Iraq - Margat Bamya
This was really delicious and because the fall weather is here, I feel like stew dishes like this are perfect! Despite the amazing flavor, it was REALLY heavy, but I think it’s also because I served this with a flakey flatbread. It looks like an Iraqi pizza doesn’t it? Hah, but it’s not!
What’s funny to me is that pretty much every recipe says to serve this with tashreeb, but every PHOTO I’ve come across has this stew served over rice. So naturally, I had the overwhelming feeling that I absolutely must outdo myself and make a flat bread with lots of layers in the middle. And hey, it was worth it. It was perfection and filling, but the stew was so rich and heavy, that I definitely ate the whole plate and had a few regrets afterwards.
The main method to this was simmering the lamb once in water and it’s own juices until the water completely evaporated, and then stewing it AGAIN in a tomato broth until half of it evaporated and makes this savory thick stew. My patience was running thin the first time around, but once it got to the tomato part... worth. It.
2 lbs lamb (chunks on the bone)
2 tbsp oil
5-6 garlic cloves (whole)
6 oz tomato paste (3 tbsp)
Salt (to taste)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 lb okra
1 hot pepper (optional)
2 cups flour
1 cup water
Salt (to taste)
Scallions (finely chopped) (optional)
Place a pot on the stove over medium-high heat. When ready, add the oil and wait until it shimmers. You’ll know when the oil moves around like water instead of slow like honey (for example). Sear the lamb on all sides until browned – might be best to work in batches. When all the pieces are browned, place all of the meat back in the pot, and add enough water to cover the meat. While waiting for the water to boil, skim the gunk off the top. When it does come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered. It should take roughly 45 minutes to almost fully evaporate. You can also use whatever liquid is left for the next step.
In a mixing bowl, combine the can of tomato paste with 4 cups of hot water. You can use whatever liquid is left from the pot to contribute to the hot water.
Add the garlic to the meat and saute for about 30 seconds. I personally chopped the garlic because I prefer it that way, but the original recipe kept it whole. Apparently, after the next simmering process is done and you’re ready to serve, you can squeeze the garlic to squirt out some liquid for a fun effect. I didn’t care about it, so I just chopped it.
After the 30 seconds, stir in the rest of the ingredients: tomato paste with hot water, salt, lemon juice, sugar, okra, and whole hot pepper and bring the pot to a boil again. Skim any gunk if necessary, then reduce the heat to medium-low. We want to simmer, covered, for another 40-45 minutes. This will reduce the tomato broth and thicken for a very lovely stew.
A lot of photos I’ve seen serve this with rice or bulgur, but I made this with a flatbread inspired by a Taiwanese favorite, scallion pancakes.
In a mixing bowl, combine a 2:1 ratio of flour to water. Season with salt. When combine, knead the dough for a few minutes until well combined. Depending on the size of your nonstick pan, divide the dough into several pieces. I typically will use 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of water and divide into about 4-6 pieces.
With a rolling pin, roll out the dough into thin circles. Lightly brush with oil and season with salt (if desired). I like to add some sort of finely chopped herb, such as scallions or parsley. From one edge to another, roll it tightly, like a taquito. It should be a thin log shape. Then, from one end, roll it into a spiral like a snail’s shell. And tuck the end under the spiral. Then, press it down with the palm of your hand and roll it out again with a rolling pin. This process will give you nice layers.
Heat a nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan, about 2 tablespoons per flatbread and fry for a few minutes on each side. Or you can do the same thing without oil if desired, but I’d recommend using a cast iron skillet if you’re not going to use oil. Immediately after frying, I like to season with salt because the oil will absorb that salty flavor.
Repeat the process with the other flatbreads. Put the flatbread on a plate, and add a ladle full of stew on top. Or you can stack the flatbreads on a plate, and serve the stew in a bowl for dipping! Garnish the stew with finely sliced onions (if desired). Either way, the lamb and okra is absolutely delicious, especially given how few ingredients this dish has!
Recipe adapted from Nawal Cooking.