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
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the stew after one hour. Let the stew simmer for 30 minutes longer; meanwhile, prepare the cilantro pesto (if desired) by heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and frying the chopped cilantro and mashed garlic for 5 seconds until fragrant; add the cilantro pesto to the stew the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve the stew as is with some rice or bread.