It is citrus season in Tartous. The green trees are fully laden with oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tangerines and mandarins and dotted with various shades of red, orange and yellow. Although the citrus groves have been reduced in size and number, they and the sea still enfold Tartous like caring parents. The weather has been perfect throughout November. It’s a little bit on the cold side in the evening perhaps, but unblemished sunshine prevails all through the day and begs for a special type of Bar-B-Q.
Do you think it’s too soon to post about food again? I guess so, but I can’t resist the temptation. This time though, I am going to write about a big festive meal particularly conceived for the outdoors or the backyard of your home. The recipe calls for a bunch of hungry people. I don’t know how many, but the more, the merrier.
You need 1/2 of a young lamb, potatoes, onions, assorted spices and a bottle of Tabasco. You should also prepare a bowl of rice and get fresh vegetables for the salad of your linking and some Pita bread.
Although, preparing Meat in Pot (Lahme Bil Jarra = لحمة بالجرة ) might require some work, it is really simple in the end, provided you have the place and the time to do it.
I am sorry for not have taken my digital camera for this latest outing (a big mistake). However, I fetched some old photo prints from my album and was happy to be able to retrieve the ones I’ve used in this post.
-You need to buy a big pot (not from the Cannabis variety but from pottery).
-From the butcher shop get one half of a lamb (see illustrated picture below) By the way, the quantity could be reduced if you can only acquire a large lamb. If that is the case, then be sure to buy your favorite meat cuts.
-The lamb is cut in pieces (with bones) small enough to pass through the opening of the pot, but not too small. The meat should be generously rubbed with your favorite spices (use your imagination), Tabasco (or any sauce you like) and salt are added as per preference.
-Peel 2 Kg (4.5 lbs) of large whole potatoes and 1 Kg of onions.
-Insert the meat, the potatoes, the onions and 4 sticks of cinnamon in the pot together.
-Cover the opening of the pot with a piece of cloth and tie it around the neck.
-Punch the cloth with a pencil or whatever and cover the cloth with wet mud. When it’s dry enough to remove the pencil, do so.
By this time a circular hole of about 1 m in diameter and 50 cm in depth (40” x 20”) should have been dug in the ground and filled with either firewood or coal. The fire should be stable when you place the pot on its side in the middle but not aflame. The burning coals should generously surround the pot without actually coming in direct contact with it. The cooking time is roughly 4 to 5 hours. Make sure you keep the coals alive and rotate the pot every 15 minutes or so for even cooking. After a couple of hours, a steady steam vent will be visible from the opening you’ve made with the pencil. Prepare rice as per your own recipe since it goes extremely well with the tender meat.
Don’t worry about over-cooking as long as the fire doesn’t actually touch the pot (it should be close but not in direct contact).
When the aroma overpowers you (just about 4 hours after you’ve started) feel free to remove the pot and prepare yourself for one hell of a delicious meal.
In a clean place, preferably in a large enough pan, lay the pot on its side and tap on its upper half longitudinally with some long metal object to break it nicely into 2 large parts. If it doesn’t break evenly, don’t worry; just be sure to remove all of the broken pieces. Remove the steamy ingredients and place into the serving pan to present on the table. The meat, potatoes and onions are served with hot rice.
Drink your heart out. Beer, wine, soda, whatever you desire, it’s entirely up to you.
I hope you enjoy this very special recipe. While having a good time it wouldn’t hurt if you drink my toast.