Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
Stews are popular in the Muslim world for several reasons. Historically, fuel was scarce and roasting is a profligate way to use up firewood. Second, stewing was a popular method of cooking meat because a wonderful sauce usually resulted from its being cooked with vegetables. A third reason is that long-stewed meat would not be bloody, avoiding the Islamic prohibition against eating blood. This stew called tas kebabi, which means something like "stewed kebabs in a bowl," begins with the cooking of the vegetables in butter in a method called yaga vurmak, "butter-infused," before the meat itself is cooked in the same butter. The stew is stewed in a cooking bowl and that is then inverted onto a plate. Tas kebabi is traditionally served surrounded by the eggplant cream known as sultan's delight, hünkar begendi.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright, tas kebabi surrounded by sultan's delight]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 3:30 hours
1. In a large, heavy casserole, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat, then brown the lamb in it on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the lamb pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons butter to the casserole, melt, and cook the onions and green pepper until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes, stirring. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the water. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the casserole, then add the allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of parsley.
3. Return the lamb to the casserole, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lamb is tender and the sauce thick, about 3 hours. Sprinkle the meat with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.