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Author Notes: Mansaf is the king of wedding dishes. Served on heaping platters traditionally eaten communally and with one's hands, it's rich and tangy and utterly unforgettable. If you can find it, use jameed, a dried, salted yogurt that gives the dish its pleasantly funky flavor. It's available in better Middle Eastern grocery stores, usually in liquid form, and may be labeled "soup base" in English. Beware, not all packaged jameed is made equal. I've had good luck with Ziyad brand, which often comes in packs of two with something else thrown in for good measure (a can of beans! a glass bowl!).
In the end, you may find that you have a lot of the liquid left over. Don't throw it away! You can freeze it and add it to soups later. Saute some spinach with cumin and red chile flakes, add the mansaf sauce, and you'll have a soup you don't want to share.
Finally, credit where credit is due: I learned this recipe from the incomparable Om Shady, who imparted her expertise in Palestinian cooking generously, and on more than one occasion. —calliehoo
- 1 small onion, diced
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2.5 pounds lamb shoulder, in large chunks
- 2 tablespoons salt, divided, plus more to taste (optional)
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 2.5 cups medium-grain white rice
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 cup ghee
- 12 cardamom pods
- 1 pound jameed, OR 52 oz plain yogurt (yes, you read that correctly)
- 1 lemon (optional)
- pita, lavash, or even good quality tortillas for serving
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Heat 2 Tbs vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and stir to coat. Add meat and cover with water. Add salt and cover. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice and the almonds.
- Heat remaining vegetable oil in a skillet and fry almonds until golden brown. Remove from heat.
- Cook rice as per instructions on package in either a rice cooker or on stovetop, adding the turmeric, chile flakes, and 1 Tbs salt to the cooking water. When rice is done cooking, gently fold in ghee.
- Continue to simmer meat until fork-tender and falling off the bone, approximately 2 1/2 hours. Add cardamom in the last half hour of simmering.
- When the meat is tender, reduce heat. Whisk cornstarch into the yogurt or jameed and then add a few spoonfuls of the hot broth. Pour mixture into the pot with the meat and stir constantly for five minutes or until sauce is thickened. Taste and add salt and lemon juice if necessary (recommended if using yogurt).
- To serve, lay flatbreads on a platter or in individual bowls. Spread a layer of rice over the bread, followed by pieces of meat. Pour sauce over the platter and then scatter with fried almonds.
- A final note about the bread: Traditionally, this is made using shrak, a huge flatbread so thin you can almost see through it. If you have pillowy pita, you may want to serve it on the side, as it can get mushy.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Middle Eastern Recipe