23 April 2012

Lamb Mansaf

I've just returned from Jordan, inspired. Some people think all arabic food is the same, and living in Dubai, I can tell you I've had tabouleh and humous up to here (imagine me gesturing at my larynx).

However, I've recently been delving into the different cuisines of the area, and have also been treated to an Arabic food crawl by Arva Ahmed in Deira, and I'm finally starting to find some real gems. One of them is Mansaf, the traditional lamb and yoghurt dish of Jordan.

Ingredients (notes on ratios below)
  • Lamb with bone in (I used a 1.8kg leg. Shanks would also work very well)
  • Laban or yoghurt
  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • shawarma spice (my recipe at end if you want to mix your own)
  • olive oil or ghee for browning meat
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • rice cooked with a pinch of saffron threads (in the rice-cooker)
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves and toasted nuts (pine nuts and slithered almonds work well) to garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 140°C, then brown lamb over a high heat on the stove. When cool enough rub with shawarma spice and salt, then place in an oven pan large enough to enclose meat.
  2. Mix enough yoghurt (laban) and stock to surround meat at least to halfway, then cover and put in the oven. Leave it for 2 1/2 hours, then turn it, then leave for another 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Take cooked rice and arrange on a large dish, then place meat pieces over it and scatter with coriander and toasted nuts.
  4. Blend yoghurt sauce if necessary (tends to congeal a little), adding lemon juice, salt and pepper for flavour), then pour half over the dish, and reserve half in a bowl or jug for individual portions.
Not my picture - from hummus-recipes.blogspot.com
It's not a pretty dish (hence my picture concentrating on the yoghurt sauce) - the nicest one I found on the web was this one to the right from hummus-recipes.blogspot.com, which also includes the traditional preparation, unlike my slapdash version above.


If using yoghurt, 1 part yoghurt to two parts stock, but laban is thinner - one-to-one works better. I needed 500ml of laban and 500 of stock to surround my lamb leg, which I placed in a regular roasting pan, then covered with 4 well-sealed layers of foil.

If you've read previous postings, you will know that my household is now casein (milk protein) free, so that makes yoghurt a little difficult to include. Traditionally, it is made with jameed, a dried yoghurt, which is then re-hydrated to provide the sauce and trap the natural liquids of the meat. For our family, it's not only a banned item, but almost impossible to find anyway. You can make it yourself, but that's a journey for another time for me. I used camel laban (no bad casein), but this could be easily changed for regular natural yoghurt or laban (soured milk like drinking yoghurt).
I used Egyptian rice, a fat, absorbent rice like calrose. It is much more suitable than a long grain rice like basmati, as it softens up beautifully.

This is not a Jordanian Mansaf recipe, but a variation for my own kitchen inspired by recent tastings in Jordan. It is not quite as tangy or gamey in flavour as the traditional version, but I would suggest, much easier.

Shawarma Spice mix:
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Tastes better if you use whole spices and toast them a little then grind them, but using fresh ground spices is a whole lot easier.


  1. Wow, you made your own version!! How does the camel laban version compare to the fermented yogurt one, now that you've tried both? Does camel laban taste milder, or equally gamey?

    1. Yes, camal laban version definitely milder. My husband said it doesn't have the funk of the jameed version. Kids however ate this when they point blank refused Jordanian Mansaf. I see where he's coming from - there was a lack of zing - I just squeezed more lemon on. Dish still quite gamey, but I used some very full flavoured Aussie Lamb - might be different with different meats.

  2. Mansaf is a delicious dish but that's if you start eating it as a child:). My husband is Palestinian and cant stand the smell... You could have brought back some dried goat milk stones,,, they are delicious but I guess hard to liquidate... by the way to go for the authentic simple taste and look... no greens on top only fried pine nuts and almonds... but I am impressed with your courage....:)

    1. I'm sure you could find jameed in Dubai if you looked hard enough, but my problem is the casein - even in goats milk. Camel milk is the only alternative for us (or soy I guess, but don't know if soy yoghurt would cut it.) One of these days I might give the home method a go with some camel laban to start me off. But on second thoughts.... this is so much easier. I don't mond the smell of mansaf - interested if its the meat or jameed your husband is offended by? Slow cooked lamb in any form is quite pungent. And yes, you're completely right about the coriander on top. It's probably better without :)

  3. Hear, hear to the last line of Lara's comment.

    1. no courage required - except of course if you are referring to the possibility of a bunch of Jordanians hurling abuse at me for over-adapting their gorgeous recipe! :)

  4. Oh my goodness, it looks so delis! I'll have to tuck this recipe away for the future!Nice Blog.We offering more Delicious recipes . visit here.

  5. mmmm interesting recipes, good photos, very tasty resemble the Mediterranean cuisine which we do in Spain. We invite you to visit my blog from Spain, with traditional recipes from the State of Valencia.

    This week “The Giraboix” in http://valenciagastronomic.blogspot.com.es
    Going to lose?


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