Mansaf: Jordan’s national dish, the pride and joy of Jordanians.
It is a dish made of bone in lamb chunks (they have to be big as they will cook for a long time), slowly cooked in a goat yogurt sauce made from Jameed, served on a bed of rice, and topped with toasted pine-nuts and almonds.
The Jameed and the lamb are the most essential ingredients, and quite frankly Jordanians take their Mansaf seriously, don’t you ever try to use chicken or beef as I said we Jordanians take our mansaf seriously :p
Jameed: Hard balls of dried and salted yogurt (usually made of goat’s milk), obviously from the process of making jameed it can keep for ages since it is dried and super salted.
Plus Jameed yogurt is free of fat, you don’t believe me just google it 😉
For the best Jameed you have to go to Al-Karak a city in Jordan.
We usually buy Jameed balls, crush them into chunks, and store them in a ziplock bag and freeze, or you can let them harden and dry. Whenever we want to cook mansaf we put the frozen jameed in water and soak over night. The Jameed am using in today’s recipe is from a city called Madaba in Jordan, it is better to taste the Jameed before you buy it, just take a small chunk of the yogurt ball and taste it, it should be tangy and salty, the Jameed we got from Madaba is a little bit under-salted so we added extra salt, of-course this is rarely done, as Jameed is usually super salty and you often never salt your mansaf.
As for lamb the best quality lamb should be used, this recipe contains few ingredients, however the quality of the ingredients will greatly affect the taste so the Jameed and meat will shine.
When you are invited into a Jordanian house and you are served mansaf it is considered the ultimate sign of generosity and hospitality (however some Jordanians choose other dishes in fear that foreigners will find the mansaf too exotic).
Until this day Mansaf is served on a big communal platter in Christmas, Easter, Al-Adha, Al-fiter, weddings, graduation parties, or any other huge occasions. Mansaf is traditionally eaten by hand, roll your ball of rice, filled with meat, laban, and chuck into your mouth without having your hands or fingers touch your mouth, eating mansaf is an art by itself, mastered by the old generation.
You can of course use a spoon (I do) but when I was a kid I enjoyed eating mansaf with my hand I remember I would sit in front of this huge mansaf platter and dive in up to my elbows with jameed, rice and meat, but not anymore ;).
- 3 Kg bone in Lamb
- 2 large Onion
- 7 Cardamom pods
- 1 tbs Ghee or 1 tsp ghee herb
- 1 ball of Jameed
- 4 cups Rice
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Salt to taste
- pine nuts and/or almonds
- Jordanian Flat bread (shrak)
*Ghee herb or Hwajet el Samneh : is a spice that resembles the taste of ghee without the calories or the famous artery clogging properties of ghee, great right but the thing is I don’t know the name of this spice in English, I tried to search for it on the internet but couldn’t find it, it seems to be a local (Jordanian) name for that spice, I am on a quest to know what it is and enlighten all of you mansaf lovers so don’t worry I will bring you the answer very soon, lets just call it Ghee Herbs for the meantime.
The Mansaf preparation starts from the day ahead with a simple yet important step:
- My mother is using fresh Jameed so its not dried out completely, with a knife.
- she breaks up the Jameed balls into small/medium sized chunks
submerged in water leaving them overnight to reconstitute.
- If you are using very hard dried out Jameed balls, just put them in a bag and hammer them :), until they turn into chunks and proceed normally.
- Next day:
Add the lamb, onion peeled and cut in half, cardamom pods, herbal ghee or ghee, water enough to cover the meat and bring to a boil.
- Once the meat starts to boil skim the top from any impurities, and boil for 30 minutes.
- Simultaneously you have to blend the soaked jameed with the water you added it to, strain in a big pot, any remaining particles or small chunks put them back into the blender and blend again until you have blended all of your jameed into a smooth yogurt liquid we call now Laban or Laban Jameed, then bring it to a boil in a separate uncovered pot.
- remove the meat, strain the broth and add the meat, boiled laban (liquid Jameed), and half of the strained broth back in a big pot with 1/2 tsp of turmeric and continue cooking.
- mean while I would assume that you have rinsed and soaked your rice for 20 minutes, drained and set aside.
- For the rice boil 6 cups of water, add ghee, 1/2 tsp turmeric, cardamom and salt, when boiling add the rice, stir once cover on high heat until the water reaches the rice level 12-15 minutes, lower the heat and cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice is fluffy for the mansaf its okay if the rice was a little bit sticky, you would ask why well I will explain down below on how to eat mansaf :).
- We like to use skin on almonds, boil them remove the skins, half
them and toast, it might seem like a long process but skin on almonds taste better in our opinion.
- toast the pine nuts as well.
- when the meat is cooked (fall of the bone tender) and the yogurt sauce reaches a creamy thick texture, not to thick but not too thin you can assemble the dish.
- Layer a big communal platter with flat bread, top with rice, lamb and garnish with almonds and pine nuts.
- serve the huge dish along with the yogurt sauce on the side.
Now on how to eat mansaf!
Mansaf is a dish deeply ingrained in the social life of Jordanians, and the traditions and rules on how to eat mansaf are somewhat long, I will mention some of them but remember if you were invited in to a Jordanian home just be yourself and don’t worry about not knowing these rules.
People gather around the big mansaf and they are allowed to use one washed hand to form the meat, yogurt and lamb balls and then eat it without allowing the fingers to touch your mouth, the man of the house’s job is to make sure everyone is eating and pour the yogurt evenly on the rice for the guests.
A guest is not allowed to make a mess when eating, or allowed to take meat that is not in front of him/her, and the list goes on and on, using a plate and a spoon is perfectly ok, but I recommend you try eating mansaf by your hand at least once in your life time.
- The Food of Gods: Mansaf (richhancocksblog.wordpress.com)