Iraq: Timman Z’affaran
This week I made Iraqi food, something I have never made before. I really enjoyed the process of learning about Iraqi cuisine, and a bit more about the country as well. For instance, finding an image for the flag was complicated in that there have been a number of flag designs since 1921 when the Kingdom of Iraq was established (thanks, Wikipedia!). The one above is the current design, but it is considered an interim until another design is formally adopted. Keep in mind my source may not be the most accurate one 🙂
To find the necessary ingredients I ended up going to a variety of stores, several of which I had never been before. I went to a Halal meat market and an international market, all in West Philly. I love my neighborhood. Here are the ingredients:
Some fun ingredients I’ve never used before are saffron and rose water, both of which I loved. The rose water smelled so pretty, almost like perfume, and the saffron felt indulgent to cook with since it’s the most expensive ingredient in the world (by weight, it’s extremely light and recipes typically call for very little so while this little box cost $12 it will last me awhile).
If I ever run out of perfume, I’ll just use this!
I have cooked with basmati rice before, but isn’t this the cutest rice bag ever?
The main recipe I made is Timman Z’affaran, or saffron rice with meat. Here’s the link to the recipe:
I used lamb, since that is commonly used in Iraqi cooking. My favorite part of the meal preparation was soaking the saffron in the rose water and seeing it deepen into a beautiful golden color.
Here are pics of other steps:
“Frying” almonds, which ended up being tricky, more on that later.
Another favorite part was making the baharat spice mix, the recipe for which is here:
I already had all of the ingredients for the spice mix, though they were already ground. So, instead of buying whole spices and grinding them myself, in the interest of saving money I just used the ground spices I already had. Side note: I should read a book about the history of spices, I know it’s really complicated and exemplative of the history of colonization, etc. and would be interesting to learn more about). Here are all the spices in the mix, isn’t that pretty?
Mixing them together:
The saffron and rose water mixture cooked with the rice to make it really flavorful, and pretty:
The lamb mixture:
And the final plating:
It was very good, full of flavor. I also made a Jajeek, a yogurt salad, which was very refreshing and a good accompaniment to the lamb:
I served mint tea with the meal, which from what I understand is common in Iraq.
For dessert I decided to just use ingredients that are common in Iraqi food: yogurt, honey, mint, almonds…and pomegranates. That was my plan, but my pomegranate search was futile. Imagine this with jeweled bites of pomegranate yumminess on it. Next time.
Here are the lovely people I shared the meal with:
Notes for next time:
We all enjoyed the meal, and it was a treat to try something new. It was my first time using several ingredients, and I’ve never cooked lamb before. The biggest change I would make is with the almonds. The recipe called for sliced almonds. I had whole almonds and just chopped them up, but that made them much less pretty! And I overcooked them when frying them, so they had kind of a burnt flavor. The dish seemed a little dry to me, I may have drained too much of the fat. Also, find pomegranates next time!