Occasionally a recipe surprises me. Not because it is unfamiliar, or even because it turned out unexpectedly. Instead my surprise comes from the outpouring of curiosity – of love, even – for a dish that I always assumed would be… unassuming.
This shakriya, a savory dish of braised lamb in garlicky cooked yogurt sauce, tops that list. Nearly three months ago, I posted a photo of the shakriya my husband and I enjoyed for dinner. We topped ours with toasted almonds and coriander from our garden, and it transported me to my family table growing up. What I didn’t expect were the compliments and requests over the following weeks to post the recipe for this mysterious yogurt sauce.
Here it is, and I’m happy to report it is actually quite easy to master.
A tip from my grandmother’s kitchen: to keep the yogurt from curdling (as dairy so often does when heated), whisk in a gently beaten egg white into the yogurt mixture. You’ll need to temper the egg first; whisk the egg white in a bowl, then stir in a ladleful of the cooking yogurt to it. Once incorporated, whisk the egg mixture back into the yogurt on the stove, and keep stirring an additional few minutes until the sauce has thickened.
The yogurt itself is gently seasoned with garlic and salt, as well as a bit of the stock made from cooking the lamb. You can add cinnamon or black pepper to the yogurt, but as it was my grandmother’s preference for the yogurt to maintain it’s naturally bright whiteness, I omitted them. For added richness, I instead recommend cooking the rice (or bulgur) in the lamb stock. Topped with the toasted nuts and fresh coriander, this shakriya is a classically complete Middle Eastern delight.
- 2 cups rice
- 500g stewing lamb, cut in 1-2" cubes
- 2 whole cloves garlic
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 large tub of yogurt (whole milk or low fat, but preferably not skim)
- Chicken stock (enough to fill the empty yogurt tub)
- 2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 egg white, gently whisked
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- Salt, to taste
- For garnish: 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds, handful fresh chopped coriander
- Heat a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Drizzle in two tsp olive oil and sear the lamb for 3-4 minutes, until gently browned. Add the garlic cloves, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt. Pour in enough water to cover the meat by 1" and reduce to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer until the lamb is very tender, about 60-90 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce. Place a large, heavy-bottomed on the stove, with a sieve on top. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, along with the cornstarch. Using a spatula, pass the yogurt and starch through the sieve and into the pot, to ensure there are no lumps.Stir in the garlic powder and add more to taste, if necessary.
- Add an equal amount of chicken stock to yogurt (fill the tub of yogurt with stock and pour it in). Whisk it all together, and turn on the heat to a low setting. Stir constantly until it just starts to bubble.
- At the first sign of bubbling, remove a small ladle of yogurt and add to the lightly beaten egg. Whisk together quickly, then whisk back into the yogurt mixture.
- Let the yogurt bubble on very low heat, while stirring, for 5 minutes or until the yogurt is thick. Add the meat and a small ladle of its cooking liquid to the yogurt. Stir, cover and let the flavors marry as you cook the rice.
- Cook rice per packet instructions. For extra flavor, cook the rice in the lamb stock.
- To serve, spoon the rice onto a plate and top with several pieces of meat, generous yogurt sauce, chopped fresh coriander and a handful of the toasted almonds.
Audio pairing: RJD2, “Clean Living”