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.