Some of us who grew up in Beirut may not have had this dish (we did not) and I am not exactly sure when it made its appearance or which community makes it. The fact is that it is really flavorful with a natural sweetness imparted by the carrots and the tamarind in the sauce.
The tamarind paste used in this dish can be found in ethnic markets (Asian, Indian, Thai, etc). Best to get one that is pure tamarind. This fruit paste will last a long time wrapped tightly and is a very healthy food extracted from the pods of the tamarind tree.
Normally this dish is stuffed with medium-grain white rice and minced meat but I used maftoul, a wheat-based type of couscous; a whole-grain’s rustic flavor pairs well with the carrots and the tamarind. Any whole-grain would work, provided you parboil it first.
INGREDIENTS: 8 servings
- 3 pounds of thick carrots
- 1/2 cup of maftoul or other whole-grain or rice
- 1/4 cup of tamarind paste (3 tbsp)
- 1/2 cup of tomato paste
- 1/2 pound of minced meat (fatty if possible, 75/25)
- spices: 1 tsp of Aleppo pepper, 1 tsp of allspice, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp (or more) of salt
- olive oil, as needed
- Peel and cut the carrots so they would be of equal size; place carrots (and broken carrot pieces) in a pot and cover with water; boil for 7 minutes and let cool in the water. The carrots need to be softened but not too soft or they will be impossible to core.
- Place the maftoul or other whole-grain in a bowl and cover with boiling water to precook it and soften it. Drain it after 15 minutes or so and add the minced meat and spices and combine well. Core the carrots and stuff with the meat mixture, leaving a little gap at the end as the grain will expand. Place the carrots in a pot, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and sauté them for a few minutes. Dissolve the tamarind in 2 cups of the remaining carrot water with the tomato paste (don’t worry if it does not dissolve completely at this point) and pour over the carrots; you may add the insides of the carrots as well as the tips. Season the broth with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon and cover; simmer for 45 minutes until the stuffing is fully cooked. Serve warm.
NOTE: If you have leftover stuffing, shape it into small meatballs and drop in the sauce to cook alongside the carrots; include the inside of the cored carrots as well.
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