Maybe you share my love for old books, especially cookbooks. One of my favorite places to spend a Saturday afternoon is this giant used bookstore in Dallas with every book imaginable under the sun (and a huge cooking and art section); it also has the required coffee shop inside, lots of seating and a casual atmosphere conducive to reading.I have made countless trips there, either buying books or selling my old ones.
In Beirut, I walked into this little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore and it had only one cookbook on display, a Dictionary of Authentic Cooking (Kamoos al-tabekh al-saheeh). The book turned out to be chockfull of information, with Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Old-Arabic (as in 10th-century) recipes for every single ingredient; two black and white photos and a few scattered etchings in the entire 575 pages book.
While reading, I found out that Arabs used to eat oatmeal (shoofan) savory. We never had it growing up, and I sampled it in the US for the first time, sweetened for breakfast. Arabs apparently would grind it (jreesh al-shoofan) and simply boil it in meat stock till tender with a few spices.
Here is my version, a bit heartier, with meatballs and carrots, using flakes. This dish could be made after Easter, if there are lamb bones leftover.
INGREDIENTS: 4 servings
- ½ lb ground lamb or beef (or a lamb bone or two)
- 2 onions, quartered
- 2 (or more) carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1 carrot, 1 celery sprig, parsley, etc
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cups water or meat stock or chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups oatmeal flakes (or steel-cut oats), depending on preference
- In a Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the meat, sprinkling it with the spices. Add the onion, sliced carrots, water (and aromatics), bring the mixture to a simmer and cover the pot. Uncover the pot, simmer a while longer and taste to adjust seasoning. The idea is to get a flavorful broth prior to adding the oatmeal. When that step has been reached, drained the pot, remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.
- Place the broth (and the meat) back in the pot, bring to a simmer, add the oatmeal, cover the pot to cook the flakes, adjust seasoning and serve. The consistency should be thick.
NOTE: Make sure the amount of broth is sufficient to cook the oatmeal flakes in, otherwise add more water as needed. If using steel-cut oats, add more water and allow thirty minutes to cook them. You can prepare this dish with just lamb or beef bones, discarding them at the end when they have flavored the broth.
Celebrating Palm Sunday in Deir el-Qamar, Chouf mountains.
Happy Passover to the followers of this blog of the Jewish faith.