Let’s take a trip to 13th century Mesopotamia, shall we?
This is probably the most interesting thing I’ve ever made, and for anyone that’s read at least a couple of my recipes you know that’s saying quite a lot. To start, this recipe comes from the Kitab al-Tabikh (this recipe is on page 76), a series of cookbooks from Mesopotamia dating as far back as the early 800’s through about the 1200s. I don’t know how I stumbled onto this, I just got into a Google loop and thought this combination of spices was interesting and something I’ve never seen before.
As a voracious traveler, I’m always interested in the progression of cuisine and spices from a geological standpoint (like how the dumpling traveled from China, up through Mongolia and into Russia and Eastern Europe, morphing from something quite thin to the doughier Perogi). As one of the oldest cookbooks from one of the oldest civilizations, this, folks, is kind of where it all began. You see the roots of about a gazillion cuisines in this book, from the Mediterranean up through Europe, to definitely the Middle East and beyond. Very interesting indeed, and I can’t wait to try out some of the breads.
It’s also fun to read through because you come across instructions like, “Pound the flesh of a leg [of lamb] until it is like brains” and “Fry it in fresh oil, and dispose of it as you wish, God willing.”
I could wax on about how this book is interesting in a multitude of ways, but I don’t want to bore you so I’ll focus on the recipe at hand. I don’t have a ton of experience with Persian food, but this definitely epitomizes my general impression of that cuisine. Heavily spiced, herbaceous, fragrant, and very rich despite being somewhat simple to make. The spices for the base recipe are simply pepper, coriander and cinnamon, however, I was specifically interested in using cinnamon and lavender together. The subsequent recipes for Ahrash are just a tweaking of the spices, so feel free to tweak away to your liking. I thought saffron would play well with the lavender, and indeed it does. I will say to be judicious with your use of cinnamon. It’s definitely the strongest of the spices so you don’t need much for it to sing. Other spices you can use include cumin, ginger, cardamom, or really whatever strikes your fancy.
This is definitely one of the easier recipes to decipher from the book. The original recipe calls for oil, which I omitted despite using a very lean meat because I knew between the flour and the eggs everything would hold together just fine. And since we are talking about oil, I experimented with this and used beef tallow to fry them in. I picked some up a little while ago from Fatworks and found I actually really loved it. For one, I don’t know if it’s the structure of the fat compared to olive oil or what, but a very little bit seemed go a very long way and was seriously packed with flavor. It kind of gave the patties that little bit of lamb/sheep funk to it. If you are not a fan of lambiness, then definitely pass on the beef tallow. I will definitely, however, be using it the next time I make cottage pie.
One last note. In the photos, I garnished the dish with lavender. While this made for pretty pictures, when I went to eat it the lavender was so strong I had to throw them away. So do not do this.
Ahrash (Arabic Meat Patties)
For the Patties
- 2lb ground venison
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or just a big splash, but don't go too heavy)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 tablespoon Lavendar (roughly ground)
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 pinch saffron threads ("bloomed" in 2 T warm water)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon beef tallow (or cooking oil)
For the Sauce
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 heaped tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 heaped tablespoon honey
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
|Set the pinch of saffron in 2 T of warm water and let it sit for a few minutes to "bloom." The water should turn a little yellowish. Warm the tallow or cooking oil in a pan on medium heat. Combine the rest of the ingredients for the meat patties and mix well with your hands. Once the pan is hot, form the meat into small rounds or patties with a spoon and set in the pan, pressing down with the back of the spoon to flatten them. Cook until crisp on the outside and done in the middle, about 3 minutes per side.|
|Meanwhile, combine all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over medium until it just starts to bubble. Stir frequently, letting some of the liquids steam off, for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve patties with a drizzle of the sauce.|
Non game substitution: I would definitely use lamb here. For something lighter, use the leanest ground beef you can find or I can see all of this being very good also with ground chicken.