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.
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.