Mansaf – Middle Eastern Lamb Dish

Mansaf – Middle Eastern Lamb Dish

mensaf 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.

To season this dish I use my Lebanese 7 Spices Mix Click here for that recipe!

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.

 

Mansaf
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Mansaf
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place meat in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
  2. While meat boils fat will come to the surface. Skim off fat and discard. Continue this process until fat stops forming on the surface.
  3. Strain meat and set aside while you thoroughly wash out the pot. Dry pot before proceeding.
  4. Heat 1 Tbs. Olive Oil in pot and add 1 portion of chopped onions. Cook onions until they start to soften.
  5. Add meat and Lebanese 7 Spices Mix and stir well. Cook until onions become translucent.
  6. Add beef broth to cover meat. Bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 2 hours.
  8. Meanwhile you can prepare other parts of the dish.
  9. Heat remaining Olive Oil in frying pan and add remaining chopped onions. Cook until onions start to soften.
  10. Add garlic to pan and cook about 1 minute stirring constantly.
  11. 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.
  12. Melt 2 Tbs. Butter in saute pan and toast pine nuts until they start to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  13. About 30 minutes before stew is cooked prepare rice by first melting remaining butter in pot.
  14. Add Vermecelli and saute until pasta starts to turn golden brown.
  15. Add dry rice and saute another minute.
  16. 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.
  17. Check you meat. It should be tender and falling off the bone.
  18. If meat is cooked turn down heat very low.
  19. Remove about 1 cup of broth from pot to temper your jameed or buttermilk.
  20. 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.
  21. Once the jameed is tempered using the same procedure slowly add the tempered jameed into the pot of stew.
  22. Simmer on low heat for about 20 Minutes.
  23. Meanwhile prepare your serving tray. Break up the bread into pieces and place pieces on to the tray.
  24. Cover bread with rice.
  25. Place meat on the rice. Pour yogurt sauce (liquid you cooked meat in) over the meat and rice.
  26. Spoon tomato mixture around the meat.
  27. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.
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Lebanese 7 Spices Mix

LebaneseI’ve heard it said many times that Lebanese cooking is the best cuisine the Middle Eastern countries have to offer.  Lebanese restaurants are the go to places when one has a yen for Arabic or Middle Eastern food.  This seems to be one of the few things that Arabs from around the world can mostly agree on.

I must confess that in my experience this is usually true.  Lebanese cooking is definitely top notch and any where we travel we look for a Lebanese restaurant.  Among my favorites are Al Halabi in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates and Wafi Gourmet in both the Dubai Mall and Wafi Mall; Reem Al Bawadi in Amman; and Mandaloun not far from the Spanish Steps in Rome.

But what makes Lebanese cuisine so great?  I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that one of its secrets are the spices they use.  Their Lebanese 7 Spices Mix in my opinion is the key to their delicious entrees.

Lebanese 7 Spices Mix contains many of the spices found in cuisine in and around that region.  It has cumin and coriander for sure and 6 other spices making it actually an 8 spices mix.  Why it’s called 7 Spices is beyond me unless the ground black pepper isn’t counted as a spice.

lebaneseAnyway whatever you call it seasoning grilled meats and stews with this Lebanese 7 Spices Mix makes for a delicious meal!  I like to keep a jar on hand and use it in marinades and of course for one of the family’s favorite dishes Mesaf or Fatiyeh, a dish of stewed meat in yogurt sauce.

You can mix up  a batch of Lebanese 7 Spices Mix to add to your stews too.  Just be sure you store it in an airtight container.  I use pint sized mason jars to store all my spice mixes.

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Lebanese 7 Spices Mix
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Lebanese 7 Spices Mix
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and stir until well blended.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container for storage.
Recipe Notes

To use in rubs or marinades stir 2 Tbs. Mix into 1 Tbs. Olive Oil and rub into meats.  Or add the same proportion of mix to oil and combine with 1 Tbs. Vinegar to make marinade.

When using in stews or other dishes 1 Tbs. of mix is for each serving.

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Instant Pot Beef Shawarma

Instant Pot Beef Shawarma

A Beef Shawarma sandwich or plate!  Yum!  It’s one of my favorites.  It’s one of the things I always order when I find myself at a Middle Eastern restaurant anywhere in the world.

Shawarma is sort of like the Greek Gyro or Turkish Doner Kebab; it’s a cone of seasoned meat or meats that’s cooked on a vertical spit.  Typically beef, lamb, and chicken are combined to form the large hunk of meat which is slowly grilled as it turns on its axis on the vertical spit.  Pieces of cooked meat are shaved off and stuffed in a pita with sauces, veggies, and pickles or placed on a plate with a serving of salad, hummus, rice, and pita bread.

I believe Shawarma started out as Middle Eastern street food where the sandwiches can be taken to go and eaten on as you go.  But these days you’ll find mixed meats, beef, and chicken shawarma on fast food and restaurant menus throughout the Middle East and beyond.

We love this tasty dish so much that we make it at home since there really aren’t any good Middle Eastern restaurants where we live.  Recently I’ve started making Beef Shawarma in my Instant Pot!  It’s the easiest and fastest way to make it!

We usually make Beef Shawarma sandwiches but we’ve also made Beef Shawarma plates and bowls.  We also use the leftover meat to top hummus, assuming we havhttp://www.savvynana.com/wp-admin/e leftovers that is!

But really the secret to this Beef Shawarma that tastes like you got it from a Middle Eastern restaurant isn’t in the way it’s cooked, the secret’s in the spice mix that’s rubbed on the meat!  Marinating the meat overnight ensures that the meat is infused with the exotic flavors of the spices.  Cooking it in the Instant Pot just makes the cooking process faster, but you can actually make it in the oven or on a grill if you don’t own this handy dandy electric pressure cooker.

Once you make the Beef Shawarma you can make it into a sandwich and top with your favorite toppings such as hummus, tahini sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, and I love it with Tzatziki sauce! (I know I’m mixing Arabic and Greek foods, but who cares?  It tastes great!)

To make Instant Pot Beef Shawarma you’ll first need to make some of the Shawarma Spice Mix, so click here for the recipe!  

Then scroll down for the Instant Pot Beef Shawarma recipe!

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Instant Pot Beef Shawarma
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Instant Pot Beef Shawarma
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Ingredients
Beef Shawarma
Sandwich Toppings
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Using a small knife drill 12 holes all over your roast
  2. Stuff a garlic half in each hole
  3. Mix Shawarma Spice Mix with 2 Tbs. ACV and 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
  4. Rub this spice mixture all over the roast then place the meat in a covered dish or ziplock bag and let rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. I find that overnight works well.
  5. 30 minutes before cooking set the meat on the counter and let the temperature go down to room temperature
  6. Place remaining olive oil in instant pot and set pot to saute
  7. Sear the meat on all sides for about 5-8 minutes per side
  8. Add beef broth and remaining ACV to the pot
  9. Cover making sure the valve is set to sealing
  10. Set pot on Manual and adjust time to 60 minutes
  11. When pot turns off allow pressure to release naturally
  12. When pot is completely depressurized carefully open the lid and remove the meat
  13. Shred the meat and place in a bowl or baking sheet. At this point you can use the meat to make sandwiches, plates, or bowls. Or if you prefer you can crisp the ends by sprinkling a bit of the broth over the meat and popping the pan in the oven to broil on high for 10 minutes or just until the ends turn darker brown. If you are crisping it keep a close eye on the meat as it will burn quickly in the broiler.
  14. Store any leftovers with a bit of broth to keep it from drying out. Reheat in the microwave or in the over, drizzle some of the broth over the meat before reheating.
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Homemade Shawarma Spice Mix

Homemade Shawarma Spice Mix

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.

So scroll down for the Shawarma Spice Mix recipe!

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Shawarma Spice Mix
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Shawarma Spice Mix
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Mix all spices together in a large bowl
  2. Transfer spice mix to a mason jar
  3. Place jar lid on tightly and store in a cool dry place
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Sun Dried Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Sun Dried Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Sun Dried Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Here’s a new hummus flavor I whipped up for the family.  It goes great with the Beef Shawarma wraps I make.  It’s very easy to make.  You can use a food processor, but I was too lazy to take out my processor so I made it in my Ninja blender, it worked just as well.
I use sun dried tomatoes I buy in the open markets of Venice.  I store them in the freezer and soak them in water for a few hours before using them.  You can use the sun dried tomatoes they sell in jars at the produce section of your local supermarket.  As for the roasted red pepper I just use the ones in a jar I get from the supermarket.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1 cup chick peas – Garbanzo Beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbls. sesame tahini
1 tbls. minced garlic
1 tsp. sea salt
Juice from 1 lemon
Extra Virgin olive oil (optional)
Directions:
Place tomatoes in blender or food processor – blend until finely chopped
Add red peppers – blend until finely chopped and mixed well
Add chick peas, oil, tahini, garlic, salt – blend until it becomes a soft paste

Add lemon juice – blend  until it’s absorbed

Move to serving bowl or dish.  If desired drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil before serving.

You can use this hummus as a dip or spread.

Sun Dried Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
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Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 10 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 10 Minutes
Sun Dried Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 10 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 Servings 10 Minutes
Ingredients
Servings: Servings
Instructions
  1. Place tomatoes in blender or food processor - blend until finely chopped
  2. Add red peppers - blend until finely chopped and mixed well
  3. Add chick peas, oil, tahini, garlic, salt - blend until it becomes a soft paste
  4. Add lemon juice - blend until it's absorbed
  5. Move to serving bowl or dish. If desired drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil before serving.
  6. You can use this hummus as a dip or spread.
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