In this series, I will be sharing healthier alternatives to well-loved meals to share with your family and friends this Ramadan.
The most popular versions of this dish are from Syria and Palestine. Why this recipe needs a makeover is that it is over cooked and prepared in an aluminium pan. The combination of overcooked meat, white rice and vegetables result in a food devoid of any nutrients, it is also enzymatically dead and very difficult to digest. In Morocco, honey (which is rich in enzymes) is added at the end of cooking in a tajine for digestibility. During Ramadan, digestion is already challenged and adding in a dish like this will find and most people under digestive distress.
Then there is the aluminium pan that will leech enzymes causing traces of aluminium to enter the food. Use a stainless steel pan instead. Non-stick and Teflon pans are equally as dangerous.Lastly, olive oil is used to braise the meat and as a result becomes carcinogenic (cancer causing).
- 2 cups brown rice, soaked in salted water for 2 hours and drained
- 2 lbs or 1/2 kilo lamb or beef cut into cubes ( you can also use a whole chicken cut into pieces)
- 2 cups onion, sliced into strips
- 1 large cauliflower (cut into flowerets), make sure that the vegetables are not cut too thick, they will not cook enough, since this recipe has them on top, away from the meat.
- 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 large tomatoes, sliced into rounds
- 3 cups of water
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Butter (you never fry or sauté with olive oil)
- 4-6 whole peppercorns 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, and 4 strands of saffron
- 3 cups chicken stock
For the garnish on top
- 1/4 cup blanched almonds, halved
- 1/4 cup whole pine nuts
- 1.5 tablespoons butter for frying
Heat the stainless steel pot you will be using and add the butter. When it melts, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt. Add in the lamb or beef and add a pinch of salt. Braise the meat until it is browned on both sides, on a medium heat. This step is important because it will determine the texture of the meat.
If the time is too long, the meat will be tough and the same if it is not cooked long enough. This can take up to 30 minutes. You are not trying to cook the meat all the way, this is why the heat should be medium low. Add the saffron, cumin and a pinch of salt. Cover with the 3 cups water and bring to a boil and reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Skim the top of the water. Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, remove the meat.
- In another stainless steel pot, line the bottom with the slices of tomato.
- Next then add the lamb and onion
- Crush the garlic on top of the meat
- Add in the spices
- Add the drained rice
- Pour the lamb broth over everything and bring to a boil for 20 minutes
- Add a layer of the cauliflower, potatoes and carrots. This will help with the overcooking issue.
- Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low for 30-40 minutes cook until the water is mostly absorbed.
- Cook on low for 10-20 minutes, then let steam for 20-40 minutes.
Make sure that there is enough water as you cook it. The rice, even when done, should not be dry, but a little moist.
In a frying pan add the butter and let melt. Add in the nuts and fry until golden. They will continue to darken after they are removed from the heat, so do not over cook. Place to the side in a bowl.
Place a large platter over the pot (this may require more than one person). Flip the pot over while holding the plate in place. Using a spoon, loosen the rice a bit and garnish with the nuts.
In the next instalment, we will be making a delicious Harira soup. Until then!