Well, we’re back in the groove of school again. This year I have a 4th grader and a 1st grader. They seem to like their teachers and have a feeling this will be a good year, so I’m glad for that. But I certainly enjoy having my days kid-free again. I’m just having a hard time going to bed before midnight. And I can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate surviving the first week of school than eating Jordanian food.
|Certainly one of the more interesting ways to cook bread. I hope I didn't ruin my pan for this.|
|After it was all done. I think would be great as a wrap with some hummus and fresh veggies.|
First up on my menu is the bread: shrak bread. Yes, I think its says “Shrek” every time I look at the word. I cut this recipe in half because it yielded a lot of bread (so all of the measurements listed are after I halved it). I started out proofing my yeast by mixing 1 Tbsp yeast, 1 Tbsp sugar, and ¼ c warm water. I stirred this up just a bit and then set it aside for about 10 minutes until it looked foamy. In my large bowl, I mixed together 2 c whole wheat flour, 2 c all-purpose flour, ½ Tbsp salt, and 3 Tbsp olive oil. When this was mixed, I added in my yeast mixture to the bowl along with ½ c warm water and stirred. I basically kneaded and worked the dough until it was a smooth consistency, adding a little water as needed. Then I covered my bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour. After this time, I divided my dough into nine pieces and formed them into balls, placing them on a cookie sheet and covering them with another towel to rise for another half hour. The object is that once these are ready, you flatten these out really thin and place them on an overturned wok that is directly above an oven burner on high heat to cook the bread, only baking it on one side only (like how I did with the Ethiopian injera). However, I don’t have a wok. So, I had to improvise. I took a metal pan that was fairly shallow and overturned that. It had a flat bottom that was perfect for cooking the bread. I had to watch that the edges of the bread that folded over the sides a little didn’t burn. It didn’t take very long at all—about 10–15 seconds perhaps—for the bread to start to bubble up. Once it starts to bubble, it only takes about 20–30 more seconds at the most for it to be ready. I thought it had good flavor and went well with the mansaf.
|The toasted/sauteed almonds really did it. I couldn't believe how expensive pine nuts became! They used to be cheap. That's why I didn't get any. But seriously, these almonds totally made up for it.|
The main dish for today is called mansaf. Often considered the national dish of Jordan, it’s also been likened to the dish that people make when celebrating, or when you have to make a big decision, or when you are upset, or when you have guests. There are many different recipes out there with many variations. It is far more common to make this with lamb, but I went with chicken instead (which isn’t wrong, I found a couple recipes listing chicken or even beef). I cut my chicken up into cubes, put it in a bowl with water and let it chill for about four hours. When the meat was ready, I melted some clarified butter (I used ghee) and added in the meat (after I drained the water from it). When the chicken was browned, I added in a little salt and pepper and enough water to cover the meat, letting it simmer for about an hour. Then I added in some minced onion and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. In a separate sauce pan, I added in 32 oz of plain Greek yogurt and stirred it over medium heat. Once it was a liquid consistency, I added in an egg white and a little salt, bringing it to a boil and then bringing my heat down while stirring for about another 5–10 minutes. When it was done, I poured this into my meat and onion mixture and added in my spices: coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. In a smaller sauce pan, I sautéed my almonds in some ghee and set it aside. This added a really great flavor to the food. Now comes time to put this all together. I placed the shrak bread loaves I made earlier on the bottom of my casserole dish (I couldn’t find my platter, but I figured my casserole dish would make for easy clean up), overlapping them, brushing them with melted butter. Then I spread cooked rice on top of the bread. Carefully, I poured in the chicken-yogurt mixture on top of the rice, topping it off with my almonds and some fresh chives.
|My son thought this was the best part. Actually both kids pretty much ate this plate up.|
We also had a side dish of a variety of pickles and olives. I went with sweet pickles and dill pickles along with green and black olives. Pickles and olives are often set on the table as a side dish.
|This right here! This was the best part of the meal. Hands down. I'm so glad I have leftover ricotta cheese and phillo dough.|
I also made a side dish called warbat. This one was fairly simple to make, but it took a little skill to do right. I thawed out some phillo dough, taking one sheet and brushing melted butter on top of the sheet. Then I placed another sheet on top of that one and brushed it with butter again. I repeated this until I got ten sheets stacked on one another, but I didn’t brush the last sheet with butter. Then I measured this and cut it to a 15”x12” square, and then cut it so that I had 3”x3” squares (there are 20 in total). Then I placed a dollop of ricotta cheese inside each square and folded them diagonally so that it made a triangle and pressed the corners together. Then I brushed each triangle with melted butter and placed them on a cookie sheet. These went into a 400ºF oven for about 12-13 minutes until they are golden brown. When they were done, I took them out and drizzled some simple syrup on top of them and then put them back in the oven for 3-4 minutes to soak up the syrup. I could’ve made my own simple syrup, but it was easier to just buy it—I found some for $2 in the alcohol mixers aisle.
|It may not look so appealing to some, but this was actually really refreshing.|
And to go with all of this, I picked a drink this time: mint lemonade. I had seen several references to this drink when I was looking through articles on Jordanian cuisine and on various recipe sites. I first prepared my mint by cutting the leaves from the stalks and chopping it up to tiny pieces. Then I squeezed eight lemons (and realizing every cut and nick on my hands in the meantime), added in about a cup of sugar and some water and blended it all together. I let it sit for a while in the fridge before drinking. I really liked this, but my husband thought it was a little heavy on the mint side. Perhaps, but it was still quite refreshing. We also thought it would be super awesome with a little gin mixed in.
|Overall, I'd say that this meal was really good. I loved everything about it.|
I certainly have to say that I learned more about the country of Jordan in the last two weeks than I have in the last ten years. I suppose that’s the whole point of this blog: to bring life to countries beyond how they’re painted by the mainstream media. Sometimes our views on a certain group of people or a country are based on stereotypes or the negative aspects that we see everyday in the news. Or perhaps it’s not a tourist-destination country so it just doesn’t see media attention unless something major happens there. And even at that, we still can’t be certain we’d hear about it. Not in the US at least. I generally have to depend on BBC News or Al Jazeera News for world news compared to any other news outlet in the US. (With the exception of VICE on HBO, perhaps.) My blog is more or less a general overview on various cultural subjects and is certainly not super in depth. I realize it’s a textbook take on each country, but perhaps one day I’ll visit these countries and write a completely different blog. Perhaps I’ll pitch a show to the Travel Channel where I discover places through the eyes and palates of local musicians. I can dream, can’t I? (But seriously, Travel Channel, hit me up.)
Up next: Kazakhstan