Thareed, A Middle Eastern Dish
What is thareed?
Thareed is a Middle Eastern dish of red meat chunks with vegetables and thick sauce from tomatoes and tomato paste and served over pita bread or flatbread. The term literally means “stewed beef with vegetables and bread.” Therefore, it would be easy to find this recipe with a variety of vegetables, which is virtually true in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. “Meat has to be cooked with vegetables” seems to be her implicit rule.
Thareed goes well with whatever choice of fresh vegetables you already have, like parsnips, carrots, okra, pumpkin, gourd, etc., and your favorite Middle Eastern spice mix. My humble opinion, thareed is meat stew, however it has more broth, to accommodate the pita or flat bread that goes with it when it is served. This dish is also called thareed laham.
Origin of Thareed
The dish can be traced back to the Arabian culture – specifically in Arabia. Thareed is also cooked and served in North Africa and is known as “trid” and even in Xinjiang where it is known as “terit.”
Ingredients of Thareed
Yes, meat, vegetables, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, your favorite middle eastern spices and flatbread layered on a plate at the bottom of the dish. Let us go to the details. However, before that, let me share my own experience cooking Thareed for the first time. I was keeping and adoring the book “The Complete Middle East Cookbook” by an Australian food writer from which I had taken most of the Middle Eastern recipes I had successfully cooked as a wife of a (good-looking – forgive, but I really do have to say that) Saudi man. The book featured Thareed, and I confidently cooked it one day in Ramadan, but my husband’s remark was “where are the other vegetables?” My brows raised, my heart a bit broken, I meekly responded that my favorite book said potatoes, nothing else. That must be my first real-life cooking lesson from a human being (rather than a book) when dear hubby told me what other vegetables he was expecting from my Thareed. This dish I would come to realize is a family favorite. Here is the line-up of ingredients for our Thareed:
- Red meat, cut for stewing. I say red meat, because the normal practice is the use of beef, although a few would use lamb if it is readily available, and yes, also as a matter of preference. As for the cuts, I have always been careful when I recommend cuts because we all differ in our preferences. I use 2–3-inch cubes for this dish, while my sister-in-law prefers them cut double that size. Overwhelming for me, but she is so good at making them fork-soft that I get the bite-size chunks in a single poke!
- Sweet vegetables. The series of sweet vegetables from my personal experience: potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Any of these or a combination of them will give Thareed the little sweetness it needs, and a bit of starch to add to the thickness of the sauce. I will include the red or yellow bell pepper in this category for the sweetness reason, and this one vegetable is a must for me. It should complement the other bell pepper (green) which I am including in the next category.
- Green vegetables. Green beans, gourd, green bell pepper, zucchini. Any or a combination of these veggies, except green bell pepper which is a must. Further to greens are parsley and coriander. Another must (for me) in cooking thareed is eggplant. It has to be there! It provides the wow effect in the bite. There are two ways to add eggplants to thareed: 1) throw in the pot along with other vegetables and let iT soften to one grade over the usual, but still intact; 2) fry in oil or pan-grill then include in the pot after removing it from heat, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.
How to serve thareed
Thareed is a popular dish during the month of Ramadan as a main meal after the soup at the break of fast. The absence of rice and the abundance of meat pieces provide more protein and fewer carbohydrates, therefore, this dish does not make you sluggish after that break-of-fast meal. For the same reason, this is a healthy dish.
By practice, thareed is served on top of Arabic (or pita) bread called khobz (or khobuz or khobiz) roughly torn to 2-inch pieces. Give it 3-4 minutes for the bread to absorb the sauce, then Thareed is ready as a delightful meal. Thareed is versatile, it goes well with plain rice as well.
- Use ghee instead of any cooking oil. If you are overwhelmed with the richness of ghee, you can mix 1 tbsp ghee with 2 tbsp of cooking oil and you are good to go.
- Tamarind. Another pointer I got from hubby is the inclusion of tamarind pulp in the sauce. Tamarind pulp is gained is a sticky sweet-and-sour brown flesh which is ripened produce of the tamarind tree. They are sold in local markets and groceries in compacted form, then they are dissolved in water to make the pulp and used in recipes and drinks. The addition of the tamarind pulp to Thareed optimizes the sour and sweet taste of the sauce that comes from its vegetable ingredients.
- Fry onion, rather than just sautee, i.e., lightly brown the onion during the initial steps of cooking for a more defined taste. The use of garlic is optional (well, my mother-in-law does not use it) as it adds aroma to the dish as well.
- Black lemon or lime juice. Juice of one fresh lime is good, there is no doubt about it; however, I suggest you try black lemon powder with your Thareed for that distinct Middle Eastern taste. Black lemons are also available in powder form.
- Garnish with minced fresh coriander or parsley for a more delightful taste.
Storing Left-Over Thareed
Left-over Thareed, as long as it is not yet mixed with the bread, can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for about a month. Thaw, reheat, and serve with new and fresh pita or flatbread.
Thareed - A Middle Eastern Dish
- 1 kg boneless stewing lamb or beef, cut into cubes
- 3 medium-sized onions chopped roughly
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 2 tsps baharat (mixed spices)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 cups chopped peeled tomatoes
- 1 30- ml pack tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 medium-sized potatoes or sweet potatoes, quartered
- 1 medium-sized zucchini cut up
- 1 cup pumpkin or carrots cut into 2-inch squares
- 2 medium-sized eggplants quartered and soaked in water for 20 minutes
Gently fry onions and garlic in ghee until transparent, a bit golden.
Add meat cubes and stir until all the red juices are drained.
Add baharat, tomatoes, salt and pepper and chopped parsley (leaving a little for garnishing later), cook over medium heat till the meat are tender (about 1-1/2 hours).
Add the vegetables and continue to simmer till they are soft, close to limp - about 30 minutes over medium heat.
Place meat, vegetables and sauce over torn Arabic bread or steamed white rice and garnish with chopped parsley.