Al-Sikbaj

Al-Sikbaj_page

Fouad Kassab who runs The Food Blog writes: When I first cooked this dish, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I felt like a scientist or an archaeologist rediscovering a long forgotten world. And truly, when I tasted the end result, this dish blew me away, exceeding all expectations. The flavours of saffron, dried fruit, almonds and rose water really give you a sense of medieval Arabia. I hope this recipe reaches the thousands of Middle-Eastern chefs out there, and I would love to see al-sikbaj make the remarkable resurrection that it so deserves. So here it goes, my recipe for al-sikbaj, put together after many hours of reading through medieval cook books and attempting to reach the right balance of ingredients.

Ingredients
600 g [1,3 lb] lamb shoulder without the bones in 1 inch cubes
3 medium onions, sliced
3 medium round eggplants, peeled, quartered then halved, then pricked with a fork
2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp dried coriander, ground
1/2 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
saffron, a large pinch
5 dried figs, quartered
raisins, handful
almond flakes or halves, handful
1 tsp rose water
olive oil

Method

[1] Boil the eggplants for 15 minutes, covered

[2] Drain the eggplants and set aside

[3] Cover the bottom of a heavy based pot with olive oil and heat up

[4] Brown the meat and onions really well

[5] Add the cinnamon and coriander and stir for a minute

[6] Cover the meat with boiling water and add 2 pinches of salt. The water should be around 1 cm over the meat

[7] Boil the meat on medium heat for 20 minutes, skimming the froth that rises to the surface

[8] Place the eggplants on top of the meat. Do not stir

[9] Mix the honey and vinegar. The mixture should be both sharp and sweet

[10] Pour the honey and vinegar on top of the eggplants

[11] After 5 minutes take some of the liquid out and mix the saffron with it and pour back on top of the eggplants

[12] Simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened, around 45 minutes

[13] Add the raisins, almonds and figs on top of the eggplants

[14] Take the heat down to an absolute minimum, clean the sides of the pot with a damp cloth and cover

[15] Keep cooking for around half an hour

[16] When done, sprinkle with some rose water and serve

[17] You can also eat this cold, and it is equally delicious

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