No week’s menu is complete without one stew dish in a Lebanese home. Yachne as it is called in Arabic is stew of lamb or beef with vegetables, simmered mostly in tomato sauce and accompanied with ruz mfallfal. Children usually love it, mostly for the kind of vegetables cooked in it and for the tomato sauce, and mothers love it because it is hearty, nutritious and easy to prepare.
Okra is one kind of vegetables that children don’t easily like at the beginning. Okra is an acquired taste, and children need to get used to it. I wasn’t that fond of it as a child, neither were my siblings. I remember how baffled we were seeing our parents with who ever was invited that day (My mother knew we won’t eat it) relishing something we considered extremely inedible. How wrong we were!
The slimy texture is one major factor that halts people eating okra. However, when prepared properly, by adding lemon juice, pomegranate syrup or tomatoes while cooking, okra’s sliminess can be considerably reduced. When I finally learned to appreciate its earthy flavour and later on its health benefits (High in Vitamin C and K, high in fibres, has 0 fat, 0 cholesterol), I regretted having missed all those delicious okra stews my mother cherished to cook, especially in summer, when the small green pods were abundant. For the winter, okra is dried by stringing it on a long thread and allowed to dry. And because it freezes well, it is available all year long.
The lamb I use for all my stews is organic from a farm not very far from us. The meat’s tender texture and pleasant flavour makes of any stew a delightful experience. If however, your family won’t eat or try lamb, beef is an excellent option. I myself used to cook my stews with beef until I was introduced to this lovely farm 23 years ago.
I am sharing with you the recipe that made it into my cookbook. My version of this stew is without coriander or cilantro, the Marjeyounee way. In “The Taste of Marjeyoun” I also explain that I don’t use a conventional pot to cook my stew meat, I use a pressure cooker instead, like all Germans do to save time and energy. My stew recipes are all as such, so if you use a pot, the cooking time will be longer and the amount of meat stock may diminish. You will need to adjust the volume of water and tomato paste to get the right consistency for the stew.
Yachne Bamiyeh - Okra Stew
- 50 ml sunflower oil
- 2 medium onions peeled and coarsely chopped
- 10 small garlic cloves peeled and sliced
- 500 g meat from a leg of lamb or from the shoulder cut into 4 cm cubes
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ litre hot water
- 800 g frozen Okra
- 50 ml lemon juice
- 500 ml tomato sauce
- 2 heaped tablespoonful tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- Heat the oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat and sauté the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until wilted and golden, stirring constantly. Add the meat and cinnamon and brown for about 5-10 minutes, stirring often. Then add the hot water, put the lid on, and following the manufacturer’s instructions, cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Add the frozen okra to the large pot and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Set aside for 10 minutes. Carefully open the pressure cooker and pour out the meat with the cooking liquid over the okra. Then combine in the tomato sauce, the tomato paste and the spices.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until okra is cooked through. Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens. Serve hot with ruz mfallfal.