Friday, April 20, 2012

Lahma Mashshiya or Beef Rolls with Onion Gravy



If you have ever been a new parent at a school that encourages involvement, or a newly arrived member of an association that needs volunteers, I can guarantee you that some old timer there has looked you over with raised-eyebrow interest and thought “Fresh meat!”  I did it.  We all do it.  (And if you look particularly intelligent and amenable, we practically knock each other over after the event to sucker you in talk to you first!)  I have learned over the years to tread lightly when entering a PTA meeting or association coffee morning for the first few times.  My advice is to get the lay of the land, so to speak, before looking like you might have some skill or talent to offer.  And definitely DO NOT raise your hand.  You may just be asking a question, but that looks way too much like interest and the next thing you know, you are in charge of their magazine.  Or sitting on the executive board.  Or both.

I have been in Cairo three months now and laying low.  But I do want to get involved and make friends.  So when the sweetest lady, with grey hair that flips up endearingly at the ends in the most Mary Tyler Moore of ways, invited me to join what she called the Benevolence Committee, I said yes!

We met in one of the rooms at St. John’s Church (which shares the premises with the Maadi Community Church) on Wednesday and sorted out bags and bags of donations into boxes labeled by size and gender:  infant, little girl, big girl, women, little boy, big boy and men.   Then, according to the master list and some algorithm which made my math phobic soul cringe, we divided the boxes into piles dedicated to each orphanage/organization/home for the mentally or physically disabled it would go to.  Some have little girls, some have big girls, some have both, etc.  The label might read La Providence – 1 BG, 2LG – which means they got one box of clothes for pre-teens and teenage girls and two boxes of clothes for smaller girls from ages 2-10.

Here is the incredible thing.  When we had finished dividing it all up, I counted 34 piles of two or more boxes!   Then we added 15 kilos of pasta and 10 kilos of beans to each pile, plus two more.  (Two homes didn’t request clothing, but they still received the food.)  


As the representatives came to pick up the donations, they were invited to enjoy some home-baked goodies and soft drinks.  There were also cash donations towards summer camp expenses for those who had requested them.  


As you can imagine, there were smiles all round.  But hardly any broader than those of the volunteers.


In the spirit of being small part of the Egyptian community Wednesday, I’d like to share with you a traditional recipe, another one I have adapted from Apricots on the Nile by Colette Rossant.  I am serving two here but this could be easily doubled or trebled.

Ingredients
1lb or 450g beef or veal, sliced thinly into four pieces
2 good handfuls of fresh parsley or cilantro (coriander) or a mix of the two
3/4 oz or 20g of Kashkaval or cheddar cheese
3/4 oz or 20g of crumbled goat cheese
Black pepper
Sea salt
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups or 360ml beef stock (made from a stock cube if fine)
Olive oil
1/8 cup or 15g flour

Method
Use a flat-sided mallet or the bottom of a frying pan to flatten the meat out even thinner than it already is.  Putting it between two pieces of plastic keeps the mess to a minimum.  Some butchers will do this for you.  Mine did a little bit but then I flattened it some more at home.


Grate/crumble your cheese and chop your herb of choice.   Using a light hand or a fork, mix the herbs and cheeses.  Add a good couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. 




Divide the cheese/herb mixture between your pieces of meat and cover somewhat evenly. 


Roll the meat up and secure with some kitchen string and a knot at either end.  Continue till you have done all four meat rolls.




Chop your onion and garlic put them in a bowl just big enough on the bottom to hold your meat rolls.  Add in 1/2 cup or 120ml cup of the beef stock, the lemon juice and the grated nutmeg.



   
Put the meat rolls in the marinade and spoon some juice and onion over their tops.  I used veal so I only marinated it for an hour but you could leave the rolls in the marinade up to two hours for beef.   


Turn them over occasionally and redistribute the onions over their tops.


When marinating time is almost up, preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Heat a non-stick skillet and give it a little drizzle of olive oil.  Brown your rolls on all sides and remove to a small baking dish.





Add a couple of more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and then the flour.  Stir this around until all the lumps are gone.



It's a roux, folks. 

Turn the heat down to a low simmer then add in the marinade.  



Add in the remaining beef stock, whisking if necessary to avoid lumps.  Stir until the onions are a little cooked and the gravy thickens.



Spoon this over the meat rolls and then bake them in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  


Your gravy should darken slightly and be really bubbling and then, the meat rolls are ready.  


I drizzled the meat rolls with a little olive oil.  The gravy really isn't oily.  And then
I completely COVERED the potatoes with more onion gravy.  After the photo was taken.  Divine. 

Enjoy!


N.B. If you live in Cairo, we will be collecting used clothes again in the Fall, but if you are moving away this Summer, please let me know.  The church has storage room for donated goods, including clothes, small household items and shoes.  I can assure you that your things will find needy homes.

Hey, see that little green Facebook symbol up in the right hand column?  If you click on it and then hit LIKE when Facebook opens, you will never miss a post because they are automatically updated to my Facebook page.  I mean, just if you want to.

4 comments :

  1. Ya Stacy! Wonderful blog with great pictures and comments. I love your impressions of a new comer to Egypt makes me see it in a different light. Your food explanations are really clear and easy to follow. Count me as a new fan! Marianne from the Benevolence Committee

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  2. Thank you for your kind words, Marianne! It was wonderful to spend time with you and hear your interesting life story. I haven't even lived in my own country for as long as you have lived here! And thank you for showing me how to walk to CSA - so close, who knew?!

    XOXO

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  3. This is definitely a bit more ambitious than I am ready to try for a weeknight, but it sounds like something my husband and I would LOVE cooking together on a weekend! I had to laugh about your 'fresh meat' comment - I have just spent the last 2 months coordinating meals and the cast party for 75 cast and crew members of the musical at my son's high school, and every time I called another mum to ask for help or donations, the comment was invariably, "Oh, yes, I did that job....once." As with all of those volunteer activities, though, it was a great way to meet both the kids and their parents. I'm glad I did it...but probably won't do it again!

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  4. :) I saw your post about that big job and thought the same thing! They saw the new gal coming. But truly, getting involved is the only way to meet people and become a part of a community. I am sure you did an excellent job. Now you just need a buddy to share it with next year. And then you abandon her to it the year after. (Hey, I've been doing this a while - I know all the tricks.)

    The lahma mashshiya wasn't hard at all, just took a little time. It would be a good weekend meal though since you will probably want to double it for your family. Open some wine and give it a try!

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