My Mama’s Version of Meat and Potatoes
This week’s culinary adventure was a bit more complex than weeks past. I went all out, people. That’s right – I cooked an actual meal. Granted, it wasn’t the most nutritionally balanced of meals, but it was surprisingly easy to make and a meal nonetheless.
I chose my mom’s recipe for Kifta wa batata in tahineh. This dish roughly translates to meat and potatoes. Kifta, as mentioned previously, is an oblong meatball seasoned with finely chopped parsley, onion and spices. You throw it, figuratively not literally, into a big pan with chopped potatoes and the sauce variation of your choice. I opted for a tahineh-based sauce this time around. You can eat this alone or make it a true carb-festival and serve over rice.
Guess which version I chose?
I mentioned in my last post that I was looking for a recipe for the rice that included sh‘arieh. Sh’arieh is vermicelli noodles browned in either butter or oil before adding the rice. Not everyone loves rice this way, but I think the added texture makes it a lot less bland. I didn’t find one (please share if you have your own), but my dad walked me through his take on it – fairly simple and probably a lot healthier than what I had in mind.
He coated the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil and added about 4 tbs. of the sh’arieh. Once browned, we added 4 cups of white rice and about 8 and a half cups of water. We brought the rice to a slow-rolling boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes before reducing to low heat and covering. According to my pops, you can tell the rice is ready when you lift the lid and hear nothing but silence. Huh. Who knew?
I also learned something many of you seasoned chefs probably know – the varying intensity of spices. Specifically, the three main spices used in this dish: allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Apparently allspice is the most pungent of the three and should be used most sparingly. Nutmeg is less potent and cinnamon follows closely behind. This was a great lesson to have learned because the spicing on the meat and potatoes was pretty dead on.
I was really surprised to learn how easy this dish was to make. I have more memories of eating kifta and batata than I have of watching my mom make it. I gotta say, it was a pretty amazing feeling to make something like this and have it come out so well. There’s much room for improvement, obviously, but it was a much-needed reminder that cooking takes time and patience more than it needs inherent skill. One added bonus I wasn’t expecting – being able to cook something for my family that they haven’t eaten in years. It was nice to have old, familiar smells wafting through our house the way they used to when we were munchkins.