Nayyir Al-Fakka (Arabesque Shepherd’s Pie)

(originally published to my Facebook Notes on 27 June 2011)

This is a thing I’ve been making for awhile, inspired by something in Claudia Roden‘s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. My old friend and schoolmate, Cas Marino, got me thinking about Middle Eastern food today with all his talk of shawarma, so I had to make it today.

Nayyir Al-Fakka* (Arabesque Shepherd’s Pie)

Serves 4-6

1 good sized onion, finely chopped (A “good sized” onion is somewhere between medium and large in my book.)

4-6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. EVOO (damn you Rachel Ray), or 4 Tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)

2 oz. pine nuts (Make sure they’re fresh. Stale nuts are the pits, and will ruin the whole dish.)

1.25 lbs. ground beef or ground lamb (That was the size of the package I had, but a little more, a little less won’t kill you. Today’s package was 85% lean. I didn’t do the shopping, alright? In my world, only 80% lean enters the house.)

2 oz. raisins (or more. More is good.)

4 oz. baby peas (Frozen is fine. Nobody wants to sit there and pick peapods, do they?)

(You know, I was just thinking. Olives would be pretty good in here, too. I don’t have any today, though.)

1 c. beef stock or lamb stock

1/4 c. dry sherry (Totally not halal, ’cause it’s got alcohol in it, so leave it out if you like.)

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (Not sure if red wine vinegar is halal, I’m not Muslim, here, so cut me a break, will ya? Go ask your local imam if you’re nervous about it, or use tomato paste.)

1 Tbsp. flour

4 Tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)

1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. salt (if there’s no other salt in the other ingredients, already, less if there is)

batch of mashed potatoes (I admit to using instant here, enough for 6-8 servings as per the recipe on the box. I *so* can’t be arsed to make mashed potatoes from scratch unless it’s a holiday.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, saute the onion over medium heat in the olive oil or butter until golden, add garlic and pine nuts, saute a bit more until fragrant. Add ground beef or lamb, and cook thoroughly. Add raisins and peas, continue cooking a bit more. Add spices, and stir until combined thoroughly. Add stock, flour, butter, vinegar, and sherry, and cook a bit more, stirring until well incorporated. Test seasonings, and correct if necessary.

Place mixture in 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish in an even layer. Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes. Bake for 30-45 minutes, uncovered.

Serve. Bask in the adoration.

*Nayyir Al-Fakka translates to “the bright (star) of the broken (ring of stars)”, and is another name for the star Alpha Coronae Borealis, which is also known as “Gemma”.

The Seal of Yin-Haan