Mansaf, Fatiyeh, or Fatihah this traditional middle eastern lamb stew in yogurt sauce is a big part of Arabic cuisine. It is a favorite dish for large gatherings including weddings and engagement parties. In short it plays a large part in Middle Eastern hospitality.
In my experience folks in the Arab world are very hospitable and generous. Rolling out a huge tray of Mansaf is a sign of respect and welcome to anyone visiting an Arab home whether it be in Jordan, Dubai, Europe, or America.
But of course this traditional dish has several names depending on the country or even city one is in. In most countries like Jordan and Lebanon it’s called Mansaf; it’s the same dish Palestinians from the West Bank call Fatiyeh or Fatihah and those who hail closer to the larger cities call Mensaf. Whatever it’s called it’s basically the same dish with a few regional additions to the toppings.
So what is Mansaf? It’s a dish typically made with Lamb that’s simmered in a yogurt sauce made from reconstituted “Chisitch/Kishk/Jameed” (fermented or dried sheeps’ milk yogurt.) Then the meat and sauce are served on a bed of torn unleavened bread like Shrak or pita and rice. The whole dish can be topped with fresh parsley and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts; or as I’ve been taught by some of my Palestinian husband’s friends a ring of fried onions and tomatoes.
Really the secret ingredient, or not so secret, is the Chisitch. Okay it’s not the easiest thing to get your hands on. I usually get the dried balls of Chisitch from my husband’s relatives who travel to and from the Middle East or my sister-in-law who actually makes it! I’ve also been able to buy it from a market in Oman during one of my trips there. But you might be able to find it at a middle eastern market where it’s usually called Kishk or Jameed. It’s available in liquid or powder form. Or you can believe it or not order it from Amazon by clicking this affiliate link!
If all else fails and you simply can not get a hold of Chisitch/Kishk/Jameed then use Buttermilk! Yes the carton you find in your grocer’s diary section. Good old fashioned buttermilk, the stuff you can use to make Buttermilk pancakes and biscuits!
If you’re using balls of chisitch from where ever you must reconstitute it – meaning soak the balls in water overnight, then place all of it in your blender until it is liquified. You might need to add water to the blender to get the liquid you need.
If you’re using powdered kishk or jameed then dissolve it in water. Obviously the easiest one to use would be liquid jameed or buttermilk.
Whichever one you use the real secret is to keep the jameed or kishk liquid from curdling when you add it to your meat. To do that you must temper it by slowly stirring the liquid into a little bit of lamb broth. This brings the temperature of the jameed up to the temperature of the stewed meat.
So if you want to try this yummy dish at home scroll down for my recipe. It’s pretty fussy, it takes me a whole afternoon too make it! This recipe is for a fairly small tray, you can double or triple it if you need to make a large tray for more people.
By the way Mansaf or Fatihah is traditionally eaten with one’s fingers right off the serving tray. The polite and proper way to eat this dish is to use your fingers to take bite-sized portions from the tray and pop it in your mouth. You take portions only from the meat and rice that is directly in front of you; respect other diner’s tray space. That’s how it’s traditionally eaten; at our house it’s served family style with a serving spoon used to spoon a portion on to each person’s plate and we uses forks and knives.
Place meat in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
While meat boils fat will come to the surface. Skim off fat and discard. Continue this process until fat stops forming on the surface.
Strain meat and set aside while you thoroughly wash out the pot. Dry pot before proceeding.
Heat 1 Tbs. Olive Oil in pot and add 1 portion of chopped onions. Cook onions until they start to soften.
Add meat and Lebanese 7 Spices Mix and stir well. Cook until onions become translucent.
Add beef broth to cover meat. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer covered for 2 hours.
Meanwhile you can prepare other parts of the dish.
Heat remaining Olive Oil in frying pan and add remaining chopped onions. Cook until onions start to soften.
Add garlic to pan and cook about 1 minute stirring constantly.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are soft and juices start to come out. Salt & Pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Melt 2 Tbs. Butter in saute pan and toast pine nuts until they start to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
About 30 minutes before stew is cooked prepare rice by first melting remaining butter in pot.
Add Vermecelli and saute until pasta starts to turn golden brown.
Add dry rice and saute another minute.
Stir in about 4 cups of water to cover the rice. Cook covered over low heat for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked. Let rest at least 5 minutes to absorb any remaining water.
Check you meat. It should be tender and falling off the bone.
If meat is cooked turn down heat very low.
Remove about 1 cup of broth from pot to temper your jameed or buttermilk.
Slowly pour liquid jameed or buttermilk into that broth. Stirring only in one direction as you add the jameed. This is tempering the jameed. It is very important that you stir as you combine the liquids and stir only in one direction to keep the jameed from curdling.
Once the jameed is tempered using the same procedure slowly add the tempered jameed into the pot of stew.
Simmer on low heat for about 20 Minutes.
Meanwhile prepare your serving tray. Break up the bread into pieces and place pieces on to the tray.
Cover bread with rice.
Place meat on the rice. Pour yogurt sauce (liquid you cooked meat in) over the meat and rice.
I’m a great believer in meat rubs and marinades. As far as I’m concerned seasoning meats, seafood, and even veggies and letting them rest for a few hours or so is what really brings out the flavors. That’s why I mix up a variety of rubs and marinades to fit whatever flavor I want. One of my favorites is this Lemon Pepper Meat Rub, I’ve been using it to season steaks and many other things for years!
I know if you look at the label on the jar of Lemon Pepper seasoning it says it’s recommended for chicken, seafood, and vegetables. Yes, it’s delicious on all that but it’s also a great seasoning for beef and lamb! Oh and don’t forget salads! Toss your greens with some Lemon Pepper, you’ll love it!
My recipe for Lemon Pepper Rub makes enough to fill a half pint sized mason jar. I usually make a batch so I have some on hand when I need it. Just be sure you keep it in an airtight container placed in a cool dry spot in your pantry. It should keep for about 3 months.
This Lemon Pepper Rub has a bit of a bite, that’s from the Cayenne Pepper I add to it. You can adjust the spiciness by adding or reducing the amount of Cayenne in the mix. In fact if you don’t want it to be spicy at all just omit the Cayenne, it will taste just as good.
To use the rub stir 2 tbs. of the mix into 1 tbs. of olive oil to make a paste. Rub that on to your meat, seafood, or whatever you’re seasoning. Cover the seasoned meat and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Meats can rest for up to 24 hours, seafood for not more than 3-4 hours. Remember the longer it rests the more flavor it will absorb so try and keep it seasoning in the fridge for as long as possible. I find that for steaks and lamb resting over night gets amazing results!
Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool dry place
To use mix 2 tbs. Lemon Pepper Rub into 1 tbs. Olive Oil to make a paste. Rub past on to meat and let rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. This will season 3 steaks. You can double or triple this to make a rub for more steaks or whatever you are seasoning.
Shawarma is a typical Middle Eastern street food that’s sold on street corner kiosks, fast food joints, and restaurants in Middle Eastern countries and beyond.
It’s sort of similar to the Greek Gyro but is seasoned with different spices and allowed to marinate for at least a few hours. It’s usually cooked very much like the Turkish Doner Kebab which is a cone of mixed meats (beef, lamb, and chicken) cooked on a vertical spit. Typically it’s served as a Shawarma Sandwich which is pita bread stuffed with shaved meat, tahini sauce, and fresh and pickled veggies. It can also be served as a plate with rice, salad, hummus, and pita bread.
Today most Middle Eastern restaurants and fast food places serve specific shawarma meats such as beef or chicken shawarma in a sandwich or as a plate. Needless to say both are very popular in our family!
But the real secret to Shawarma isn’t the meat or the way it’s cooked. The secret lies in the spices used. You can make shawarma in your oven, grill, and even in your Instant Pot. In fact I always make it in my Instant Pot! I’m working on an article to share how to make Beef Shawarma in an Instant Pot; but before I can make any type of shawarma using any method I have to season the meat!
I’m actually a big believer in spice rubs. I make all sorts of rubs for different things such as my Basic BBQ Chicken Rub. I mean sauces are great for adding flavor to meat after it’s cooked, but what really gives meat great flavor are rubs and marinades. So if you want to make homemade shawarma that tastes like you ordered it from a Middle Eastern restaurant you’ll need this Shawarma Spice Mix.
I usually mix up a large batch; large meaning enough mix to fill a quart sized Mason Jar. I store my Shawarma Spice Mix in a sealed jar in my pantry, it stays fresh for about 3 months, assuming you don’t use it all before then! The spice mix can be used for beef or chicken shawarma and can even be added to other recipes when you’re wanting to add a touch of exotic flavorings.
To use the mix as a marinade for shawarma I use a teaspoon of mix per pound of meat. Combine the mix with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, and a pinch of salt then massage it on to the meat. Place the meat in a ziplock bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
Lamb is a type of red meat from young sheep (under a year old). Depending on the cut lamb can have more calories than beef or pork, but this can be offset if you trim off the fat. Lamb has less marbling so once the fat is trimmed it is much leaner form of protein. Not only is it a rich source of high-quality protein, it is also a freat source of many vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.This. This makes lamb a very healthy choice.
Lamb is a popular choice in many Middle Eastern and European countries. One of the most popular way to prepare is are these grilled Lamb Kabobs.
I’ve heard many people say that lamb has a strong gamey taste. I agree! But first of all you need to make sure you’re actually cooking lamb, not mutton. Lamb is the meat of sheep that are less than a year old. Adult sheep meat is called mutton. Mutton has a much stronger taste and smell.
But even lamb can have a mild gamey taste and smell. Whenever I prepare it at home I always marinate it first in lemon juice, it cuts the gamey taste and smell. Then I marinate the lamb in seasonings before grilling. This makes the Lamb Kabobs tasty and tender. My family loves them! Served with rice pilaf or roasted potatoes they make a delicious meal for our Sunday barbecues.
Here’s my recipe!
Makes 8 Kabobs
2 – 3 Lbs. Boneless Leg of Lamb
1 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tbs. Minced Garlic
1 Tsp. Rosemary
Pinch of Salt & Pepper
1 Green Pepper
1 Pkg. Mushrooms
Wash lamb, trim fat, cut into 1″ cubes
Place cubes in large ziplock bag and squeeze lemon juice over all.
Shake bag to cover the meat.
Refrigerate about 1 hour.
After 1 hour remove lamb cubes from lemon juice and rinse.
Place in a clean ziplock bag and add olive oil and spices.
Shake to cover meat.
Marinate in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Cut green pepper and onion into 1″ pieces.
Skewer meat, peppers, mushrooms, and onion on metal or bamboo skewers. Alternate meat and veggies.
Grill to desired doneness or about 5 -7 minutes. Do not over cook. Meat should be pinkish in the middle.