Brenda’s post about fettah hamra inspired me to share my family’s version of fettah too. Fettah (also spelled fattah or fatta), is meat – often lamb or beef – with rice and toasted pita bread. One of my favorite things about cooking is learning about the small (or big) differences between the way recipes are learned and passed down in the family unit, and within the larger cultural community. For example, while I hadn’t heard of fettah hamra, Brenda’s family has been making it for generations. Even within Egypt, there are often several ways of making the same type of food, and it’s always interesting to learn about how another family has perfected their own version. On Easter and other festive occasions, my mom would make plain fettah with lamb or beef, and the only red color in that dish would be of the meat before it cooks! I’m curious to try Brenda’s fettah hamra recipe, but I am also excited to share my version of fettah for you to sample!
Though I use organic, natural ingredients to make all my meals, this may not be the best example of healthy cooking, mostly because the rice that I used was white, and the toasted bread makes the meal very carb-heavy. Sherif and I only eat meals such as this one during feasts and big celebrations. Also, I’d like to share that with some exceptions, I’m generally not a stickler for complete abstinence from certain whole foods (exceptions are certain food products – rather than whole foods – like artificial candy, anything with trans fat, preservatives, chemicals, etc). While I think it’s extremely important to eat nutritious meals on a daily basis, I don’t think that eating a little more carbs in a meal on occasion or during feasts will do anything to harm your body in a significant way… The only rule is to use wholesome high-quality ingredients for whatever meal you decide to make!
Fettah with Lamb
Cook Time: 1.5 hours
Keywords: saute bake boil braise entree sugar-free nut-free soy-free lamb rice Easter Middle Eastern fall spring summer winter
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 3 meaty grass-fed lamb shanks (a little over 1 lb. each) – I prefer the taste of lamb, but this dish can also be made with beef stew meat.
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 small loaves of whole wheat pita bread
- 1 teaspoon of butter or grass-fed ghee
- 3 tablespoons of full-fat yogurt,
- 6-7 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- a couple of bay leaves and cardamom seeds
- unrefined salt and ground black pepper, to taste
(1) Cook the lamb. Add 7 cups of water to a large pot on the stove. Add bay leaves, chopped onion, cardamom seeds, salt, and pepper. As soon as the water starts to boil, add the 3 lamb shanks, lower to medium heat, and cover pot. It takes the lamb 1-1.5 hours to fully cook. Use this time to prepare the other components.
(2) Toast the pita bread. Cut up the 2 small loaves of pita bread into 1-inch pieces (you can use kitchen scissors or simply do it by hand) and place in a pyrex dish and drizzle with a bit of ghee. In a 250-degree oven, toast the pita bread for about 15-20 minutes, checking on it occasionally to make sure it is not burning. Remove and set aside.
(3) Make the rice. Once the lamb is at least halfway done, take out two cups of the lamb broth for making the rice. In a separate pot, add two cups of the broth to one cup of rice, stir, and turn heat to high. As soon as it starts to boil, immediately lower heat to low. Stir one or two times before turning off the heat after about 20 minutes.
(4) Sauté the garlic and add vinegar. Peel and grind 6-7 cloves of garlic with a mortar and pestle or hand-held blender. Melt a teaspoon of butter (or you can use ghee) and sauté the crushed garlic for a few minutes until it starts to turn brown. Once brownish, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and stir on medium heat for about a minute.
(5) Cut up lamb. Remove cooked lamb meat from heat, and with knife, remove meat from all sides of the bone, and cut up into small pieces. Discard bones.
(6) Flavor broth. Add broth to garlic and vinegar mixture and boil for a few minutes.
(7) Add yogurt. Add 3 tablespoons of yogurt to the mixture and use food processor to blend well.
(8) Mix it all up. In a pyrex dish, mix together cooked rice, cut up lamb meat, and toasted pita bread.
(9) Add broth. Pour over the mixture slowly, making sure to cover each part of the dish.
(10) Bake. Bake on 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
The steps seem more involved than they really are – it just takes a bit of time in the kitchen. But if you’re prepping for Easter or a big feast anyway, then it’s really worth the time in the kitchen, because the end result produces a hearty and outstanding flavor that will satisfy your guests or family for a while. Bon apetit!