When youinjordan.com thinks of Jordanian cooking, the first thing that comes to mind is….mansaf! Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan and is ubiquitous in households across the Kingdom on Friday afternoon, as families spend the day together. It consists of lamb seasoned with aromatic herbs, cooked in a special dried yogurt called jameed and served with heaping portions of rice. While we highly recommend the tutelage of an experienced mansaf chef, it can be a fun adventure to try your hand at cooking this unique meal. Keep in mind that “mansaf” means “explosion” in Arabic, and the detailed preparation and enjoyment of the meal is a serious affair in Jordan! Happy cooking!
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
freshly ground pepper
1½ teaspoons turmeric
½ teaspoon allspice
1 small piece cinnamon bark
3 cups basmati rice, rinsed
Place yogurt (or jameed mixed with water) in a heavy-based pan.
Add yogurt, 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.
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 pine 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.
Once rice is cooked, remove it from pot and place it in a large round serving platter, then spread half of the nuts on top of rice.
When lamb is done, remove the meat chunks with a slotted spoon and place on top of rice and nuts platter. Then sprinkle the remaining nuts over entire platter.
Place the cooked yogurt in a large serving bowl.
The traditional way to serve mansaf is on one dish with individual bowls of yogurt sauce and no utensils. Each person would have a dedicated space on the dish from which to eat with his or her right fingers. If you aren’t feeling that comfortable with your dinner guests, individual plates and bowls work just as well too!