Citizens, as you may have recently noticed, I’ve been posting a higher-than-normal amount of Middle Eastern recipes – it is a cuisine redolent with spices, flavors and techniques that are quite unfamiliar to many and I want to share my newest discovery from the region with you today!
This recipe for makmoura hails from Jordan, whose cuisine I am further exploring as a means towards grasping the essence – the jawhar (جوهر) – of the region’s culinary zeitgeist and taste experiences. Only one other Jordanian recipe (this one for lamb mansaf) has graced the existential pages of My blog in the last 6 years and I think it is high time to address that oversight with this delicious discovery, now shared for TFD Nation!
There are a wide variety of techniques used in Jordanian cuisine ranging from baking, sautéeing and grilling to stuffing of vegetables (carrots, leafy greens, aubergine, etc.), meat (which in Jordan refers to a mixture of lamb, beef, and sometimes goat), and poultry. Also common in Jordanian cuisine is roasting or preparing foods with special sauces. As one of the largest producers of olives in the world, olive oil is the main cooking oil in Jordan. Herbs, garlic, onion, tomato sauce and lemon are typical flavors found in Jordan.
The blend of spices called za’atar (somewhat of a misnomer, I’ll discuss shortly!) contains a common local herb called sumac that grows wild in Jordan and is closely identified with Jordanian and other Mideastern cuisines. Yogurt is commonly served alongside food and is a common ingredient itself; in particular, jameed, a form of dried yogurt is unique to Jordanian cuisine and a main ingredient in mansaf, the national dish of Jordan and a symbol in Jordanian culture for generosity.
Another famous meat dish in Southern Jordan, especially in the Bedouin Desert area of Petra and Wadi Rum, is the zarb, which is prepared in a submerged oven called a taboon and is considered a delicacy.
Internationally-known foods which are common and popular everyday snacks in Jordan include hummus, which is a puree of chick peas blended with tahini, lemon, and garlic, and falafel, a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas. A typical mezze includes foods such as kibbeh, labaneh, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, olives and pickles. Bread, rice, freekeh and bulgur all have a role in Jordanian cuisine.
Popular desserts include as baklava, knafeh, halva and qatayef (a dish made specially for Ramadan), in addition to seasonal fruits such as watermelons, figs and cactus pear which are served in summer. Turkish coffee and tea flavored with mint or sage are almost ubiquitous in Jordan. Arabic coffee is also usually served on more formal occasions. Arak, an aniseed-flavoured spirit, is also drunk with food.
Jordanian cuisine is a part of Levantine cuisine and shares many traits and similarities with the cuisine of Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, often with some local variations. More generally Jordanian cuisine is influenced by historical connections to the cuisine of Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire. Jordanian cuisine is also influenced by the cuisines of groups who have made a home for themselves in modern Jordan, including Armenians, Circassians, Iraqis, Palestinians, and Syrians.
Food is a very important aspect of Jordanian culture. In villages, meals are a community event with immediate and extended family present. In addition, food is commonly used by Jordanians to express their hospitality and generosity. Jordanians serve family, friends, and guests with great pride in their homes, no matter how modest their means. A “Jordanian invitation” means that one is expected to bring nothing and eat everything.
Celebrations in Jordan are marked with dishes from Jordanian cuisine spread out and served to the guests. Customs such as weddings, birth of a child, funerals, birthdays and specific religious and national ceremonies such as Ramadan and Jordan’s independence day all call for splendid food to be served to guests. To celebrate the birth of a child, karawiya, a caraway-flavored pudding, is commonly served to guests.
FYI – TFD is very fond of qamar eddine (قمر الدين) aka apricot juice as a beverage to be served with this particular recipe. It’s normally a Ramadan beverage, but I think it complements the flavors of today’s dish perfectly! With that, lets discuss today’s recipe for Makmoura with specificity and how it is has become infused with TFD’s own sense of flavoring genius!
Makmoura is an old recipe, eaten mostly by the nomadic population in North Jordan – some Jordanians might not even recognize it because it is so old-school and outside the typical range of dishes served in Amman (the capital city)! Nonetheless, it is a traditional Jordanian dish deeply rooted to the country life of the people and their history. Makmoura in English means ‘buried’, and the etymology is exactly what it sounds like. Cooked chicken and onions flavored with a plethora of different spices are buried under a thick blanket of seasoned dough (sometimes multiple layers of dough) and cooked in the oven. It is later served in triangle pieces, exactly like cake!
My version of makmoura reflects a far richer blend of spices and seasonings than the nomadic original – as such, I have dubbed it the ‘Hashemite’ version for two reasons – the first is that the Hashemite dynasty currently rules the country, and My version is suitably worthy of their Royal palates!
The Hashemites (Arabic: الهاشميون, romanized: al-Hāshimīyūn), also House of Hashim, are the royal family of Jordan, which they have ruled since 1921, and were previously the royal family of the kingdoms of Hejaz (1916–1925), Syria (1920) and Iraq (1921–1958). The family had ruled the city of Mecca continuously from the 10th century, frequently as vassals of outside powers, and were rewarded with the thrones of the Hejaz, Syria, Iraq and Jordan following their World War I alliance with the British Empire.
The second reason is that since I am Jewish, I take comfort in the fact that Jordan was one of the first countries to declare a peace treaty with Israel and in Hebrew ‘HaShem’ is one of the titles for Almighty G-d – I find the double entendre to be amusing and quite relevant since my flavoring genius is a gift from the Almighty Himself!
As the Sultan of Spice, my version of the traditional makmoura also includes some nigella, cumin and sesame seeds in the crust (nigella and sesame are quite traditional, BTW – the cumin is my optional innovation!) – it also includes some turmeric to stain the dough an appetizing shade of yellow. To the filling, I’ve added a range of herbs and spices to best invest the recipe with royal flavors worthy of the monicker!
These include sumac (not the poisonous kind, it adds a pleasant sour flavor akin to lemon juice), as well as freshly-ground za’atar leaves (in this, I refer to the actual plant native to Jordan, NOT the spice blend used in Israel and elsewhere – buy the correct version at the link) and adjusted the standard spicing to My preferred proportions.
Citizens, between the ancient flavors and techniques found in this delicious makmoura recipe plus My own optional additions, you will have a true feast worthy of the King of Jordan Himself and all of His loyal subjects – I hope you see fit to try this delicious and profound recipe forthwith, My Citizens!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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