Potato stew (Yakhnet batata)

This weekend was one of steady rain, even a hail storm in the mountain; nevertheless, 35,000 people braved the elements to take part in the annual Beirut Marathon. I was safely tucked away at home in Deir el-Qamar, glancing occasionally at the rain outside and the thick blanket of fog that had engulfed the house. 

This traditional stew (yakhneh) is for this type of weather. 

INGREDIENTS: 6 servings

  • 1 lb stew meat (or 3 lamb shanks, cut into 2 inch chunks)
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 lb tomatoes (or a large can)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic (optional)
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro (optional)
  • salt, pepper, dash of allspice, dash of cinnamon
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  • 1/4 cup of oil
  1. Sprinkle the meat with spices; heat the oil and brown the meat for 10 minutes on all sides. Pour 6 cups of tap water on the meat, cover and bring to a simmer; uncover the pot and skim the froth every time it appears. Cover the pot and let the meat simmer for 1 hour over very gentle heat, making sure a few bubbles appear every now and then. 
  2. Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and set aside. Peel and dice the potatoes and place in a bowl with water. Pound the garlic in a mortar with a dash of salt and set aside. Chop the cilantro leaves and set aside. 
  3. Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the stew after one hour. Let the stew simmer for 30 minutes longer; meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and fry the onion till golden; add the  chopped cilantro and mashed garlic and fry with the onion for 30 seconds until fragrant; add the onion and cilantro mixture to the stew the last 20 minutes of cooking. Serve the stew as is with some rice or bread. 
NOTE: You can make the stew without adding the cilantro pesto. The stew is usually made by frying the potato chunks prior to adding them to the meat mixture; this does make them tastier but it also makes it heavier (and more calorific).
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  1. Posted November 12, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    A scrumptious dish! So comforting.

    I love your clay pot.



  2. Posted November 12, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Looks super tasty – ideal for the autumn time. :)

  3. Posted November 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    This stew is so perfect for the chilly autumn evenings and the kind of dish I can enjoy without tiring of it. I bet this is better when reheated the next day.

  4. Joumana
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    @Rosa, thanks!
    @Jean: you are so right; you can keep on reheating it!
    @Magdalena: yeah, cold and chilly outside spells stew inside brewing on the stove!

  5. Posted November 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow that looks perfect and I would do about anything for a big bowl.. YUMM!

  6. Posted November 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    This stew looks so delicious- I love stews in fall and winter! I love the addition of cilantro.

  7. Posted November 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    The stew looks so comforting. You know that I’m a pescetarian, but I have to admit that my mouth watered upon seeing this beautifully composed stew. Love your photo too!

  8. Posted November 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather be indoors eating a comforting bowl of stew than running a marathon in the rain! This looks hearty and delicious.

  9. Posted November 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    SO yummy looking – straightforward recipe, too. Cannot wait to try! Love your new additions – new photo and lists and links and such. WOuld still love to get your posts by mail… you are amazing!

  10. Posted November 13, 2012 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Ricetta splendida e bellissima foto!!!

  11. Posted November 13, 2012 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Perfect for the cold night we have been having. This sounds very yummy. Have a good week Diane

  12. Posted November 13, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    we’ve been having rainy, dreary weather where I live too! This looks so comforting and delicious!

  13. Posted November 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Great stew warming and hearty. Also it looks like I can do this in my slow cooker.

  14. Posted November 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Did you know that BATATA are potatoes in our language too? :) I love this stew – simple, straight forward and absolutely my kind of food :) What lovely presentation and photography too.

    chow :) Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  15. Joumana
    Posted November 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    @Devaki: I had no idea, obviously! and want to know more, and why!

  16. Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    How was the marathon? Rainy days warrant yummy comfort dishes like this!

  17. lina
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Onions are listed as an ingredient but when are they added to the recipe? Am I missing something?

  18. Joumana
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    @Lina: thanks for pointing this out; actually this stew is sometimes made without onions but with massive amounts of garlic instead; I have kept the onions and fried them with the cilantro and garlic; first the onions need to fry and soften then the cilantro and garlic. I have added this step to the recipe.

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