Stewing is an age-old method of cooking and history suggests that these types of dishes have been around since the advent of clay pottery. From gumbo to Irish stew many cultures from around the globe have some type of stew recorded in their culinary repertoire. Coming from an Irish upbringing stews play close to my
taste buds heart as Irish Stew (also lamb and vegetables) is a national favourite!
Thareed is a stew consisting of lamb and vegetables that have been slowly simmered in a spiced tomato based broth. Once cooked, torn pieces of thin flatbread (khoubz) are added, soaking into the flavorsome broth, making the dish a complete meal in itself! Thareed is a popular dish eaten during Ramadan and served for Iftar, the first meal eaten after fasting.
Dried black lime (loomi aswad) added to the simmering broth of thareed imparts a delicious sweet-tangy flavour which is quite unique! Piercing with a knife beforehand allows the broth to permeate the dried lime, releasing its wonderful flavour, that I believe cannot be substituted in the same way using fresh lime or lemon zest!
These small limes are boiled for a short time in salted water and left to dry out in the sun or in a dehydrator, turning them tan or black in colour depending on the length of time spent drying. Throughout the middle east dried limes are used as a souring agent in cooking and are also ground and used in spice mixes and marinades! Sometimes these dried limes are called whole black lemons or lemon powder… somehow the name may have got lost in the translation… but dried limes they are!
Long and slowly simmered stews deserve the best cooking pots and my preference is a heavy gauge pot with a tight-fitting lid (also called a Dutch oven), which can be used either on the stove top or in an oven. The food can also be served straight from the pot itself, making washing-up a breeze!
Slow simmering stews with wafting aromas are usually associated with cold blustery winter days, however living in Bahrain with a 45 celsius summer heat leaves me with the only suggestion… turn your air-conditioning to full blast and tuck in!
- 1kg lamb shoulder chops
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons Baharat (Arabic spices, see note below) or your favourite mixed spices
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 4 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
- 4 cups of water
- 2 small whole dried limes, pierced with a knife
- 2 inch piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
- 3 whole green chilli
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 large waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 baby courgettes, cut into chunks
- 1 or 2 piece (approximately) of thin flatbread (khoubz)
How to make: With a sharp knife, remove the meat from the bone, trim excess fat and cut into cubes, do not discard the bones as they will be used for flavour.
In a flame-proof casserole dish or heavy based saucepan placed over high heat, heat the oil until hot. Add the lamb and bones in batches and brown on all sides, transfer each batch to a plate when browned. Set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, cook until soft and golden. While cooking the onion you may notice the bottom of the pan getting brown, adding a little water will help loosen the brown bits from the bottom while stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for about 30 seconds stirring continuously, next add in the mixed spices and coriander seeds, cook for a further 30 seconds. Add in the tomatoes, tomato purée, fresh coriander, lamb and bones, stir all together.
Pour in the water, add the dried lime, cassia bark or cinnamon stick, green chilli and salt. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer very gently for 1 hour.
Add the potatoes and carrots into the stew cover and continue to gently simmer for another 40 minutes. Add the courgettes, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until tender.
Once the stew is finished cooking and meat and vegetables are tender, taste and add more salt if necessary. Tear the bread into 3 or 4 inch pieces and gently mix into the dish, the bread will soak into the broth, no dry bits of bread should be visible. Serve straight from the cooking pot or place into a large serving bowl. Serves 4 to 5 people.
Baharat is the Arabic word for spice mix which may consist of a mix of ground black pepper, cinnamon sticks or cassia bark, cumin, coriander, cloves, cardamom, chilies, turmeric and nutmeg in various quantities. The souks in Bahrain have a wonderful variety of whole and ground spices.
What is your favourite stew?