Celebrating the past, present and future with Mansaf made with shoulder of goat, turmeric rice and sumac roasted almonds
Mansaf is synonymous with celebration and marking important life events. Slow cooked meat and rice served generously and proudly on a large plate and I cannot think of a better dish to celebrate the life and achievements of those that I love. A year ago my grandmother passed away. She taught me the most about cooking and showed her love to me and her family by feeding us. When I was very young, my best friend emigrated to the UK and my grandmother found me sobbing inconsolably under a carob tree in her yard. She explained to me that it is always those that stay behind that feel pain the most. Then she gave me food. Our final farewell to her was traditional and ended with offerings of sesame bread, cheese, wine, wheat and olive oil.
My daughter will not see the way in which my grandmother prepared bread, which is a strong memory for me; mounds of dough proving and transformed into the most aromatic and splendid olive breads with fresh mint and coriander. But she will grow up knowing the meaning of food beyond the sustenance that it provides. When she was born 8 months ago my father arrived to take care of me and to make sure that I was surrounded by food and love. In turn, my husband and I will make sure that our daughter will be surrounded with food and love.
Mansaf is claimed by many countries as their own dish in the East Med and this is my interpretation. At its core it is the slow cooked meat sweet and tender and balanced with a slightly sour yogurt sauce. I chose to use carobs because goats in the east Mediterranean love carobs and traditionally slow cooked meat can be done with carob tree twigs in the large outdoor oven. When I saw a box of carobs at greengrocers on Green Lanes in London I jumped at the chance.
The goat is beautifully sweet and soft, the cardamom and carob imparting just the right amount of perfume, woodiness and a hint of treacle. The flavours from the stock are used to flavour the sauce and each bite is a taste of the East Mediterranean. The rice is cooked with a base of slow cooked onions and cinnamon. It took me a few attempts to get this right and now it is something that I am proud of and it is the best dish I have made. I specifically used Cypriot yogurt for the sauce as it has a more sour flavour, Greek style yogurt is not the best for this dish so if you can’t find any Cypriot yogurt, full-fat plain yogurt is a good substitute.
Shoulder of goat (kid)
600ml of water
1 tablespoon of green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
- Pre-heat the oven to 150◦C / 300F / Gas 2
- Put the carobs, cardamom, cumin and peppercorns in a large deep oven tray and place the shoulder of goat on top.
- Add the water and salt.
- Wrap the whole tray in foil to create a good seal.
- Place in the oven 4 hours but check half way through and again after 3.5 hours. The meat should fall off the bone.
The rest of the dish will take about an hour to prepare and cook
2 large tomatoes
100g of chopped parsley
450g of Cypriot (if possible) yogurt
1 egg white
2 teaspoons of corn flour
1 teaspoon of salt
- Mix the almonds, sumac and salt and olive oil in a small oven proof dish.
- Place in the oven, with the goat, for 20 minutes. Stir half way through and set aside when done.
- Deseed the tomatoes and finely dice. Mix with the parsley and set aside.
- Separate an egg and beat the egg white with the corn flour.
- In a heavy bottomed pan place the yogurt and stir while gently heating. Add the egg mixture to the heating yogurt.
- Gently stir for 3-4 minutes add salt and turn heat off. Cover and keep on the stove top so that it is kept warm.
- In a large heavy bottom pot heat the butter and add the sliced onions and cinnamon.
- Gently fry on a low heat until the onions are very soft but not coloured, this should take around 20 minutes.
- Add rice and stir to ensure rice is coated then add the turmeric and stock.
- Gently stir to ensure turmeric is dissolved and cover the pot.
- Once all the water is absorbed turn the heat off, give the rice a quick stir and cover tightly. The rice at this stage will not be cooked and the residual steam will cook the rice perfectly but allow it to sit well covered for 40 minutes.
Base of Mansaf
One large lavash bread or 4 pitta breads.
- Brush the lavash bread with olive oil or if using pitta cut the pitta bread open up lengthways and brush with olive oil.
- Put the bread flat on a baking tray and place in the oven with the goat, the bread needs to be golden and should take no more than 5 – 10 minutes.
- After the goat has been removed from the oven add 5 ladles of the stock to the yogurt sauce and stir. Gently heat the sauce for a couple of minutes.
- Break up the lavash or pitta and place at the bottom of a large deep serving dish.
- On top of the bread spoon a generous layer of rice and then top with plenty of goat meat.
- Ladle some of the yogurt sauce on top (save some of the sauce for the table too).
- Sprinkle the almonds on top and the garnish around the side.
- You can serve this with a side salad of tomatoes and parsley and pickled turnips.
I had some leftover garnish so I dressed it with some olive oil and lemon juice and ate it as a small side salad with the Mansaf.