Week 73. Jordan. Mansaf.

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I’ve failed. I intended on being in a position that when I drew the country Jordan I could do a video blog and cook it with the “celebrity” Jordan (Katie Price). I would have called it “Jordan does Jordan” and it would have gone viral and I would have been picked up by international TV channels as their new Chef and I would have become a judge on Masterchef. Unfortunately, in order for me to attract Jordan I would have need to have a massive following on my blog and she would be chasing me to be involved. Instead I have one man and his dog reading it and Jordan wouldn’t know who I was if I walked up to her and popped one of her enormous fake boobs.

For my few international followers, Jordan is someone who began life as a tacky model at a Grand Prix (hence the name- as she modeled for the Jordan team) and has managed to build on her tackiness, improve it and become the queen of tack. She has had multiple operations to make her look more like Barbie and she drives a bright Pink Landrover. Her most recent husband (I think they married) was Argentinian and couldn’t speak English. She couldn’t speak Spanish. It was a match made in nonsense. She is, however, supposedly a good mother – particularly to her disabled son Harvey – so I will give her credit for that and hence why I wanted to cook this dish with her!

Proceeding without my grown up doll of a guest, I liked the look of the national dish of Jordan *from now on when I mention Jordan I am referring to the country*. Mansaf is the Arabic word for “explosion” so surely something with such a name was going to deliver some real mouth fireworks. The National Dish, Mansaf is usually eaten on a Friday, which in Jordan is a family day.

Cooking national dishes is usually not overly challenging, as dishes eaten by the masses need to be relatively simple as the masses need to be able to cook it. It’s a little different in Jordan and many of the recipes I have research suggest you take into consideration getting some tutelage from an experienced Mansaf Chef before taking it on. What seems to be the major challenge is the use of heated yoghurt and the need to not curdle it. In reality it wasn’t particularly hard, but I did have to follow the recipe extremely closely. The result was a rich (borderline too rich) kebab/ curry like wrap which was fragrant and full of crunch (from the nuts). We loved it, but really missed any chilli hit. I think chilli would have made it an “explosion”.

Here is how I need to do it: (recipe from the YouInJordan website). Makes for about 8 people.

  • 2 Kilos lamb, preferably with bones, cut into thick pieces
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 egg white, beaten with a fork until frothy
  • 2 teaspoons corn flour
  • ¼ cup clarified butter
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • water
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 small piece cinnamon bark
  • 3 cups basmati rice, rinsed
  • Markouk Bread. This can be bought in most major supermarkets, but if you can’t find it use large flat bread wraps. You will need one per person if the size of a dinner plate or two per person if the size of a side plate.

Directions

Place yogurt in a heavy-based pan.

Add frothy egg white, corn flour and 2-teaspoon salt to pan and stir gently just enough to

blend.  It is very important to use a wooden ladle and to stir in the same direction.  So, if you stir to the left, you must continue stirring the yogurt mixture to the left throughout the whole cooking process.  Otherwise, the yogurt will curdle. (Herein lies the challenge)

Place pan over medium heat and stir constantly with wooden ladle.  Heat the yogurt mixture until it begins to boil, stirring continuously in the same direction.  Lower the heat and leave to boil gently, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes until thick.

Place lamb in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to boil. Skim the surface to remove particles. When well skimmed and boiling, add salt and paper to taste. Cover and boil gently for 30 minutes.

Heat butter in frying pan and add pine nuts and almonds. Fry until golden and remove nuts to a plate, draining butter back into the pan.

Add onion to pan and fry gently until transparent. Stir in turmeric, allspice and cinnamon bark and cook for another 2 minutes. Add this mixture to the boiling lamb.

After lamb has been cooking for 1 hour, remove lid and let liquid reduce until it only half-covers lamb.

When reduced, add yogurt sauce, shaking pan to blend it with liquid. Let the mixture boil gently on low heat until lamb is tender and sauce is thick.

In the meantime, prepare the rice as directed on package.

When the rice is ready, remove all the meat, onion and nuts

from the large pan using a slotted spoon. Set these aside. The pan should only contain sauce/ liquid now.

To serve, place the markouk bread on a serving dish and pour over some remaining sauce (from which you removed the meat) Spread the rice evenly over the markouk bread. Then place the meat pieces on top of the rice. Then garnish with the roasted almonds and pines. Drizzle some more of the remaining sauce on top.

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