Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 77! Iraq -Beef with Fruit and Rice- لحم البقر مع الفاكهة ورايس

لحم البقر مع الفاكهة ورايس - Beef with Fruit and Rice
With everything we know about the ancient country of Iraq, what do we really know about it's food? Mostly, we in the U.S. hear about the war, efforts to rebuild a country whose long history of unrest has kept it's people oppressed and on-going political, ethnic and religious unrest. But regardless of cultural differences and beliefs, people come together to share a simple meal, or to honor the month of Ramadan. Tonight's meal celebrates this beautiful country and brings a small window of insight to our family's dinner table.

Interestingly, all of the research I did prior to making tonight's meal seems to be in agreement that Iraqi food is primarily influenced by it's neighbors, Turkey and Iran and doesn't, apparently, have a cuisine that it claims as it's own. I can't be absolutely certain that this is true, so if there are readers out there who can speak more authoritatively on Iraqi cuisine and it's culture, I'd love to hear from you.

Located in southwestern Asia, in the Middle East, Iraq's country is primarily dry and is relatively inhospitable to most plants except date palms, and produces nearly 80% of the world's dates. Iraqi's enjoy dates as snacks, in cooking paired with meat or poultry and in dishes served during the religious fast of Ramadan.

Dried apricots, prunes and apples
Like much Middle Eastern cuisine, Iraqi cooking often combines fruit with beef and chicken. Wheat, barely rice, goat, lamb, kababs and pickled vegetables as well as yogurt and stuffed vegetables are also enjoyed. Because 95% of Iraqis are Muslim (roughly 54%  Shi'ite and 41% Sunni), alcohol is forbidden.

Beef with Fruit and Rice: لحم البقر مع الفاكهة ورايس
(Adapted from a recipe in Food in Every Country)

  • 1 cup dried prunes, pits removed
  • 1 cup dried apples
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds beef, cut into cubes (chicken can be substituted)
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 cups cooked rice

  1. Place the dried fruits in a separate bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then drain.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic until soft.
  3. Add beef and saute until browned.
  4. Add the runes and cook on low, uncovered for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the apples, apricots, seasonings and tomato sauce.
  6. Stir well and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Serve hot over rice.
Final Assessment: This was a GREAT meal. The combination of fruit and meat, seasoned with cinnamon and just a little tomato sauce was savory, sweet and delicious. Not a drop left!

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