Mansaf – Bedouin Homestyle with Meat

Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem

Bedouin love Mansaf and versions of it are prepared all over the Middle East. Each version is as immovable and as varied as the people themselves. Each time I am taught how to prepare it I am told this is the “ONLY” way it should be done really.

No-one here has kitchen equipment to measure or weigh accurately so the women start learning with their own pans. First in a small pan getting the measures right and learning where the levels of water should be etc, then over time as their experience increases they learn the recipes for larger and larger pans, and then in the end the older women can cook any volume in any pan, getting the balance of ingredients and water correct. This recipe is for a medium household where you have graduated from the small pan but are not yet on the largest pans. I am trusted to cook for close family but when larger volumes are needed the older more experienced women are called on… : D.

Nevertheless, despite the meals steadfastness this recipe has bent somewhat to my own tastes, the different methods of cooking I have learnt from different women and the chosen ingredients. This is not what I would serve on a formal occasion to formal guests but is perfectly acceptable fare for my family, visiting immediate family or stray hungry Uncles passing by.

In short this is by no means the official Arab Mansaf in its formal glory but a homestyle recipe from the desert.

Cooking & Prep time: All in all about 2-3 hours depending if you have to cut up the meat yourself.

Ingredients: Serves Approx 4-5 adults

  • Meat – I am using fresh halaal goat meat, but this recipe can also be used with lamb, or mutton. You can also prepare Mansaf with chicken but the method is a little different. You can choose what you use as supply and taste permits. I have cut a fairly large amount of meat of a shoulder, and leg, and this is enough for my family (2 adults, 2 children under 4 yrs) for two meals.
  • 1 Cup – 1 Mug of Freekah – young green wheat toasted and cracked – see picture.
  • 1 Ltr Jameed – a kind of sour milk. Anywhere with any kind of Arab immigration into the country surely must find this in the local shops. Originally this was actually made by the women from the goat milk and made into solid dried cheese, they would then pound up the dried cheese to a powder and add this to the soup – nowadays even Bedouin have “fast” food : D and we use the readymade Jameed (see picture). When the dried version can be got hold of it is of course preferred.
  • Water
  • Salt
The meat is defrosting in warm water so I can cut it up.
The meat is defrosting in warm water so I can cut it up.
Jameed - Freekeh
Jameed (1 ltr) and Freekeh
The prepared Goat Meat.
The prepared Goat Meat.

Equipment

  • Large pan (mine is about 25 cm diameter x 15 cm deep).
  • Ladle
  • Bowls

Method

  1. Prepare and clean the meat. Cutting the meat into cubes, approximately a couple of inches by a couple of inches are good for this recipe. But Bedouin will often use larger pieces when cooking a larger volume of meat.
  2. Wash the meat to make sure any traces of blood are removed.
  3. Put the Freekah in water to soak.

    The Freekah Soaking in Water.
    The Freekah Soaking in Water.
  4. Place the meat into your large pan (mine is about 25 cm diameter x 15 cm deep) in water. The pan should filled pretty much to the top with water.

    The meat in water - note water level.
    The meat in water – note water level – this water level could be a bit higher for a lighter soup.
  5. Bring to a good strong boil. Once boiling remove the scum from the top of the water with the ladle or a large spoon.
    The water should boil briskly and as evenly as possible.
    The water should boil briskly and as evenly as possible.

    Removing the Scum
    Removing the scum – easiest with a ladle
  6. Put the timer on to let the meat boil briskly for 1 hour.
  7. Add a tablespoon of salt.

    Adding Salt
    Adding Salt
  8. Over the hour it is boiling I usually don’t cover it. Keep an eye on the water level that it doesn’t get too low (i.e so the meat is no longer floating).

    Water Level towards the end of one hour brisk boiling
    Water Level towards the end of one hour brisk boiling
  9. Once the hour is up you will need a large bowl. Ladle some of the water from the pan into the bowl. Shake the Jameed and then pour about 1/2- 2/3rds of the ltr into the bowl with the hot water. Mix well with the ladle then add back to the main pan.
    Ladle Broth from the pan to a bowl
    Ladle Broth from the pan to a bowl
    Adding shaken Jameed to bowl - about 1/2 - 2/3rds. For a thicker soup add the whole ltr.
    Adding shaken Jameed to bowl – about 1/2 – 2/3rds. For a thicker soup add the whole ltr.
    Adding Jameed to the bowl
    Adding Jameed to the bowl
    Mix the broth and Jameed well in the bowl with the ladle.
    Mix the broth and Jameed well in the bowl with the ladle.
    Mixing the broth and Jameed well.
    Mixing the broth and Jameed well.
    Return Jameed and Broth mixture to the Pan.
    Return Jameed and Broth mixture to the Pan.
    Just after adding the Jameed to the pan.
    Just after adding the Jameed to the pan.

    Mix the soup well with the ladle while it comes back up to the boil. Continue to agitate with the ladle until temperature has stabilised at a gentle/ steady boil.
    Mix the soup well with the ladle while it comes back up to the boil. Continue to agitate with the ladle until temperature has stabilised at a gentle/ steady boil.
  10. Continue to agitate the water with the ladle mixing well, until it starts to come up to the boil again.
  11. Add the Freekah (tip away the water it has been soaking in first, and wash a couple of times).

    Adding Freekah to the Pan.
    Adding Freekah to the Pan.
  12. Partially cover the pan, and turn down the heat. The Jameed can make the water froth and boil over so keep a close eye on it until the temperature has stabilised. The mixture should be boiling gently now (more than a simmer but less than a really brisk boil).

    A Steady Boil
    A Steady Boil
  13. Put the timer on for 1 hour but check the meat and broth at 30 minutes, and 40 minutes. Don’t let the broth get too thick, and make sure the meat is nice and tender to eat. This generally takes about 1.30-2 hours overall.
  14. Taste also for salt at these points adding a bit more if needed.

    The ready dish.
    The ready dish – note the water level. For a lighter soup the level can be about 1 inch higher no problem.
  15. Serve and enjoy with bread or white rice. When serving we usually put some of the soup in a bowl or mug to drink along with the meal.
    Shown with Bedouin Bread (Shrak) and a bowl of the soup to drink.
    Shown with Bedouin Bread (Shrak) and a bowl of the soup to drink.

    Close up Ready to eat

Notes:

Onion is NEVER used when preparing this dish with meat. Onion is ALWAYS used when preparing this dish with chicken.

Cooking time can be halved by using a pressure cooker, and it seems ladies from the towns would never consider cooking this dish without one.

There is a high speed method version of this dish which seems to be favoured by Bedouin men when cooking (no patience : D) and women with very large families (again speed is favoured as the priority!). In this version the Jameed is added with the meat dry into the pan, stir fried for a bit, then the water added boiling from the start with the Jameed. Many women I have asked about it don’t like this method because it doesn’t allow for removing the scum before the Jameed is added.

Bedouin will often cook this dish on the open fire in preference to on the gas hob (especially when cooking in the huge largest pans that hold a whole sheep or goat), in this case a high fire temperature needs to be maintained for the initial cooking time, and this takes experience.

When cooking this meal in large volumes usually the whole head, and some of the organs are also cooked (some of the organs being kept for another dish). The stomach being a particular delicacy fought over by all (yes including the author). When cooking formally and in large amounts the result is much more fatty. I have not used much fat in this recipe but if you like it fatty there is nothing to stop you using more.

I have seen bay leaves used in this dish by a lady from a big city – a very tasty addition but I have not learned the proper amounts to use etc, so I don’t use it.

DisclaimerI apologies for the poor quality of pictures the evening lighting in my kitchen leaves much to be desired. 

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