Why This Recipe Works
- Nestling the meat on top of the rice instead of burying it allows for a deeper browned crust.
- Keeping the garlic cloves whole infuses the dish with their flavor without overpowering it.
- Sautéing the rice first ensures it doesn’t clump or become sticky during cooking.
Qidreh is the hallmark dish of the Palestinian city of Hebron. The word itself, qidreh, simply means “pot” and refers to the copper vessel in which this dish is typically prepared. Rarely is qidreh cooked at home, however. The initial preparation may take place in the house, from boiling the meat to spicing the rice, but it is then sent in its special copper pot to the neighborhood wood-fired oven, where it is fully cooked.
It is considered an essential dish during the month of Ramadan, but is also a go-to choice for weddings, funerals, and special occasions in Hebron. Variations of qidreh exist across the country, particularly in Jerusalem and Gaza, but in its most original form in Hebron, the dish gets its distinct flavor primarily from the wood-fired oven and from pouring a generous amount of samneh baladiyeh (a local clarified butter with spices) on top before serving.
In Jerusalem, cooks have taken to adding chickpeas to the dish, which add both texture and heft to the meal, and in Gaza, it is taken a step further with whole garlic cloves and a much longer list of spices, but neither of those additions are traditional to Hebron's version. In this recipe I include both chickpeas and garlic because, without the distinct aroma of a wood-fired oven, these additions help layer more flavor into the dish. However, I keep the spices on the milder side to allow the ingredients to truly shine.
The dish is made with lamb on the bone, partly because lamb is the most popular meat in the Palestinian diet, but also because it's a pricier meat that is fitting for the special occasions where qidreh is typically served. Nowadays, in some more casual instances, chicken is also used, although the traditional dish relies on lamb.
Using bone-in pieces not only offers a more appealing presentation, it also enriches the broth much more than boneless pieces would. It is possible, however, to make a quicker version of this recipe with boneless stewing pieces of lamb. That cuts about one hour from the broth simmering time, though in that case I'd recommend making the broth with chicken stock (preferably homemade) instead of water to help build deeper flavor.
As for serving qidreh, it is almost always presented with a side of plain yogurt and a chopped Palestinian salad, which provide lightness and contrast to the dish's rich and earthy flavor.
Qidreh (Palestinian Bone-In Lamb With Spiced Rice)
The hallmark dish of the Palestinian city of Hebron, qidreh is brimming with tender bone-in lamb and fragrant spiced rice.
For the lamb broth:
3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil
6 pounds (2.7kg) bone-in lamb shanks or shoulder chops (about 4 to 6 small shanks or 8 shoulder chops; see note)
4 cardamom pods, lightly cracked open
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 large (10-ounce; 283g) yellow onion, peeled but left whole
2 quarts (1.9L) water
1 tablespoon (9g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table or fine sea salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
For the rice:
2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
1 large (10-ounce; 283g) yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
15 medium cloves garlic (about 1 3/4 ounces; 50g), peeled
2 teaspoons (6g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table or fine sea salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 pound 2 ounces (500g) jasmine or Calrose rice (scant 2 2/3 cups)
One 15-ounce (425g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup slivered almonds (3 1/2 ounces; 100g), lightly toasted
Minced flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
For the lamb broth: In a large 7 or 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until just shy of smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, add the lamb and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Return all lamb to the pot.
Add the cardamom, bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, ground coriander seed, cumin, turmeric, and the whole onion followed by the water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until lamb is tender, about 2 hours. Remove from heat and strain lamb broth through a fine mesh strainer set over a large heatproof bowl. Discard onion, bay leaves, and cardamom pods. Transfer lamb to a platter and set aside.
For the rice: Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add onions, lower heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is just starting to turn a golden hue, about 2 minutes. Stir in salt, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander seed, and turmeric, cook for 1 minute, then stir in the rice until evenly coated. Stir in the chickpeas until well combined.
Add 1 quart (940ml) lamb broth to the rice mixture, increase heat to high and bring the broth to a boil; reserve additional broth for another use. Immediately remove from heat, arrange the reserved lamb on top of the rice, cover the pot, and cook in the oven until the rice is fully cooked, all the broth has been absorbed, and the lamb has browned on its exposed surface, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.
Uncover pot, sprinkle with toasted almonds and minced parsley, and serve, passing yogurt in a separate bowl at the table. Traditionally, when served at large gatherings, the pieces of meat are removed, the pot is inverted onto a large serving platter, then the pieces of meat are rearranged on top and sprinkled with the garnish. However, it looks just as beautiful served from the pot, especially if you are using an enameled Dutch oven and/or having a small familiar gathering.
If you prefer not to deal with bone-in lamb, you can substitute with 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless lamb stewing cuts. It will cut about an hour from the broth-cooking time than the larger bone-in pieces. If going this route, using chicken broth instead of water for the broth to make up for any loss in flavor due to the lack of bones and shorter simmering time.
If you are averse to lamb, you could use beef instead; bone-in shanks and short ribs are a good choice.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The broth and lamb can be made up to 2 days in advance; simply strain broth, then return lamb to it and refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to finish the dish. Reheat the lamb in the broth before proceeding with the recipe.
To reheat leftovers, splash about 1/2 cup of broth on the qidreh, then heat in a moderate oven until hot throughout; add more broth as necessary until fully heated through to prevent the qidreh from over-drying.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 40g||51%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||62%|
|Total Carbohydrate 40g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||20%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 7mg||35%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|