Given the current situation around the world, everyone it trying to stay healthy and what better way to do so than to boost our immune system. This dish, Yakhni Sabanigh, meaning spinach stew, is the perfect way to eat well, without feeling like we are taking medicine. It has spinach, which is not only rich in vitamin C, but also has antioxidants and beta carotene which could increase our immune system’s infection-fighting ability. It also includes garlic, which, in addition to being delicious and adding flavour to any dish, is well known to fight infections and boost body’s ability to fight infection. Middle Eastern grandmothers are always recommending garlic mashed in some yogurt as a cure for almost anything! Finally, it contains lemon, which is high in vitamin C, is a natural antioxidant and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also helps our bodies absorb the iron from the spinach. It was as if this dish was engineered to strengthen us!
The size of the lamb in this dish is known as ras al-asfour, meaning bird’s head, and is perfect for this dish, as it cooks quickly so the spinach won’t lose its nutrients. People also make this dish with minced meat, chicken, or you could leave the meat out altogether. Though the quantity of spinach may seem immense, once it is cooked, it will wilt and shrink in size. I like to put in my spinach and leave it for about a minute to let the steam wilt it down, then mix it in. this stops the spinach from flying everywhere. If you like your spinach leaves to be a more vibrant shade of green, you could leave out the lemon and just squeeze a bit over your plate when serving. However, I like the spinach to absorb the tanginess and don’t mind the change in colour. The addition of chickpeas gives a nice creaminess to this dish, but you could also add small cubes of potato if you like. Also, if you like a bit of heat, chillies work great in this dish! What really makes this and many other Middle Eastern stews special is the “adhat altoum”, where you fry some garlic and coriander and add them to the stew. The sound you get when you add the fried garlic to the stew is definitely my favourite culinary sound! Serve this over some vermicelli rice or dip some bread in it and enjoy!
2 tbsp olive oil
350g boneless lamb, cut into small pieces
500g spinach, roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp coriander
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 litre water/stock
2 tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, mashed
40g coriander, chopped
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the lamb. Once it is browned, add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent and add the spices. Cook until the spices are incorporated.
- Next, add the spinach. It may seem like a lot, but it will wilt quickly.
- Zest the lemon and add the juice in and mix. Then add in the chickpeas and mix it all together.
- Pour in the water and cook on low heat, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the meat and spinach are tender.
- In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and coriander. Cook until the garlic is brown and then add it to the stew. Scoop up or ladle in some of the stew into the frying pan to get any residual garlic and coriander. Cook for an additional minute.
- Serve with vermicelli rice or bread and enjoy!
Need something for dessert? Try making Elmali kurabiye (Turkish apple cookies)