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Zahra bi Laban

This dish is one of my all-time favourite winter dishes and I can keep telling you how much I love this dish or you can just make it and find out for yourself!

Meat and cauliflower cooked in yoghurt you ask? Trust me, once you try it, you’ll wonder how you lived without it!

I know many people may think that cooking yoghurt is strange, but let me tell you, I am a complete sucker for anything with a yoghurt sauce! It is creamy and slightly tart, and is perfect in the winter.

Zahra bi Laban translates to cauliflower in yoghurt and that is mainly what this dish is. The nutty flavor of the fried cauliflower compliments the creaminess of the yoghurt sauce perfectly, and the subtle kick of garlic you get at the end is divine.

This dish is made in the Levant, including Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. It is traditionally made with Jameed, which is a hard dry yogurt made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, but I make mine with regular yoghurt because it is easier for me to find in the West and my family finds it lighter. Some people add tahini to their yogurt sauce, but again that is optional and depends on a family’s personal taste.

Zahra bi Laban is pretty easy to make, you just need to make sure you add the stock gradually to the yogurt in order to prevent it from splitting.  The thickness of your sauce depends on your own personal taste, as well as the amount of cumin and garlic you use. I sometimes add a squeeze of lemon when the yoghurt isn’t tart enough, but again that is just something I like to do. This is definitely one of those dishes that you need to taste as you are making and tweak to your taste.

This dish is one of my all-time favourite winter dishes and I can keep telling you how much I love this dish or you can just make it and find out for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 g meat chunks (lamb or beef)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 kg yogurt
  • 1 ½ tbsp flour
  • 1-1 1//2 cup reserved meat stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2-3 tbsp garlic (paste)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Start by cooking the meat. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat until it is a nice mahogany colour. Add in the spices, onion and garlic and then top off with enough water, reaching a few inches over the meat.
  2. Once the water comes to the boil, you will notice the impurities rising to the top. Make sure you skim all of this off. Let the water come to the boil two or three times, until no more white foam is produced, then lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on how big the pieces of meat are. Check regularly and add water regularly, making sure the water always covers the meat.
  3. While the meat cooks, fry the cauliflower florets. Just fry enough for them to be browned on all sides. Place on paper towels and set aside.
  4. Once the meat is cooked, drain, reserving the stock, and put the meat aside.
  5. To make the yogurt, in the same pot you cooked the meat, combine the yogurt and flour. Make sure the flour is completely mixed into the yogurt and there are no lumps. Once the yogurt starts to bubble, slowly add the meat stock into the mixture. Add enough stock until the mixture is slightly runnier than you would want it to be. If you do not have enough of the reserved meat stock, you can add some store-bought stock. Add the spices, salt and pepper, meat and cauliflower, and let cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, or until it reaches your desired thickness.
  6. To add the garlic topping, place the garlic paste in a small frying pan with some olive oil. Cook the garlic until it is just brown and pour over the yogurt stew.
  7. Serve with vermicelli rice and enjoy!
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