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Rooted in tradition, resplenden­t in taste

- BY TABLE TALES Serves 4 to 6

Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savour the quintessen­tial dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of recipes – one for each day of Ramadan – pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.

“The superiorit­y of Aisha to other women is like the superiorit­y of thareed to other kinds of food.” So, legend goes, said the Prophet Mohammed in a Hadith. The words were uttered to illustrate the character of a noblewoman by drawing a comparison to his favourite food, thareed: a stew with meat, vegetables and bread.

The Bedouin dish may be thousands of years old, but its popularity endures, and it has become something of a Ramadan essential. Some families only prepare and consume thareed during the holy month, so eating it makes many an iftar more special, not to mention comforting and fulfilling after a long day of fasting. It is lauded for its health benefits, and some scholars say it can even help with nausea.

The dish, which is called tashreeba in Iraq, has spawned variations across the Arabian peninsula, and can be compared to the Levantine fatteh. Emirati thareed is made with regag, a thin and crisp cracker-like bread, which is made by rolling a ball of very loose dough over a hotplate to leave a thin film that is then scraped off as soon as it becomes crisp and golden. It’s an art to watch older women make regag, masterfull­y peeling off the crispy bread without breaking it, and oblivious to the heat.

Recipe contributo­r chef Ali Al Neyadi says: “Thareed is a main dish at every Emirati Ramadan table. The moist bread and warm broth are comforting when breaking the fast. It’s also a complete nutritious meal.”

Thareed (meat and vegetable stew with regag bread)

Ingredient­s 1kg lamb (shoulder, neck or leg), cut into pieces

60ml vegetable oil

2 medium onions, chopped 3 cloves garlic, crushed 5cm fresh ginger, crushed 1 dried chilli, chopped 4 tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 black dried limes, cracked 1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 tbsp Emirati bzar spice mix 2 tsp cumin

2 tsp turmeric

Salt and pepper to taste 4 carrots, cut in half lengthways

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed in large pieces 6 courgettes, cut in half lengthways

4-5 pieces of regag bread Handful of chopped coriander

Method

Put the meat in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat for a few minutes. Drain the meat and discard the broth.

In the same pot, add the oil and saute the onions until translucen­t. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, tomatoes, and tomato paste and stir over medium heat until well combined.

Return the lamb to the pot and add 1.5 litres of water. Toss in the dried lime and bay leaf. Sprinkle in the remaining spices, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for an hour or until the lamb is tender.

Add the carrots and potatoes, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the courgettes and cook for another 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, break a couple sheets of the regag bread in a shallow serving dish. Ladle the broth over the bread gradually to soak it. Break more regag and drizzle with broth. Repeat until you have a 5cm layer of moistened bread. Arrange the meat and the vegetables over the regag, garnish with coriander and serve immediatel­y.

This dish has been brought to you by chef Ali Al Neyadi and curated by internatio­nal recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavour to recipes of the Middle East

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