Citizens, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Arabic: المملكة الأردنية الهاشمية Al-Mamlakah Al-Urduniyah Al-Hashimiyah), is located on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, and Israel and the Palestinian Territory to the west.
Since the dawn of civilization, the country’s location at the crossroads of the Middle East has served as a strategic nexus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe.
Archaeologists have found evidence of inhabitance dating as far back as the Paleolithic period – later, three kingdoms in Jordan emerged: Edom, Moab and Ammon. The lands were later part of several empires; most notably the Roman Empire, the Nabatean Kingdom and finally the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.
After the post–World War I division of West Asia by Britain and France, the Emirate of Transjordan was officially recognized by the Council of the League of Nations in 1922. In 1946, Jordan became an independent sovereign state officially known as The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.
In 1948, Abdullah I took the title King of Jordan. The name of the state was changed to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on December 1, 1948.
Jordan is a major tourist destination in the region and is especially popular with expat westerners seeking to live or study in its capital, Amman. Not only is the Kingdom considered the safest country in the Middle East, but it is also considered the safest Arab country. Like Egypt, Jordan has a full and comprehensive peace treaty with Israel.
In the midst of surrounding turmoil it has been greatly hospitable, accepting refugees from almost all surrounding conflicts as early as 1948, most notably the estimated 2 million Palestinian refugees and the 1.5 million Syrian refugees residing in the country.
Jordan continues to demonstrate hospitality, despite the substantial strain the Syrian refugees are putting on the national systems and infrastructure.
It is also the only safe Arab refuge available to thousands of Iraqi Christians, who are fleeing the Islamic State.
Pope Benedict described Jordan during his 2009 visit to the Holy Land as a model for Christian-Muslim co-existence.
30% of the population was Christian in 1950, however, due to many reasons (mainly the high rates of Muslim immigration) this percentage plummeted down to 6% in 2015.
In Jordan, food holds great cultural significance. It brings people together and makes every occasion really special and unforgettable.
Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian dish, made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur. It is the national dish of Jordan and it is also common in the Palestinian Territory, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
Mansaf historically played an important role in resolving conflicts between Bedouin families or tribes. When issues arise, the heads of tribes visit one another with an accompanying group to try and resolve them.
Traditionally, the host tribe or family will sacrifice a sheep and cook mansaf as a token of respect for their visitors. They eat this together as a way of marking the end of the dispute.
When you are invited into a Jordanian house and you are served mansaf, it is considered the ultimate sign of generosity and hospitality (however some Jordanians choose other dishes in fear that foreigners will find the mansaf too exotic).
Mansaf in Arabic means “Large tray/dish” which it truly is; Mansaf comes in a very big round tray/dish and is placed in the center of a big round table, where people eat standing.
Mansaf is traditionally eaten with the right hand, with the left (unclean) hand held behind the back. This is accomplished by rolling a ball of rice, filled with meat and throw it into your mouth without having your hands or fingers touch your mouth. Eating mansaf is an art in and of itself, mastered by the old generation.
Citizens, this is a great dish and my recipe is resolutely traditional, replacing the dried goats milk yogurt with the much easier to find strained yogurt called Labneh. I include a description on how to make the authentic dried yogurt if you are so inclined. 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
Four pieces of lean lamb, 200 grams each
One medium sized roughly chopped onion
350 grams of jameed (dried goat yogurt) or use 500 grams of labneh (TFD preference) or plain Greek-style yogurt can be used instead. If you are using the jameed, soak it in warm water the day before. This will soften it and make it easier to blend
400 grams of small grain rice
Clarified butter (ghee)
3 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
5 cardamom pods, opened and seeds reserved
½ teaspoon of cumin powder
A very small pinch of saffron
½ cup of whole blanched almonds
½ cup of pine nuts
4 loaves of Jordanian-style pita bread (khubz)
Salt and pepper
Minced fresh parsley
Labneh (Arabic: لبنة labnah), is yogurt which has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a relatively thick consistency (between that of conventional yogurt and cheese), while preserving yogurt’s distinctive, sour taste. If making it instead of purchasing, put whole milk yogurt in a strainer, and let it drain for several hours until a very thick consistency is achieved.
If you wish to make jameed, details on the process may be found here.
Heat 2 tablespoons of clarified butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
Place the lamb into the skillet, add the chopped onion and cook for about 5-10 minutes until brown.
Add the bay leaves, cardamom, cumin, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of ground black ground pepper. Cover it with boiling water and let it simmer for 1 ½ hours.
While the lamb is cooking, place the jameed and half the water that it has been soaked in (or the yogurt substitute) into a food blender.
Add ¼ of cup of cold water and blend until it’s smooth, then slowly add it to the lamb while it’s cooking and keep stirring. This is very important to keep the consistency of the sauce thick and smooth.
You can stop stirring when the whole mix starts bubbling. Cover it and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.
Next, wash the rice and soak it for 10 minutes in warm water. Soak the saffron in a little bit of water for as long as possible until the water turns a yellow-orange colour.
Place the rice into a pot and cook for the time suggested to fully cooked.
Remove the saffron and add the water that it has been soaked in, along with 2 tablespoons of clarified butter, salt and paper.
In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of clarified butter. Add almonds and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in pine nuts and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Split the khubz loaves open and arrange, overlapping on a large serving tray. Add ½ cup of the yogurt sauce to the khubz to soften.
Arrange the rice over the khubz leaving a hole in the centre of the rice. Spoon the meat into the rice and then spoon the butter and nuts over the meat.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Pour the sauce into a big serving bowl. Add sauce onto the rice and the meat then enjoy with your friends or family.