Salaam ya'll! My zawj 3abdullah is originally from Libya and I decided I wanted to try my hand at some Libyan food. I love to cook and I really love to take care of my family so I thought this would be a perfect way to show him I care about his culture and heritage.
Libya isn't reknowned for it's cuisine. It has simple, fresh whole foods, lots of seafood and grains, breads, veggies and fruits . It has influences from Italy (which you can see in the way they use tomatoes to make thick rich sauces and noodle dishes) and of course from Arabic and African cuisine as well. So culinarily speaking the country is a bit of a melting pot. It was a little difficult to find recipes that appealed to my taste buds and were authentically Libyan.
Enter mb'atten! This is a delicious little stuffed-potato sandwich. Normally you would take a peeled potato and slice it to within a half inch or so of the bottom to make a nice little potato pocket to hold your meat and veggie filling. One potato would make 3 to 5 sandwiches. However, being ummi to 14 month old active Aami I decided to make "mb'atten unstuffed" or lazy mb'atten, whichever way you want to look at it. :-) The original deep-fried stuffed potato recipe was just too time-intensive and I also felt a wee bit guilty about all that yummy deep frying.
I enjoy taking photos of the foods I prepare so I already had photos of this delish dish. Also just so you know, I have absolutely NO qualms about taking a dish and making it my own. So I might add grated carrots or spinach to a dish if I think it will taste good, add needed color, or make it a bit more nutritious.
Also I would normally put in a picture tutorial however Blogger has made it difficult so I think for this post I'll just use the end-result pic. BTW, when my zawj saw the photo of it he said, "Hyati, that looks very delicious but.....that is NOT mb'atten!" lol Guess I should have explained my process first!
Before you start, take 1-2 cups of basmati rice and rinse 3 times in hot water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes and then prepare as normal. For me, that means I empty the 3rd rinse water and add a mere 1 1/4 cups of water or chicken broth for every cup of SOAKED rice. A bit of salt, butter and turmeric for color are musts for me. I also often add some cardamom pods and cinnamon stick at this point at well. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, cover and cook til the liquid is absorbed (12 to 15 minutes insha'Allah).
OK on to the recipe!
1. Finely dice your onion and green pepper. It really doesn't matter how much or how little. :-) I am a home cook, not a chef or a baker and I don't deal in absolutes. I used one large onion and one large green pepper. Adjust it to suit your tastes.
2. Sautee your aromatics (in this case garlic and ginger) in a skillet over medium heat for approx. 3 to 5 minutes. Let it get nicely browned but not too dark.
3. Add your onions and green pepper and allow to sautee for an additional 3 minutes or so.
4. Next place the meat in the skillet. I used ground beef but of course you could substitute ground lamb or even turkey. Make it yours! I also add a couple of cinnamon sticks at this point; what a great flavor and depth it adds.
5. Salt and pepper your dish now as well.
6. Peel your potatoes (I used 4 good sized ones) and cut in half lengthwise. Then slice into 1/8 inch slices. You want them to be nice and soft insha'allah when the dish is done. Sprinkle some turmeric on them if you like a nice yellow color. We do.
7. Place potatoes in the skillet with your meat mixture. I also add some chopped, thawed spinach but you can use of course fresh or canned. I prefer frozen for the quality and ease of prep. :-) I also sometimes add grated carrots at this step too; just do what feels right!
8. Cover your skillet and cook for about 30 minutes, CAREFULLY stirring ocassionally. Take care to not break up your potatoes.
9. Heat until your potatoes are thoroughly cooked and then either mix this with your rice or serve side by side. I often also offer yogurt with this on the side.
10. Say "Bismillahir-rahmanir-raheem" and ENJOY!