Lah’meh fil Meh’leh

For the Pats vs. Colts AFC Championship game we wanted something hearty but also easy to serve in case some neighbors made good on their intention to drop in for the first half. So I threw together a beef stew from a recipe in Fistful of Lentils, a cookbook of “Syrian-Jewish recipes”. The translation of the name is something like, “Layered Sweet-and-sour Beef Stew”.

  • 2 yellow onions, sliced in strips
  • 2 lbs ground beef, mixed with:

  • 2 t allspice

  • 1/2 t cinnamon

  • 2 t salt

  • 1/2 t pepper

  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and chunked

  • 3/4 cup pitted prunes

  • 1 large eggplant

  • 1 28oz can of crushed or chopped tomatoes, drained Start with 3 T olive oil in a large stew pot. Then, in the order listed above, layer 1/2 of each ingredient in the pot, pressing down to compact each layer. Then repeat the layering with the 2nd half of each ingredient. i.e., a layer of half the onions, then beef, then potatoes, prunes, eggplant, tomatoes; then repeat.

Over this, pour the sauce made from:

  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (aka, the sour)
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (aka, the sweet)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 1/2 cups water

The recipe says to simmer on the stovetop for 1 hour then transfer to a 350 degree oven for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This is what I did, but I would also imagine you could simply bring the stew to a simmer and then transfer to the oven for a longer period of time, like 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

The stew, served over rice, was excellent. The neighbors thought so too–even their “finicky” 14-year-old. My only complaints would be that the ground beef gave off a lot of grease. I skimmed off as much as a could but it was still a little greasy. Next time I might try using stew beef and brown it a bit beforehand. Also, I wish I’d cooked the rice with some chicken broth; it tasted a little bland alongside the stew.

Written on January 22, 2007