From my Plated Heirlooms

Makmooret Zahra مكمورة زهرة 

A traditional concoction from the Palestinian cuisine, specifically from the cities of the Westbank. A superb stew of cauliflower cooked in yogurt sauce traditionally cooked in a clay pot that is sealed with a simple dough. The whole cooking in earthenware and sealing with the dough produces unmatched decadent food and melt in your mouth meats. As such, cooking in clay pots is something I truly recommend you take up and I have covered it fully in my book Plated Heirlooms, where I also extensively cover the stories and backgrounds of the foods of Palestinian cuisine and their connection to the history and culture of the land and its people therefore defining the makings of a cuisine.

For now, I have included for you a video that will help you season and prepare your clay pots for use and giving you this succulent recipe to try out.

When it comes to this recipe, traditionally, the cauliflower is fried until light golden brown, then added to the lamb broth and left to simmer for a few minutes. The simmering process here is to flavour the broth  with cauliflower. After simmering, thickened yogurt is added to the mix and simmered again to infuse all flavours (lamb, cauliflower, and yogurt). The only tricky part in this recipe is to keep the yogurt from splitting and curdling while cooking. For that reason, the yogurt is usually thickened with a binding agent. In the traditional kitchen, eggs are used to keep the yogurt together, by being tempered then added to the yogurt; kind of like the concept of custard. However, many find this method to be a little complicated and labour intensive as you will have to continuously stir, until thickened, in order not to end up with scrambled eggs in the sauce.  The method I use to make any yogurt-based sauce is to add starch to the yogurt and blend in a food blender until it is well incorporated. It works like a charm, and requires much less work.

You can carry out this recipe in a regular stew pot, but for the authentic and unmatched flavour, go for the earthenware or clay pot (Fakhara فخارة  in Arabic) it makes all the difference. Earthenware, is porous and when it soaks up the moisture from the food while being subjected to the heat in the oven; the steam evaporates from its pours into the food and therefore combining the stewing cooking method and the steaming method all at once. Steaming is known to enhance the flavours of the food, and therefore the flavour of stews cooked in fakara are seriously good and unmatched. Covering the tops of the pot with a simple dough encloses all the steam created in the clay pot, keeping all the moistness, goodness and flavour circulating around the food and in turn resulting in stronger flavours and more tender meats.

The combination of cauliflower and yogurt sauce is really one you do not want to miss. This is one of those recipes that you and your family will devour. I roast the cauliflower instead of deep frying it, as I find it much lighter and doesn’t leave you feeling heavy and lazy afterwards. But for deeper flavours, and an authentic experience, you might want to stick to the traditional recipe. Also traditionally this stew is served with a side of rice pilaf, but also try a side of crusty bread, which you can dip into the yoghurt sauce and be transformed into a world of creamy goodness unknown except to your palate! The creaminess, warmth and softness of this dish, thrones it at the top of the comfort foods list.

However way you look at this, you will find a well-rounded experience of flavours and goodness.


For the lamb broth
  • 2Kg lamb meat on the bone (or 1kg boneless meat chunks)
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp DS Premium Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 pcs whole all spice corns
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 3 pcs whole cardamom seeds
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 heaped tbsp cumin powder
  • Salt & Black pepper to taste
  • enough water to cover the meat
For Roasted Cauliflower
  • 2 large heads of cauliflower, cut into flowerettes, washed and dried
  • 2 tbsp DS Premium Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin powder
  • Salt & Black pepper
For Yoghurt Sauce
  • 1 ltr lamb broth
  • 1 1/2 KG plain yogurt
  • 3 heaped tbsp starch
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt & Black pepper
For Simple Dough cover
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • Salt
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of water

Start by making the lamb broth.

Sweat the onion and crushed garlic in the olive oil until translucent but not browned. Add the meat pieces and brown slightly on all sides. Season with cumin, Salt and black pepper and stir to mix. Add the water and stir scraping the bottoms of the pot. Place your spices in a spice pouch (as you would a bouquet garnis), and place this into the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer skimming the gray scum until the meat is cooked.

When cooked, drain to separate the meat and liquid reserving both. You will use 1 ltr of the liquid in this recipe, and the remaining liquid you can place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and use in other recipes. Discard the spices.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the cauliflower for roasting (or fry if desired).

Preheat your oven to its highest setting. We are roasting, so you will need the top fire setting. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

In a small bowl, mix all the seasoning (spices and salt).

Place the cauliflower on the lined baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and seasoning mixture. Place in the sheet in the preheated oven and roast until golden brown. About 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning twice throughout.

In a large pot, bring 1 ltr of lamb broth to a boil and place the roasted cauliflower in the boiling broth together with the lamb pieces. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.


Meanwhile, prepare the yogurt.

In a blender, place the yogurt, crushed garlic, starch and seasoning. Blend until smooth and all incorporated. There should be no lumps of starch in the yogurt mixture.

Add this yogurt mixture to the simmering lamb broth and cauliflower, stirring to incorporate all. Continue stirring for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour the stew into the priorly soaked clay pots. Top with rolled simple dough to seal. Prick the centre of the dough with a sharp knife for extra steam to escape. Place the ready pots on a lined baking sheet and place in the cool oven. Set the oven to 300F and bake the pots for 40-45 minutes. When done and the dough cover has browned, remove from the oven and serve alongside rice or bread.


To make the simple dough cover

Mix the flour and salt together, then gradually add enough water to bring the mixture together into a dough. This dough will not be eaten, it is just to seal in the flavours. Once you have achieved dough consistency, roll out and use to cover the clay pots.


TIP – In concoctions like this one, when the preparation is done in steps, you need to keep an eye on seasoning. We are seasoning every layer as we go, therefore watch out from over seasoning and keep tasting to ensure you haven’t gone too far with the salt.


This recipe is from the repertoire of over 280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms. The book contains recipes from all sections of the Palestinian cuisine, starting with Mooneh (pantry recipes) to dessert and everything in between. Plated Heirlooms is a documentation of recipes and cuisine rationale as well as the compiled story of the cuisine.

All Plated Heirlooms recipes come with background information and thorough descriptions that in the end tie up with the rest of the book’s narrative to explain to you the formation and makings of Palestinian cuisine.

You can order “Plated Heirlooms” here and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world.

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