It’s dishes like this one – no-fuss, economical, filling, great for freezing – that I rely on when life gets too busy for its own good. And that time is swiftly approaching. You may have noticed that the blog has been a little quiet lately, particularly in the past week. That’s because, rather excitingly, the past several weeks have been spent pushing toward the official launch of the Melbourne Writers Festival, where I work. (Shameless plug: if you’re in Melbourne, you must come. The program is amazing!)
With the Festival just a few weeks away, I’m prepping some meals in advance and doing my best to fill up on healthy food that elevates my energy levels. Enter allayeh, a sort of Middle Eastern-style bolognese made simply by browning and simmering some lean beef (or lamb) in a cinnamon, garlic and cardamom-scented tomato sauce. Add some pine nuts at the end and serve with Teta Rice, and you’ve successfully made classic Arabic comfort food in about 35 minutes.
It may not look like much, but allayeh is an instant trip back to my childhood, when I’d practically beg my mother to make this (I’d have eaten it every night if I could). There’s something very comforting about returning from a long day at work to the warm, aromatic comforts of your first home. In a dish like this with so few ingredients, purity matters. I opt for organic beef and tomatoes, whenever possible – do the best you can with what is available at your local store.
- 1 onion, diced
- 500g minced lean beef (preferably organic)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 2 x 400g tins diced tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Light olive oil (or other mild-flavored oil) for frying
- 1/3 cup raw pine nuts
- Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fry, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Turn the heat up to high.
- Add the minced beef and cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, 4-5 minutes or until browned. Add the spices - garlic powder, cinnamon, cardamom - and stir well to combine.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, plus extra garlic or cinnamon as desired. Stir and simmer, uncovered, another 15 minutes or until reduced slightly and the flavors have combined.
- Stir in the raw pine nuts and serve, traditionally with rice (but burghul and quinoa would be great, too).