I always like to read menus at restaurants here in Amman and look out for the English typos. It’s funny when you see items like “pananas and milk”, “eggplane”, and my most recent favorite, “salvers”. My lit.- major friend thankfully pointed out that salver is an actual English word, albeit a bit archaic. The item itself, however, is a popular favorite among the people of Amman. The basic idea is to roast any combination of meat and vegetables in the oven to then be eaten with fresh bread. These roasts (or “salvers”! – called sawani in Arabic) are considered lighter to eat and easier to make compared to tabeekh – literally, “cooking.” My aunt Hala always reminds me that she and her husband much prefer these sawani, and as such she is a pro at making them. I’d like to post a recipe for one of her most simple roasts: meat and potatoes.
approx. 500 grams of cubed lamb or beef – you can also use your favorite cuts of chicken instead of red meat
approx. 500 grams of cubed, peeled potatoes
approx. 500 grams of cubed tomatoes
2 red onions, halved and finely sliced
1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1-2 bell peppers (optional)
salt&pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons of allspice
1-2 teaspoons of yellow curry powder
a pinch of cardamom and cinnamon
approx. 2/3 cups of hot water
approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable or olive oil
Preparing the vegetables outside in Aunt Hala’s garden!
Toss with your hands so that the spices combine with all the other ingredients thoroughly.
Arrange the ingredients in the roasting pan such that the meat is on the bottom, and the vegetables are on top.
Pour the hot water and then the oil all over the ingredients in the pan, and then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Roast in a medium oven for approximately half an hour or until the meat is cooked thoroughly. If you want, you can uncover the pan at the end and turn on the broiler for a few minutes, so the vegetables blacken a bit on top.
Serve with fresh bread and a salad.
I thought I would post a few simple salad recipes today. They are refreshing, and a great complement to any meal.
Palestinian Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Salad
2 cucumbers, chopped finely or grated
1 tub of plain yogurt
3-4 cloves of garlic, mashed
1-2 heaping tablespoons of dried mint
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl except for the mint. Then, put the mint between your palms and rub your hands together briskly over the bowl, letting the mint fall in. This releases the oils in it and makes sure it gets ground up finely.
Turkish Carrot Yogurt Salad
5 large carrots, grated
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed (you can also use garlic salt instead, but I prefer fresh garlic)
3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil for sauteeing
aprox 2 tubs of plain yogurt
salt to taste
In a frying pan, heat the oil. Add the crushed garlic and sautee it until just golden.
Then, add the carrots to the frying pan and sautee them until they get tender and turn a dark orange color. Take them off the fire and let them cool off.
In a mixing bowl, empty the tubs of yogurt. Add the carrots, scooping all the oil out of the pan into the yogurt. Add salt to taste.
Fasulya b Zeit, or Turkish Green Bean Salad
aprox 1 kilo of fresh green beans, washed, with the ends taken off, and cut in half
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
aprox 1/3 cup of olive oil, more if you want
salt to taste
pinch of sugar
In a cooking pot or wok, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sautee until tender. Then add the green beans.
Sautee the green beans gently for a couple minutes, then add the chopped tomato.
Stir, then add water to the pot, until just a few centimeters below the level of the beans. Add salt to taste and a sprinkle of sugar. Cover the pot and let the beans cook on a low flame. Keep covered. Check every fifteen minutes if they need more water. The dish is ready when the beans are tender. Serve chilled (although my Arab relatives preferred to eat this dish hot, with a squeeze of lemon juice, using bread to scoop up the beans!).
I had mentioned the various yakhani, or stews, that Palestinians like to make. One easy yekhen is made using potatoes and parsley. It’s very simple and tastes delicious. My aunts usually don’t make it as a meal alone; they like to serve it next to something like stuffed chicken, but I think it’s perfectly fine served as a main course. I think it does the potatoes justice, since there are no heavy spices to cover up the light flavor of the potato. This is my aunt Hanan’s recipe for yekhen batata.
Potatoes, peeled and cubed
Vegetable oil for frying
Good quality chicken stock
Chicken bouillon cube, for extra flavor
salt&pepper to taste
Parsley, washed and chopped
Vegetable oil for ‘ad7ah
Heat oil for frying in a pot. When hot, put in the cubed potatoes and let them get golden brown.
Once fried, add them to a pot of hot chicken stock. Let the potatoes cook thoroughly in the stock until desired tenderness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a bouillon cube if you want to add extra flavor. Then, add the chopped parsley.
Stir the parsley in. In a separate frying pan, heat some vegetable oil for the ‘ad7ah (explained in the post titled Bamyeh: Palestinian Okra). Once very hot, add several cloves of mashed garlic to the oil and let it get golden brown. Then, pour all the oil+garlic into the pot of potatoes and chicken stock. Watch out! It will hiss and sizzle very loudly! Stir it in, then add salt&pepper to taste.
You’re done! Serve with fresh bread or rice (preferably Egyptian or American short grain), and a salad.
In Jordan, [X] and milk is a popular refreshment that most Americans would call milkshakes, but is made without ice cream. Some of the common ones are bananas and milk, strawberries and milk, and one of my favorites: guavas and milk. I never thought that guava and dairy could go together since I always thought of guava as a fruit with some sourness to it. But then my Aunt Hanan made us “guavas&milk” one day and it was amazing! It’s super simple, as you probably can guess, but tastes really good :)
Ingredients (no quantities here!)
Soft, sweet guavas
Whole fresh milk
Tiny bit of vanilla
Sugar to taste
(Honey to decorate your glasses with, if you want)
Wash and halve the guavas.
Scoop out the seeds, because they aren’t fun to have in your drink, and because they aren’t good for your blender blades. Quarter and put in the blender.
Add milk, vanilla, and sugar. Blend till smooth. Add water if too thick.
Add some honey if you want – for extra flavor. (If I had the financial ability to sweeten this with a whole jar of honey instead of sugar each time I made it, I definitely would. Bass 7asab it-tasaheel ya3ni :P)
Serve! I apologize for the lack of a nice picture of the final product; I didn’t have time to spend carefully taking a good photo because everyone was waiting for their guavas&milk.