Recipe for peace: Mansaf (JORDAN)

This is the first in our Recipes for Peace series, where each week we feature an inspiring dish to celebrate the varied – and tasty – ways in which food can play a role in building peace.

Batool Rasheed's Mansaf recipe (JORDAN)

I come from Jordan – a country where food holds great cultural significance. It brings people together and makes every occasion really special and unforgettable.

I would like to share my recipe for mansaf, the national Jordanian dish which is a big part of all celebrations and festivals. I remember when my sister got engaged and my mother cooked mansaf for around 200 people. My favourite memory was of how all family members came together to chat, laugh, and help one another.

Mansaf also plays an important role in resolving conflicts between families or tribes. When issues arise, the heads of tribes visit one another with an accompanying group to try and resolve them. Traditionally, the host tribe or family will sacrifice a sheep and cook mansaf as a token of respect for their visitors. They eat this together as a way of marking the end of the dispute. "

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • Four pieces of lean lamb, 200 grams each
  • One medium sized roughly chopped onion
  • 350 grams of jameed (dry yoghurt). 500 grams of labaneh or plain Greek style yoghurt can be used instead. If you are using the jameed then soak it in warm water the day before. This will soften it and make it easier to blend
  • 400 grams of small grain rice
  • Clarified butter
  • 3 bay leaves, 5 full cardamoms, ½ tea spoon of cumin powder, and a small pinch of saffron – too much saffron will give a strong flavour to the dish, but a very small pinch will give the rice a beautiful yellow colour!
  • ½ cup of whole blanched almonds
  • ½ cup of pine nuts
  • 4 loaves of Jordanian style pitta bread (khubz)
  • Salt and paper

Cooking instructions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of clarified butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the lamb into the skillet, add the chopped onion and cook for about 5-10 minutes until brown.

Add the bay leaves, cardamom, cumin, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of black grounded paper. Cover it with boiling water and let it simmer for 1 ½ hours.

While the lamb is cooking, place the jameed and half the water that it has been soaked in (or the yoghurt substitute) into a food blender.

Add ¼ of cup of cold water and blend until it’s smooth, then slowly add it to the lamb while it’s cooking and keep stirring. This is very important to keep the consistency of the sauce thick and smooth.

You can stop stirring when the whole mix starts bubbling. Cover it and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

Next, wash the rice and soak it for 10 minutes in warm water. Soak the saffron in a little bit of water for as long as possible until the water turns a yellow-orange colour.

Place the rice into a pot and cook for the time suggested on the packet.

Remove the saffron and add the water that it has been soaked in, along with 2 tablespoons of clarified butter, salt and paper.

In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of clarified butter. Add almonds and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in pine nuts and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Split the khubz loaves open and arrange, overlapping on a large serving tray. Add ½ cup of the yoghurt sauce to the khubz to soften.

Arrange the rice over the khubz leaving a hole in the centre of the rice. Spoon the meat into the rice and then spoon the butter and nuts over the meat.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Pour the sauce into a big serving bowl. Add sauce onto the rice and the meat then enjoy with your friends or family.

Batool Rasheed is a Jordanian chef and archaeologist passionate about sharing the flavours and history of her country’s cuisine. Her background in archaeology heavily influences her cooking as she researches and explores past techniques, ingredients and old recipes, bringing them back to life. Batool has begun running her own food venture, Batooli’s, and is currently supported by The Prince’s Trust. She has previous experience working at Ottolenghi and says she is inspired and influenced by the presentation and style of the restaurant.

In September 2014, Batool presented a week of Jordanian food at our Conflict Kitchen London an innovative pop-up restaurant dedicated to discussing peace.

You can follow Batool on Twitter @Batooli_s or Instagram Batooli_s.