An Egyptian Stew For Your Best Beach Day
Shared by Nir Mesika
Recipe Roots: Egypt > France > Israel
Nir Mesika, chef-owner of the restaurant Timna in New York City, grew up in a beach town near Haifa called Kiryat Motzkin, right on the Mediterranean coast. The son of a Moroccan mother and an Egyptian father, Nir grew up with rich culinary influences, even though they may at first glance seem at odds with one another. His mother, Yafa, was born in Casablanca to a religious Jewish family, while his father, Jackie Mesika, was the son of a cosmopolitan Egyptian couple from Cairo that loved seafood and didn’t have much regard for kosher laws (the first time Nir tasted lobster was at his Nonna Ruby’s house).
Like many Israeli kids that grew up by the sea, Nir would spend his spare time surfing. But before Nir would embark on a day at the beach, he’d sit down with his family to a big lunch that his mother would make every Saturday. The crowded table always included some form of okra, a common Egyptian ingredient that was a staple in the Masika household. Nir was especially fond of okra in the leftovers of a rich Sabbath stew made with short ribs and served with rice, which his mom had cooked for dinner the night before. Yafa learned the beef and okra stew from her mother-in-law, and continued on the tradition in her family. It may seem counterintuitive to eat stew when it’s warm enough to surf, but Nir recalls it being an excellent source of energy for a day spent in the sun.
Egyptian Short Rib & Okra Stew with Tomatoes and Fragrant Rice
Time: 3.5 hours
For the stew:
2 ¼ lbs. of boneless short ribs
¼ cup + 3 tablespoons canola oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 tablespoons tomato paste
¾ lb. vine ripe tomatoes, quartered
1.5 cups water
1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
1 small jalapeño, sliced into ⅛ “ rounds
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lb okra, stems trimmed
1 bunch of fresh mint
For the rice:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup basmati rice
1.5 cups boiling water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
For the stew:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cut ribs into 2 inch cubes and season all sides with salt and pepper.
3. Add oil to large heavy bottom pot and heat over medium-high heat. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes, adding garlic cloves as meat is nearly browned.
4. Remove meat from pot and add tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes in small batches, squeezing and juicing them into pan before adding.
5. Add 1.5 cups of water, the juice of ½ a lemon, paprika, bay leaf, and 3-5 slices of jalapeno. Add meat back to pot, spacing evenly. Sprinkle with the sugar. Turn heat down to low and simmer uncovered on low while preparing the okra.
6. Lightly fry the okra: heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium pan over high heat, add okra, tossing until bright green and lightly blistered, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, toss with ¼ teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
7. Add okra to pot, spacing evenly around the meat. Add 6-10 mint leaves, cover and bake in the oven for 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes. If liquid reduces too much add water.
8. After 2 hours, the meat should be very tender when stuck with a knife. At this point, uncover and broil for 10-12 minutes, until dark and caramelized.
9. Remove from oven. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with a handful of mint leaves, and serve warm with rice.
Keeps for 5 days stored in airtight container. Even better the next day!
For the rice:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat in a small sauce pan. Add rice and stir, toasting until the rice grains are too hot to touch. Add bay leaves, coriander, and 1.5 cups of boiling water.
2. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover and let cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.
3. Remove rice from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Gently fluff rice with spoon, then cover and let rest until ready to serve.
When choosing okra, you want to make sure that it is crisp and not soggy. Nir recommends piercing the skin of the okra with the thumb nail to check for crispiness. Nir typically uses Thai okra for this dish, which is a little smaller.