jordanian beef mansaf: a dish to honour guests.

They say (whoever 'they' are), that there is a national dish for every country. If that is true, especially in today's globalized world, I think I would judge each country not on its people, culture, natural beauty, or historical sites, but on this one supreme dish.
And, if I was to judge Jordan on this basis, it would be one of the top countries in the world. I remember eating mansaf at a small little restaurant tucked in a small winding alley near our hotel in Amman. The scent of cinnamon wafted out and mingled with that of roasting meat and tomatoes as we walked closer to the eatery. There were shouts down the street from storekeepers rolling up their awnings, the call to prayer echoed from building to building, and the sun cast a pink glow over the sand-coloured buildings. Mansaf embodies all those things to me now - the Jordanian culture is one of the most hospitable that I've ever experienced, and the idea of a huge platter of meat and rice in a yoghurt sauce, shared by many, fits perfectly with their warmth and affability.
The dish is traditionally eaten with bare hands, an old culinary characteristic of Jordan. We decided against that and went with the usual four-pronged object.
"Label out now Josh, we're classy folk around here."
Afterward, to help ease the pressure in our stomachs and lethargy from overindulging in meat and rice, we meandered down to that beautiful (and early-to-close) island at the bottom of Granville street. Not the same nightlife as Amman, but as close as I could get.
Jordanian Beef Mansaf

3 c. rice
2 tbs. olive oil

2 large steaks (I used sirloin)
2 c. water
3 c. beef stock
4 cardamom pods
3 sticks of cinnamon
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 liter plain yoghurt, preferrably goat's
1 tbs. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
two pinches of saffron
2 tbs. white flour
1 egg
salt, to taste

1 c. parsley, chopped (optional)
1 c. almonds, sliced and toasted

arabic flatbread

1. Put meat in a cooking pot with water and stock. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Put rice in a bowl and cover with water, let soak for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, add cardamom, whole cinnamon, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, onion and garlic to the pot with meat. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, until liquid is reduced and meat is cooked.

3. Put yoghurt in the blender with flour, saffron, egg, cinnamon, salt, and blend it all together. Place the mix in a small saucepan on the stove and boil.

4. Put vegetable oil in another pot on low. Add rice, stirring constantly. Drain the meat broth and reserve. Take 2 1/2 cups and add to the rice and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let the rice cook for about ten minutes or until done.

5.Add a cup of the broth, and the yoghurt mix back to the meat and spices. Bring to a boil. If too liquid-y, simmer for a while to reduce.

6. Cover a plate with a flatbread. Put rice on top, and then spoon meat and sauce on top. Garnish with almonds and parsley. Serve with a simple Arab-style side salad.

7. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Imagine you hear the haunting call to prayer, echoing from building to building.