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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Idreh Khaliliyeh (rice, chickpeas & meat) - A glorious recipe for entertaining a large crowd this Ramadan

This post is brought to you by OBE Organic Beef, Australia

This image and recipe are from my book Plated Heirlooms,
however the recipe had been modified to serve 12 instead of 4

cooking in claypot is fully covered in my book
you can order my book Plated Heirlooms online on this link

It is only a matter of days and the holy month of Ramadan will start. It is a very special time of year, which to me, as to many, is the month of connection. It is customary to connect with family members and friends on a more regular basis during Ramadan. Perhaps due to the shorter working hours, or maybe more of making that conscious effort to make the time to get together with immediate and extended family members as well as get together with friends. Of course this is done in the portion of the day when people can eat, because what is a gathering if food is not involved?

These gatherings are usually not your routine small gatherings, usually a host/ess will have to cook for a large crowd. And since everyone is fasting and craving all kinds of food, the cooks usually also have to prepare many varieties of food, which can be very time consuming and tiring for the fasting host/ess. For such occasions I truly appreciate the concoctions that are originally created to feed many. As in our cuisine there are recipes that are designed for special occasions and days when you are meant to feed large crowds. One such recipe in the Palestinian cuisine is Idreh, which is the popular and very dearly loved specialty of the Palestinian city Hebron, where my family is from. This is a very special recipe (that I completely describe and tell you the full story of in my book Plated Heirlooms, along with the theatricals of serving it) because this recipe is one that can be cooked to feed as little as four to as many as a hundred and more. Really it is just a matter of doubling quantities to fit the number of people you wish to feed. The best thing about Idreh though is that it so decadent yet is so easy to prepare that you can and will have time to prepare other varieties of food next to it without over exerting yourself that day.

Idreh (recipe below) is basically a concoction of rice, chickpeas, and meat all of which will be cooked in meat broth. Traditionally done in special claypots or special copper pots, or if not available can be cooked in the regular cookpot.

With any such food that relies on a few basic ingredients, the outcome is completely reliant on the quality of the ingredients used. Therefore, it is really essential that you choose good quality rice ( I prefer to use the medium grain Egyptian rice for making this), chickpeas (I always use dried organic chickpeas that I soak overnight and boil to soften the next day. I prefer them to the chemically preserved canned ones.) and most importantly the quality of the meat. After all the whole flavour of Idreh comes from the meat, as not only will the meat be one of the main ingredients, but its broth is what cooks all these ingredients and binds them together giving them their overall flavour.

Cattle Grazing freely in open environment
A natural process that I prefer to mass production facilities

Therefore, opt for good quality meat, and as I always advise you, do go for organic meats, this is very crucial for your and your family's health. I personally only eat organic meat because of the hormones and antibiotics used with non-organic meat (see my articles about this on this link). Also when it comes to meat, the living conditions of mass production facilities and farms are just outrageous. Not only are they so unfair to the cattle living there but those conditions are also very harmful to earth and the environment and therefore have an all round very negative effect on our overall wellbeing. Therefore, when I choose to eat meat, I want to know where my meat comes from, and want to know the living conditions of the cattle, what they feed on, how they graze and so on. I do that because I like to be mindful and make healthier, better and more humane choices wherever possible.

A few years ago I got to know about OBE Organic Halal beef, which I love and truly appreciate (watch the video at the top of the blog and see how they care for their cattle). I find their process to be very natural, the meat is 100% organic, Halal and also the quality and flavour of their beef is just outstanding. I do recommend you try their different cuts of beef, they really are fabulous.
OBE Organic’s halal, grass-fed and organic beef from Australia can be purchased in the UAE at:
  • Carrefour UAE – Mall of the Emirates, Mirdiff City Centre, and Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi
  • Prime Gourmet Butchery at Town Centre Jumeirah
  • Le Marché Hypermarket at Arabian Ranches
  • Geant at Ibn Battuta Mall
  • Biorganic Store 
See their ‘Where to Buy’ section on the website:

Idreh Khaliliyeh
The Recipe

Serves 12

meat and broth of 2.5 kg OBE Organic Beef cubes
1.5 Kg medium grain rice, washed and drained
500g cooked chickpeas, preferably peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large onions, halved and sliced
1.5 garlic head, cloves separated and peeled
1 tbsp qidreh spice mix (can be found at spice markets and shops. Recipe on how to make your own is in the book Plated Heirlooms)
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground allspice
salt and black pepper, to taste
50g samneh baladieh (local clarified butter) or home-made clarified butter
½ cup toasted pine nuts and almonds, for garnish
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Cook the OBE Organic meat cubes to make the broth. Separate the meat and broth reserving both.

In a large bowl, combine the washed and drained rice with the spices and seasoning. Set aside.

Sauté the sliced onions and whole garlic cloves in heated olive oil until translucent and slightly browned. Pour the sautéed onions, garlic and oil over the rice mixture and mix to combine. Add the cooked and peeled chickpeas and mix again to combine.

In a large cooking pot, place the cooked lamb pieces and top with the rice mixture. Crumble the butter on top of the rice and pour the meat broth over to submerge the rice. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil, continue to cook until the liquid is reduced and the rice is showing on the surface.

Reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through.

Transfer to a large serving dish, top the rice with the meat pieces and garnish with toasted nuts and parsley. Serve hot with plain yoghurt, yoghurt and cucumber salad, or spiced salad on the side.

Wishing you all a blessed Ramadan 
and heartwarming gatherings with your family and friends. 
Ramadan Mubarak

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