How to make Mansaf

Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan

Mansaf, lamb meat on a bed of rice, is the most famous dish in Jordan. Especially Bedouins, serve Mansaf as gesture of hospitality and honor. Mansaf is served on a very large dish and eaten collectively. Bedouin use their right hand, because eating with your left hand is considered as impolite.

The main ingredients of Mansaf are lamb meat chunks and Jameed. Jameed is hardened and dried salted yoghurt that is made from goat milk. The dense yogurt is formed into balls and then completely dried. The dried Jameed balls, often referred to as stones, keep well for months. In he Westyou can buy Jameed from Middle Eastern or Arab specialty stores.

Mansaf WRRMansaf Recipe  (8 persons)

Preparation time: 30 min
Cooking time: 200 min

Ingredients
1       stone Jameed (350 grams)
12     chunks of lamb meat with bones (each chunk about 300-400 grams)
6       cardamon pods
1/3    teaspoon turmeric
3       bay leaves
1       teaspoon black peppercorns
2       onions
1/3    cup pine nuts
1/3    cup dice almonds
salt

Rice
6        cups rice
9        cups water
1½     teaspoon salt
1/3     teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3     cup oil

Preparations

The day before

  • Wash the meat very well under running water making sure that small bone pieces get washed.
  • Place the meat in a large colander dish and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons salt on it. Place the colander on top of a large plate and put in the fridge overnight.  The salt will drain the blood from the meat – that’s why you need the large plate under, plus the salt acts as a tenderizer.
  • Break the Jameed stone down into smaller chunks and place in a large glass dish, add boiling water to cover. Let stand overnight, covered. This process will soften the Jameed.
  • Fry or toast the pine nuts and place over a tissue covered plate. Be careful when you fry as pine nuts tend to burn quickly, so the second they start turning light orange remove from heat.
  • Fry or toast the diced almonds and place over a tissue covered plate.

Mansaf1The serving day

  • Boil some water. Scoop from the Jameed mixture and put in a blender, add some boiling water and blend until it is creamy consistency.
  • Place a sieve over the pot you will use for cooking the Mansaf. Run the processed Jameed through the sieve. Return any chunks to the processor. Keep repeating this process until all the Jameed runs through the sieve. You can pour some boiling water over the sieve every once in a while. It sounds complicated but once you do it you will find it is quite simple.
  • The Jameed consistency needs to be denser than milk but lighter than cooking cream.
  • Set the processed Jameed in the cooking pan aside.
  • Wash the meat well from the salt, place in a large cooking pot.
  • Add water to cover the meat, one whole onion, the bay leaves and the black peppercorns. Boil for about ten minutes. Remove the pot from the fire and wash the meat well and add to the Jameed. When I first started to cook Mansaf I didn’t use to do this step, I washed the meat and added it straight to the Jameed to cook. However, I found that doing this step removes all traces of blood.
  • Add the meat to the Jameed. Add the whole onion, cardamon pods and 1/3 teaspoon turmeric. The turmeric is added for the yellowish color so you want to add a minimal amount that will give the color but no taste.  Original Mansaf is yellowish color because ghee is used in the cooking process.
  • Turn the heat on, once the Jameed starts to boil reduce the fire and let it cook over low heat for 3-4 hours.

For the Rice

  • Heat the oil, add the rice and mix for 1 minute before adding the water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat.

Setting the Dish

  • Cover a round stainless steel tray with 2 sheet of thin, flat Arabic bread (shrak).  If unavailable in your region, you can do without. The size of the round tray depends on the amount of the food you made.
  • Sprinkle about 1/2 cup cooked Jameed over the bread.
  • Pour the rice over the tray. With a wooden fork break the rice and form it into a dome.
  • Strain the meat and place it over the rice until it covers the whole top.
  • Sprinkle the fried pine nuts and almonds on top.
  • Place a sieve over a glass or stainless steel dish. Pour the cooked Jameed over the sieve to remove small pieces of bone, the whole onion and the cardamon pods.
  • On your serving table, the dish with the cooked Jameed should be placed right next to the big dish with the rice and meat.

Bedouin men eat mansaf, a local delicacy of goat roasted in yogurt, at a Bedouin encampment in Wadi Rum, Jordan.