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Monday, January 10, 2011

A Labour of Love: Beef Sharhat & 1001 Nights

Behind each dish there is a story. Either they are fascinating, mundane, personal, old, new, vintage, made-up or based on true facts, stories must live on and be told for the enjoyment of others or for reflective purposes as though stories we learn. 

I had Beef Sharhat some years ago in a beautiful restaurant here in Bucharest, El Bacha. It is there I discovered and fell in love with Middle Eastern food. Little did I know at the time about the variety of Middle Eastern cuisine, but in time, reading about it and living for two years in Saudi Arabia, I have perfected my skills and now I make lots of Lebanese dishes in a short time. I remember the first time I cooked Middle Eastern it took me six hours! Yes, practice makes perfect, so if you want to start cooking Middle Eastern, take things step by step, start with some dips (labneh, moutabal, hummus), then take your time in marinating the meat, and learn about herbs and spices. 
You will be amazed to see how easy (and healthy) it is to sample Middle Eastern dishes and how many people you can make happy :) Cooking is a labour of love: preparing the dishes with passion, sharing them with the people you love, sitting around the table and telling stories. 

Type of cuisine: Middle Eastern/Lebanese

Cooking time: 30 minutes, but 3-6 hours for the marinade. 

Availability of ingredients: it would be nice if you could find fresh mint, if not, use dry leaves.

(the dish is for 2 people)

To make this dish you need a fillet of beef (the meat must be tender).

Cut the meat into thin slices & marinade it in crushed garlic, (fresh or dry) mint, cinnamon, sweet paprika, coriander seeds, cumin. The meat should marinate for at least three hours in the fridge to let all the spices blend and come together. 


Fry the meat in olive oil until it browns.  

In a separate bowl dissolve a cube of beef stock and add 4-5 diced tomatoes. If it's summer, use fresh ripe tomatoes; if it's winter, use tomatoes from a can (I used half a can). 

Pour the beef and tomato mix over the meat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Add some more spices, to taste: extra mint, extra coriander seeds, more cinnamon.  The water will reduce, making the sauce a bit thicker.

I am sure you will just love it :) Looking at the photograph above makes me want to do it again, but I don't fancy eating beef today...

This recipe is my own. I have reconstructed it out of my recollections of the dish I almost always have in El Bacha

As a side dish, I have mujardarra - lentil and rice with red onion marmalade, or Lebanese potato salad - boiled potatoes with spices, and labneh - rich yoghurt with mint, garlic and lemon juice.
About all this, I'll blog some other time. I hope you enjoy both cooking and eating this dish. If you do, drop me a line and tell me all about it.

Traditionals shop in Granada Mall, Riyadh


  1. hey,
    me and an ex used to serve this dish almost daily at El Bacha until we (she, actually) "reconstructed" it too.
    however, different:
    thin slices of beef grilled until light brown, collecting all the juices that you later mix with olive oil, garlic and thyme. in the oven for about 30 mins. trust me, its quite good.
    gonna try yours this week and let you know how it turned out.

  2. WOW, amazing! I will definitely try your version as well. Thank you for sharing it with me and all the readers of LLN who might read your comment. Warm regards, Yolanda