Lamb Mandi
Thursday, 2 Feb 2017

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Today it seemed appropriate to choose a #NoMuslimBan recipe from Yemen.

Yemeni food is excitingly flavoured and spiced, influenced by its history as part of the ancient incense and spice trade routes. Mandi is a kabsa-esque rice-and-meat dish and originates from Hadhramaut, but is popular throughout the Gulf region. It’s traditionally slow-cooked in a hole in the ground, in a clay pot weighted with coal. The meat remains moist, hence the name, which derives from ‘nada’, the Arabic word for dew. This isn’t a realistic method for most of us. I’ve cooked it as a one-pot stovetop meal instead that takes about an hour to prep and cook. The meat is moist but without the smokey flavour from the coal. It’s not a quick weeknight meal but it’s pretty hands off and doesn’t take as long as Sunday gravy either. I’d say it’s beginner level and is a good option if you want to make a fairly impressive rice and meat meal that isn’t as complicated as a Hyderabadi biryani (which is on my list of future things to cook).

I googled hard for an easier recipe that doesn’t involve marinating (which would require planning ahead) and is strictly one pot (which would require washing up). Some have pretty involved set-ups or require coal (not today). In the end I settled on a mixture of two recipes: chicken mandi from Aysha’s Kitchenette for the spice mix inspiration and kebsa from My Halal Kitchen for the one-pot method and proportions.

At this point I’d read a lot of mandi recipes on the internet. The spices I picked are mostly from the kebsa recipe with the exclusion of fennel (which I hadn’t seen in any mandi recipes), and the inclusion of cloves and cardamom, which are present in all of them, and twice: for the meat and again for the rice. Amy’s comment on the kebsa recipe suggests no loomi (dried or ‘black’ lime) for Yemeni mandi, but I saw quite a few (eg. this and this) that include it, and as it’s available to me I added it anyway. Once I read somewhere, possibly on the internet, possibly in The Food of Oman (the reason black lime exists in my kitchen), that I should prick the limes before putting them in and squish them after cooking to exude a bit of their insides, so I did that too. I removed the limes so we wouldn’t accidentally eat them.

Some fancy things I did was use lamb koftas and saffron rosewater. The koftas, because I thought it would be nice to have two different types of lamb, like when you go to a Turkish restaurant and you get a platter of different types of grilled meats, mostly lamb, but in different forms. I saw recipes with and without saffron. To make it super extra special, I dissolved a pinch of saffron in a quarter cup of rosewater. I cut my finger opening the bottle, the cap has sharp edges (I use the Al Rabih brand, it’s affordable but be careful opening your bottle). I also used turmeric, which I saw in many recipes but not all, for the colour because saffron is expensive. I can’t say that the rosewater added extra flavour on top of the spices and everything else, but I knew it was there.

The mandi was very good even though I undersalted it. You might like to use lamb or chicken stock instead of water. The next time I make mandi I might clean off my oven wire rack insert thing and try making a chicken one in the oven.

Some Yemeni-food related blogs to check out:
Yemeniyah
Sheba Yemeni Food and her instagram
My Halal Kitchen which has food from everywhere (and she has a book out)

Also: Woman from Yemen

Lamb Mandi

Ingredients
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 0.5 tsp cardamom
  • 0.5 tsp allspice
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 dried limes
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • about 450g lamb (I used 250g diced lamb shoulder and about 200g lamb koftas cut and rolled into balls)
  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup rosewater
  • 1 diced onion
  • 10 quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • oil
Method

Heat some oil (I used a mix of olive and canola) in a heavy pot with a lid, like a Dutch Oven.

Add in all the spices except the cardamom pods, peppercorns and limes. Add the lamb. Salt and pepper. Mix gently.

Brown the lamb on all sides, then put the lid on and turn the heat down to low. Cook gently for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes lift the lid. The lamb will have exuded what I'm going to call lamb liquid, but is probably lamb fat. Nothing lamb is low-calorie. Add in the onion, cherry tomatoes and red pepper. Turn the heat up and cook until the vegetables are soft.

Add the saffron rosewater (or use regular water) and 2 cups water. Poke holes in the dried limes with a sharp knife so their flavour seeps out while cooking. Put in the limes, peppercorns and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil.

Add in the rice, put the lid on and turn the heat down low. Cook for 20 minutes.

When the 20 minutes is done, take your pot off the heat. Take the lid off and fluff the rice. Let stand for about 5 minutes.


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