You can make this recipe with okra, but I prefer it with string beans – some countries, Lebanon in particular, use butter beans. You may have to use a few more pans than you would like to, but the end result is just divine. Like my mother, I try to bring different foods, tastes and styles into my home, to feed my family and friends. Even if they are not used to eating it, or have never tried it, they always love the flavours. Rice is the usual accompaniment for this dish with some green chilli and green pepper. Some family traditions should never be lost and this one, I hope, will be one of those dishes that is made and remembered for its simplicity of ingredients and its greatness of flavour.
Recipe and images extracted from Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla, photography by Ria Osbourne, published by Jacqui Small (£25)
3 onions, 1 quartered and 2 chopped
500g (1lb 2oz) lamb neck or lamb fillet, cubed
150ml (5fl oz) vegetable oil
1 whole head of garlic, cloves crushed
500g (1lb 2oz) fine string beans
1kg (2¼ lb) tomato passata
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 quantity of Vermicelli Rice
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
green chilli, chopped
Fill a saucepan with boiling water, add 2 teaspoons salt and set over a high heat. Add the quartered onion and the lamb and bring to the boil. Remove any scum that appears on the surface. Keep doing this until no more scum appears. Leave it to simmer for 40 minutes.
Heat the vegetable oil in another saucepan and gently sauté the chopped onions and garlic for about 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the string beans, turn the heat down and let them cook gently for 15 minutes.
After about 40 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and reserve the liquid – this will make the sauce full of flavour.
Once the beans have cooked, add the passata with half the cooking liquor from the lamb. It’s important that the beans are cooked before you add the tomato sauce as the acidity in the tomato will stop the beans from cooking.
Add the tomato purée and stir through. Add the meat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes over a medium heat. Check for flavour and add a little salt if needed as the tomato purée is a little sour. Continue cooking over a medium heat while you begin to cook the rice.
Cook the Vermicelli Rice. When it is cooked, you are ready to serve.
Place a good amount of Vermicelli Rice in a serving bowl and ladle over the terracotta-coloured lamb stew, then let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with the green pepper and chilli and eat to your heart’s content.