Mansaf is cooked in jameed (the Arabic word for dried yogurt), which is then mixed with water in a tray to produce a creamy sauce. This is poured into a large stewing pot with chunks of lamb meat. The pot is put over an open fire. As the stew begins to warm, it is stirred to prevent the yoghurt from separating.
Large trays are covered with the doughy flat Arabic bread and dampened with yogurt. On top of this, a layer of rice is heaped. The meat is then piled on top. Almonds, pine-kernels and other nuts may be sprinkled over the dish, which is then ready for serving.
- 6 pieces jameed (about 1/2 pound)
- 3 quarts plus 2 cups water
- 10 tablespoons clarified unsalted butter
- 4 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder on the bone, cut into approximately 3/4 pound pieces and trimmed of excess fat
- 2 tablespoons all spices
- 3 cups long-grain rice, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes and drained or rinsed well under running water until the water runs clear
- 3 to 4 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup blanched whole almonds
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2 pieces shrak (Arabic flat thin bread/Saj bread)
- Soak the jameed in cold water to cover for 24 to 48 hours.
- Drain and melt the jameed in a pot with 1 quart of the soaking water over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 quarts soaking water as it evaporates until the mixture has the consistency of yogurt. This could take up to 2 hours and you should ultimately have about 2 quarts liquid jamīd. Strain the jamīd through a sieve and set it aside. Save three-quarters of the jamīd for the meat and the rest for the rice, which you will cook separately.
- In a large, preferably earthenware casserole, heat 5 tablespoons of the clarified butter over medium heat, then cook the lamb until browned on all sides, about 20 minutes. Remove the meat from the casserole with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all the excess fat and liquid. Return the meat to the casserole with the reserved three-quarters of jamīd, reduce the heat to low, add the remaining 2 cups water, sprinkle on the bahārāt, and cook, uncovered, until the meat is falling off the bone, about 3 hours. Do not use any salt because the jameed is salty, but if you are using the stabilized yogurt, you need to salt the meat to taste. Stir the meat so it is mixed well with the spices and yogurt.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rice. In a heavy flame-proof casserole or pot with a heavy lid, melt 3 tablespoons of the clarified butter over medium-high heat, then cook the rice for 2 minutes, stirring. Pour in 3 cups of the boiling water and the salt, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Do not lift the lid to look at the rice and do not stir the rice as it cooks. After 20 minutes, if the rice is not done, keep adding boiling water in small amounts until the rice has absorbed the additional water and is tender. When the rice is done, stir in the remaining quarter of the jamīd, to make the rice a little watery.
- Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon clarified butter in a small skillet and cook, shaking the skillet, until the butter is golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set the butter aside. Melt the remaining tablespoon clarified butter in the small skillet and cook the almonds until light golden, about 5 minutes, tossing the nuts. Add the pine nuts and cook until they are golden, about another 3 minutes. Set the nuts aside.
- Clean off a serving, dining, or kitchen table with soap and water and then rinse well and dry, unless you are using a very large tray or serving platter. Arrange the marqūq or other bread directly on the table or tray, overlapping them some, and spread some jamīd from the cooked lamb on it so it becomes soft. Strain the meat and place it over the bread, now soft and broken. Spoon the rice over next and put the remaining jamīd sauce from the lamb in a separate bowl with a serving spoon. Sprinkle the pine nuts and almonds over the rice. Pour the reserved 1 tablespoon of melted samna over everything. Gather your guests around the table, hands properly washed, with their right hands closest to the food. Begin eating.