On the occasion of Eid al-Adha, we asked team members to pitch in a favorite recipe to inspire readers gearing up for intensive kitchen operations this holiday weekend. Recipes abound in countless number these days, so we chose three we found to be unique and rooted in family memories. Two are heavy on meat, while the third caters to any vegetarians among us.
Omar Said, who hails from the Delta city of Sharqiya, sent in the following recipe for a meat and fruit tajine (courtesy of his mother).
According to Said’s mother, start by getting 1-2 kg of lamb meat (a non-fatty cut, preferably) and slice it up.
Heat a cup of vegetable oil and a spoonfull of butter in a large pot. Crush six cloves of garlic and add to the pot with some salt, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of ginger powder and a teaspoon of pepper. Throw in a few threads of saffron and mix everything well. Add the sliced-up lamb.
In another pot, heat up some more oil and add a kilo of chopped onions, cooking until transparent. Add the onions to the meat mixture along with about a liter of water. Leave on medium heat until the lamb is cooked through. As the meat cooks and the water level declines, add some prunes. Cover and keep cooking until the water has reduced into a thick gravy.
Finally, spoon the meat and gravy into a dish and serve with fried almonds on top.
Lina Attalah, who has some Levantine blood, contributed this Lebanese sfiha recipe, which she grew up making with her mother in their home kitchen — the birthplace of her discovery of the wonders of cooking, and its correlation to narrative-making and journalism.
To make the dough, you need to mix a kilo of flour with half a cup of oil, 400 grams of cream and some yeast. Don’t forget to add some salt. You need to spend some time mixing it, adding warm water and applying pressure until it becomes a consistent dough. Some use this as a good form of exercise. According to tradition, draw the initials of the person you most want to enjoy the meal in the dough before leaving it to rise for an hour or so.
For the meat mix to spread on the pies, you need a kilo of ground beef, which you cook in a large frying pan with one big chopped red onion, a large, finely chopped tomato, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and any other meat spice of your choice. When the beef is nearly done cooking, mix in some yogurt, 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 3/4 cup fried pine nuts.
Roll out the dough and use a mug to cut out medium-sized circles, and spread some of the beef mix on top of each. The pies need a good half hour to bake in the oven.
Ania Szremski contributed this vegetarian recipe to our trio of dishes: cheese-and-potato pierogi, a hallmark of Polish holidays. She spent many Christmas Eves making them with her sisters.
Dump a kilo of flour on the counter and use your fist to create a well at the top (so it looks like a soft white volcano). Crack 1 large egg into the well, add a little bit of vegetable oil and a little water, and start kneading, adding a little bit more oil and water as needed until it comes together and is soft, smooth and elastic. It takes a lot of effort to work the dough into shape (but don’t overwork, or it will become tough!), so she advises asking the person in your family with the strongest arms to do it, or the person with the most pent-up frustration.
While one person makes the dough, someone else starts on the filling. Begin by peeling and chopping up several white potatoes (let’s say a kilo), and throw them in a pot of boiling water until they’re soft. Then mash them up with a dollop of cream and whatever cheeses you want (she likes to put in goat cheese and gruyere). Amount depends on taste.
Meanwhile, someone else should take many yellow onions (amount depends on how much you and your family like onions). Dice them as finely and evenly as possible (this job is the best for the person in your family who is the most obsessive, or needs a very detail-oriented task to forget their anxieties). Melt the better part of 250 grams of excellent-quality butter in a large frying pan over low heat. Add the diced-up onion (but conserve some of the raw onion for later) and push around with a wooden spoon until the whole mass is soft, transparent and fragrant. Pour over the potatoes and stir it all together, then add copious amounts of salt and black pepper until delicious. Let cool.
When the dough is finished, divide it in two halves. Cover one half with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry. Dust the counter and your rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out until it’s pretty thin, but not fragile. Using a good-sized glass, cut out several circles (usually a child loves to do this). Holding one circle in the palm of your hand, put a mound of the potato mixture in the middle (not too much or it will leak out), then seal both sides of the circle together, pinching the dough with your thumb and forefinger to crimp it. Get all the children in the house to do this until it’s done.
Drop the pierogi one by one into a huge pot of boiling water (careful not to let the raw pierogi touch or the dough will tear). They will float to the top when they’re finished. You can eat them boiled, or better, put another slab of excellent butter in the frying pan and add the rest of the onions, then fry the dumplings till golden and serve sizzling hot.