my favourite restaurant in Ramallah is called ‘Darna’. it is an old house that has been turned into a lovely restaurant with huge trees inside it, traditional stone walls and a gorgeous fire place. there is the obligatory wall of celebrity and famous politician photographs, but that is forgivable. in the summer i like to sit on the lower level beneath the large leafy palms with the sunlight streaming through the large windows as i order maza, but in the winter, i like to sit on the raised level near the fire and order Qidreh. It is traditionally a slow cooked lamb dish with chickpeas and rice all cooked together in a tall terracotta pot over hot coals. when you order it, they bring the terracotta pot out to your table and turn it upside down as the meat, chickpeas and rice come tumbling out in a perfectly delicious mess for you to then spoon onto your plate. this is my version with beef, which i turn up a bit like a maqlooba.
500g beef chunks
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cardamon pods
2 bay leaves
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp vegetable oil
400g chickpeas (canned)
2.5 litres of water
1 cup of nuts (pine nuts and blanched almonds)
a pit of parsley to serve
1 nest vermicelli, crushed
salt & pepper
in a large cast iron pot, heat the oil and then add the beef. once the beef starts to brown, add the paprika, mixed spice and nutmeg and let it cook on high for 5-10 minutes as you turn it. as the beef cooks and releases its juices, add the onion and garlic and stir until coated and becoming translucent and soft.
add 1.5 litres of water, the bay leaves and the cardamon pods and bring to the boil. then reduce the heat to minimum and cover the pot with a lid. leave to cook for 4 hours, adding more water as you need to. i find it will take another litre which i add 500ml at a time. keep the meat wet- you want it very soft at the end. after the first hour of the beef cooking, add the chickpeas.
once the beef is done the liquid should be completely reduced (see photograph above). i often cook this in the morning and then pause the cooking here and resume it when we are ready to eat.
soak and rinse the rice. in a separate saucepan to the beef, add the vegetable oil and the crushed vermicelli and stir on a high heat until they brown. quickly add the damp rice. add 2 cups of water, the tomato puree and some salt. mix well and let cook on a high heat until it begins to boil. once it boils reduce the heat and partially cover, leaving it to cook for about 10 minutes, so that it is soft and partially cooked but still wet.
at this point i always transfer the meat and chickpea mixture to a smaller round saucepan (removing the bay leaves and cardamon pods if you come across them) and pat them down into the bottom. pour the rice mixture over the beet and cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes partially covered. before you turn the heat off, make the the liquid has gone by pressing a wooden spoon to the bottom of the pan to check.
while this finishes cooking, toast the nuts in a small frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil until they are golden. let them drain and cool on kitchen paper.
when the Qidreh is ready, turn it out onto ta serving plate and scatter over the nuts and parsley.