I’ve been feeling sentimental lately thinking about the foods from my childhood years. I’d forgotten how good some of them were and still are. It must also come with the realization that I’ve hit middle age and how I really need to eat healthier.
Kidra is another one of those dishes from our childhood that my sisters and I remember fondly. It was an every-once-in-a-while dish; it was never one of Mom’s favorites, so we didn’t have it too often. But, when we did have it, my sisters and I would gorge.
Traditionally, it’s a recipe that is baked in a large narrow-necked clay pot called a tanour (التنور). The pot was filled with the ingredients, sealed with a flour and water paste, and buried in an oven built into the sand where it was left to cook for hours and up to overnight. Once cities started growing, people would send not only their bread to the bakeries, but their tanour pots as well. In some very remote areas, the Bedouin still cook Kidra this way.
Now, many families have tanours made of lined copper that can be placed in the oven or on the stove (my parents have one) and it generally takes less than an hour for the Kidra to cook.
This is dish cooked all through the Palestinian regions and families in the Middle East, but it is most popular in Gaza, where, from what I can tell, the dish originated.
A few notes:
1. If you don’t have a tanour, don’t worry. I don’t either. I used my Dutch oven. It works well.
2. Lamb is the most traditional meat to use in this dish. You can use beef if you prefer. Either way, be sure to use a stew meat (shoulder, round).
3. Some people will use saffron or osfour (the stamen of the safflower) to give the dish a yellow color. It is totally optional. My parents never used either of these in this recipe, so I don’t either.
4. Another traditional ingredient in this recipe is whole heads of garlic that are added just before the tanour goes into the oven. My parents never used garlic in their Kidra. After doing some research, I decided I wanted to add garlic in my own recipe. However, instead of whole heads of garlic, I use peeled cloves. I like it.
Again, this is completely optional.
5. If you don’t have whole cardamom pods for this dish, it will be fine without them. However, you do miss out on some of the traditional flavor if you don’t use them.
6. While white rice is most commonly used, you can use brown long-grain rice (brown basmati works well). Just add an additional 1/2 cup of liquid and add 15 -20 minutes to the cooking time.
7. You can make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water, omitting the meat, and adding more chick peas and/or fava beans. If you’d like to add some green, use fresh green beans (not haricot vert) and saute them at the same time as you would the chick peas.
1 lb. lamb or beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tbsp. olive oil, more if needed
1 med. onion, chopped fine
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled, larger cloves cut in halves or quarters
1 1/2 c. long grain rice
1 15-oz. can chick peas (garbanzos), drained
6 – 8 cardamom pods
3 c. chicken broth or water, more if needed
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. In a medium bowl, toss the meat with the spices.
2. In a Dutch oven, or, if you’re lucky, you have a tanour, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat in batches; you want to get a good sear on the meat. If you crowd the pan, they will simply steam.
After each batch of meat is browned, take it out of the Dutch oven and set it aside. Repeat until all of the meat is done.
3. Saute the onions and garlic in the Dutch oven, about 5 minutes. If you need to keep the brown bits on the bottom from burning, add about 1/4 cup of water or broth to help deglaze the pan. (It doesn’t have to be an exact measurement. Just eyeball it.) Stir frequently.
4. Add the rice and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes. Stir constantly.
Add the chick peas and cook another 2 – 3 minutes. Again, stir often.
Then add back in the meat, cardamom pods, and the water or broth.
5. Bring the water or broth to a boil on the stove. Cover the Dutch oven and place it on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Alternately, you can cook this fully on the stove (especially of you don’t have an oven-safe pot) on low heat for about 45 minutes, or, again, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
6. Serve with plain yogurt or cucumber-yogurt salad.
If you use cardamom pods, be sure to let your guests know. The pods infuse a wonderful flavor but aren’t great to bite into.