There is no tradition of cured or even smoked meats in Lebanon; however, after the Armenians settled in the country, locals started to get familiarized with the basturma and sujuk, both spiced and cured meat and sausage. Now these meats are popular all over the country. In Burj Hammud, the Armenian enclave in Beirut, one will see shawarma spits with sujuk and lines of people waiting for their order.
The principle behind basterma is straightforward. The meat needs to be dried up and coated with a spice paste and left to soak up the spice and dry further for two weeks or longer. The key is to find the best possible cut of meat from a trusted butcher.
• 1 lb. beef or lamb filet (at least 1 1/2″ thick)
• 1 lb. coarse salt
• Spice mix: 1/2 cup fenugreek powder (shaiman)+extra to sprinkle on the meat
• 2 tsp allspice
• 3 tsp cumin
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp hot red pepper
• ½ cup paprika
• ½ cup garlic powder
• Enough water to make a thick paste
1. Cut off any fatty bits from the meat. Make a few slits alongside the meat (to ensure the salt will penetrate the meat). Pour half the salt in a dish and place the meat on top of it. Cover the meat with the rest of the salt, pat it all around and place in the fridge for 2 days (at the bottom of the fridge).
2. Rinse the meat; add several cups of water to the pan and place the meat in the water for 3 hours, replacing the water every 30 minutes. Drain the meat and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle paprika and fenugreek all over the meat and place it on a wire rack set over a dish deep enough to provide some air under the rack (a pan with 3 inch sides or more). Place in the fridge in the same spot and let it dry for 2 days. Alternatively, skewer the meat with a thread and needle and hang it in a cool and dry spot, such as a cupboard or basement.
3. After 2 days, prepare the spice mix. In a blender, place all the spices and enough water to make a thick paste that would adhere to meat. Transfer to a bowl and apply that spice paste on the meat, slathering it with a spatula all around (hold the meat upright while you apply the paste). Cover the meat with a muslin cloth and twist tie it from both ends. Place it back on the wire rack for two weeks until dried up. When ready to serve, slit open the cloth, slice thinly and serve with pickles.
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