
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Monday, 15 August 2011

Dima's Pistachio Cake with Rosewater Cream

For this recipe in Arabic, follow this link

Serves 12
Served as a large whole cake, or in individual portions, this cake looks so elegant
The flavours are a marriage in heaven either how!

The thing about baking Cakes....
Most my trainees come to me saying "I can't bake!" "It never works!" "I don't have it in me to bake cakes!"... Let me assure you, as I did them, you can bake perfect cakes everytime!
.... The thing to know about baking cakes is the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. In order not to complicate things for you in a post, in short: The Secret To Baking Success is : Precise Measurements and following the recipe exactly. Don't improvise and change around thinking it will work. You can do that once you know and understand the ratios, but till then, you should simply follow the recipe to the dot! It will work.

We all love a piece of cake. Some flavours are favourites, and we tend to somehow always go for our chosen  favourite flavour. I usually go for chocolate cakes. However, on occasion, I like to play around with flavours. Instead of serving the same old cakes, why not go for Ramadan Flavours this Ramadan?

Pistachios Spill Ramadan to me, But if you don't like them,
you can go for the same amount of almonds instead

In an earlier post, I spoke a bit about what resembles Ramadan Flavours to me. Maybe your Ramadan Flavours are different, so if you do want to change around in this cake to incorporate what tastes like Ramadan to you, you can. You can change the spices I have used, in this case cardamom, and you can change rosewater into any other liquid flavouring. Just make sure that you substitute the flavours in the same amount. 1 tsp cardamom = 1 tsp cinnamon for instance, not 3! You can also substitute the same amount of ground almonds for the pistachios if you like and make it an almond and cinnamon cake for instance.

With that said, I do recommend you try this cake out as it is, because the flavours are a marriage in heaven! It is so delicious, you will struggle to hold back from seconds!! :)

I like to serve cakes in individual portions, I find that they look elegant and take away from the hassle of cutting the cake when entertaining. I have put here the steps to change a large cake into individual portions. You can still serve this cake as a whole large cake, and it looks just as good.

TIP  Cakes have to be completely cooled before they are iced or frosted. Take that into consideration when planning your time.  Happy Baking :)

For the Cake
You Need
200g Butter, softened
200g caster sugar
175g shelled pistachios
140g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
4 tbsp rosewater
1 cup sugar syrup, diluted in water for a slightly runny consistency

Broken Caramelised Sugar-
Pistachio Barks 

For Rosewater Cream
You Need
200g icing sugar, sifted
200g butter, softened
2 tbsp rosewater

For Garnish 
You Need
Edible Dried rose petals and rose leaves
Broken Caramelised sugar-pistachio Barks

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a sheet cake tin, or 1 (8 inch) round cake pan with baking paper and set aside.

Place Pistachios in a food processor and pulse until they are finely ground. Add the flour, cardamom, and baking powder and pulse twice to mix. Remove from food processor, stir to mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all the eggs have been added, add the rosewater and beat to incorporate. Add the flour and pistachio mixture, and fold using a metal spoon, until all ingredients are well mixed.

Pour the batter onto lined tin and spread evenly. Place in the centre of preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes for sheet cake and 30-45 minutes for round cake or until slightly golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Once done baking, cool completely in tin over wire racks. Once Completely cooled, you can place in the fridge overnight. This helps the cake become firm and not crumble while you are cutting the portions.

To cut the sheet cake into individual portions, 
place it over a lined work surface. Using a ring or a large round cookie cutter, cut the portions out of the cake. Place the cut rounds on a lined sheet cake tin. Repeat until all cake is finished.

When ready to assemble, make the Rosewater Buttercream, 
Place icing sugar, softened butter and rosewater in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until well incorporated. Turn the speed up and beat for 30 seconds more. Set aside.

Take 1 cake round, brush the top with thinned sugar syrup, top with a layer of buttercream, then place another cake round on top and brush with thinned sugar syrup. Repeat till all cakes have 2 cake layers and a buttercream filling in the centre.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top of each cake. Sprinkle edible dried rose petal leaves on top. Place a caramelised sugar-pistachio bark in the centre of the cake.

Place ready cakes in serving platter or cake stand. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. Serve with Tea or coffee.

TIP  The Caramelised Sugar-pistachio barks, are basically caramelised sugar poured over roughly crushed pistachios and left to cool. when hard and dry, bash to break into pieces. Use these pieces to garnish cakes, pies or tarts.

Use the crumbs and leftover
cake from cutting to make cake balls

1 more TIP For Pistachio Cake Balls
When cutting cakes into individual portions, you will have cake crumbs and extras from the parts too small to cut. Make these into cake balls (mix the crumbs with the remaining buttercream), shape into balls and roll in roughly crushed edible dried rose petals. Please note that although they look like truffles, they are in fact cake balls and not truffles!

If you liked this cake, and feel you would like to learn more about baking cakes, join Dima's Course: "All About Cakes &Cupcakes", which is a specialised course that covers all there is to know about the science and art of baking cakes & cupcakes - flavouring, cake types, frosting,  fillings, sauces and much more. Stay tuned for course announcement coming soon :)

Meanwhile, enjoy this marvelous dessert....

Have you ever tried this flavour combination? If you have what do you think of it in the form of a cake? Do you think you will try this recipe? If you haven't, has this recipe inspired you to give it a try? Let me know, leave a comment...

Become a fan of my page on Facebook and connect with me there too...
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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Jordanian Mansaf - More than just Food, It Is a Social Tradition!

Serves 12  |  Easy

Mansaf in Jordan, is more than just food to fill your stomach...
Mansaf in Jordan, is a piece of History, Culture and Lifestyle. It is a Social Tradition!

Jordan has so much to offer! There is Historical Sites, Such as Petra, Roman Amphitheaters, Jericho, Al Maghtas (baptism Site, Bethany - Jordan River) and everything in between. There is Nature at its most beautiful, such as the deserts of the south, which house the Magical Mountains of Wadi Rum very closely located to Aqaba, the city by the beautiful and rich Red Sea. There are the water springs of Ma'ine, the greenery of the north and all that you can think of in terms of natural beauty. Jordan is a must visit, if you haven't already! It is beautiful, with lots to offer.

When in Jordan though, one thing you must never miss out on is a good Mansaf! Mansaf is the heart of the Jordanian cuisine. It is basically a stew of meat in fermented goat's milk, that is very uniquely delicious. If you have not tried it before and would like to give it a go, or if you have tried it but live away from Jordan, or if you would like to learn more about Mansaf, this is the post with the recipe and the info, so read on... 

Since Mansaf to the Jordanians is more than just food to fill your stomach, and more of a piece of History, Culture and lifestyle - Mansaf in Jordan is a Social Tradition - I, therefore, cannot tap into this delicious dish, without a bit of a background...

Mansaf is food originating from the desert,
and is reflective of that environment, its produce and  storage requirements

The Mansaf that we know today is inspired and based on the Saudi Arabian dish "Thereed". Thereed is essentially a dish made out of meat, broth and bread. The whole area was inhabited by Bedouins and as these happen to be living in the desert, they kept on moving in search for water and shelter from the harsh weather conditions in the different seasons. These relocations have carried with them the Bedouin's food and traditions to the new areas. 

The early Jordanian Bedouines ate Thereed as their main food, of course as being a desert the food was limited to that environment's produce. As Jordan started becoming an agricultural country, and being influenced by the peasants and the cultures of the dislocated neighbours, the country's produce started growing in number and kind. Consequently, the Jordanian Bedouins started introducing new produce into their food, such as rice, wheat, Bulgar as well as yoghurt. Which eventually went into their main food preparation and evolved the originally Thereed into what is now known as Mansaf.

Goats' Yoghurt put in a sack and shaken to seperate the milk solids and the liquid

The making of Mansaf, starts well before the actual cooking. Making the Jameed (fermented yoghurt, from which Mansaf is made) is the first step.

Jameed balls, are bought from local stores, and some speciality stores. In Jordan they are always bought from the source: the Bedouins making it. Nowadays, there is a modern version of Jameed that comes in carton containers, already liquified, but they are no where near the goodness of the original dried Jameed balls. 

Here is a quick run through how Jameed is made.

Once Solids are separated from liquids, the solids (jabjab) are then mixed with salt
and left to sun-dry

Jameed is made out of milk. The milk can vary from maker to another and sometimes from area to another, and so does the quality. The best quality Jameed is made out of Goat's Milk. The Karaki Jameed (Coming from Karak) is famous to be the best in Jordan. The Goat's milk is put in a container to change from milk to yogurt. It is then placed in a sack (originally made from goats' skin) and shaken to seperate the milk solids from liquids.
In the old days, a Bedouin lady would sit and shake the milk till ready, but nowadays there are machines that carry out this step. 

The butter (milk solid) will then be taken and made into local ghee (Samen Baladi), which is later on used in the cooking of Mansaf.

Jameed Balls

The remaining Soured Milk (liquids) is then heated to separate further. The whole separated mixture is then placed in a large cloth (kind of like a cheese cloth technique) to completely drain out all the remaining liquid. There will only remain Jabjab, which is the hard solid part. This is then mixed with salt, and left for a further 24 hours in the cloth to dry. Then it is taken out of the Cloth, and pressed together and shaped into balls, which are then left to sun-dry for 2-3 days. 

These Jameed balls will then be rock hard, and the name literally meaning solid is reflective of their dry solid state. These Jameed Balls can be stored for about a year, which is very convenient for desert life, as they had no access to refrigeration and other storage options. Then when ready to cook, the Jameed is rehydrated, by being broken up, soaked in water and rubed to go back into liquid state. It is then added to meat and broth, creating a yoghurt-based sauce.

Mansaf Traditions
Drawn mainly from Bedouin Traditions, Mansaf is usually offered by Jordanian hosts as a token of appretiation, respect and value. It is an expression of how valued you are to them as their guest. The meat used is generally indicative of the guest's status to them. If it is made with Goat's Meat that is reflective of the highest grades of respect and value, less is the lamb, and least is the chicken. The original Mansaf will have the cooked head of the goat, placed at its centre. This is usually offered to the most important or valued guest by the host as a symbol of respect and great hospitality.

Served in a large serving tray (Sider)

Traditionally, ready-to-eat Mansaf is placed in a large serving tray (Sider) as it is tradition for all to be served from one dish. Mansaf is traditionally eaten with the fingertips of the right hand, while the left hand is placed behind the back. The host will keep on drenching the rice with cooked Jameed (yoghurt sauce) for his guests to enjoy a moistened bite. by doing so, the host is also ensuring best hospitality and celebrating the obviously valued guests.

As a token of utmost hospitality the host will keep drenching
the rice with cooked Jameed (yoghurt sauce)

Those are the traditions, which many still carry out today. But the symbolism of Mansaf still remains that of respect, utmost hospitality and appreciation for guests. It is therefore served when you are being celebrated and welcomed into a Jordanian Home, and always advisable that you express understanding that they have gone above and beyond to make you feel welcomed and appreciated.

With that said, please feel free to use cutlery, should you not wish to eat with your hands. I personally use cutlery and there is no shame in that. I also do not place a goat's head in the centre of the dish! Moreover, and to make it healthier, I do not use Samen Baladi (Ghee), instead I use olive oil! Yes, I do!!! & everyone loves it! :)

I love Mansaf... 
Here is how it's cooked 
(slightly different from the original recipe, this is how I cook it)....

For Dima's Mansaf Recipe
You Need
5 Kg Goat or Lamb meat pieces on the bone
2 prepared Jameed Balls
2Kg Yoghurt (natural yoghurt, Robe)
Shrak Bread (thin, large
bread placed under and above
1 large white onion, finely chopped
3 heaped tbsp Starch or cornflour
3 ltrs water
4 whole cardamom seeds
1 tbsp black pepper seeds
2 bay leaves
2 tsp mistka
2 small cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
Salt to taste (remember the Jameed is already salted)
2 cups assorted toasted or fried nuts (almonds & pine nuts)
Shrak bread (thin, large bread found at supermarkets and bakeries)

For Rice
You Need
8 cups medium grain rice
1.5 ltrs broth (from This recipe)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric or Osfor
Salt & Black pepper to taste
A dash of Olive oil

the night before cooking, break up the Jameed balls and soak with enough water to cover

A day ahead, Break up the Jameed Balls, and soak in enough water to cover, wrap with nylon and refrigerate.

Start by making the broth and cooking the meat

Start by cooking the meat and making the broth. First sweat the chopped onions along with the whole spices in olive oil, or ghee if using. When translucent but not browned, add the meat pieces, bay leaf and season with a little salt. Cook stirring for 5 minutes to seal and slightly brown the meat. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. 

Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 3 hours. (the prolonged cooking over low heat, makes for an extra tender and juicy meat). Keep skimming the foam (gray scum) that forms at the top. Using a metal spoon or mini sieve, fish the scum out, throughout the cooking time. 

Once done, remove meat pieces from broth and place in a separate bowl. In a large cooking pot, drain the broth over a large sieve, and discard the onions, and spices. Return the meat to the broth and Bring to a gentle boil. (the water should be 1/3 the size of the meat for the 5kg about 3 Ltrs of broth)

After blending the Jameed will look like yoghurt in its original state

Meanwhile, Blend the Jameed with its soaking liquid, add a little water if it appears too dry or too thick. After blending the Jameed should look like yoghurt in its original state. Pour over the simmering broth and stir to incorporate all. and leave to simmer.

Meanwhile, blend the 2 Kg yoghurt with the corn starch until well incorporated. Add to the broth and Jameed mixture, and stir to mix all very well. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce the heat, simmer stirring occasionally for 45 minutes - 1 hour.

While the Jameed is simmering, Make the rice, like you would any rice.
Rub the rice with turmeric or Osfor, salt and black pepper. Stir fry the drained rice, with a heated dash of olive oil till coated. Add the broth and stir to encorporate. Then cook till the rice is puffed and has no bite.

To Assemble Mansaf

Place bread on serving tray, and pour a little
cooked Jameed on top

Place Shrak bread on top of the serving tray (Sider). Pour a little cooked Jameed on top to moisten. Then Pour the cooked rice on top, and spread around to cover the serving tray.

Place the meat pieces on top of the rice to cover the whole tray. Then top with the toasted nuts. I personally add cooked minced meat on top of it all, as I find that it tastes delicious with the rice, but also looks fab!

Pour a little cooked Jameed on top of the meat and cover all with another layer of Shrak bread to keep warm and steaming. Pour the Jameed in a large bowl, to ladle over the rice as you serve.

To recap...
Add caption

Serve immediately, and devour! Goes great with spring onions, and pickles...
Ramadan Kareem!

Thank you Auntie Nadra for your help with the info about Mansaf's Origins, Traditions and evolution. I had no idea! :)

***If you liked this post and found the information useful, I would love to hear your comments below, so do let me hear from you.
Love, Dima :)
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