On my last trip to Nazareth I was invited to eat in the home of a local resident who lives right in the center of this vibrant and colorful city. The hostess made a delicious chicken stuffed with fragrant rice and hand chopped meat which she topped with golden toasted almonds. The rice is known as tatbileh, not to be confused with the lemon, garlic hot pepper sauce of the same name. It is a popular dish among the Arabs of the Galilee, especially for weddings and other celebrations.
This dish is flavored with allspice and cinnamon, dominant in Palestinian and Syrian cuisine. It is also possible to replace these two spices with baharat which is the way I had it in Nazareth.
2 cups rice (I used basmati)
500 grams chunk of beef (in my case leftover steak)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or lamb fat
Cut the meat into very small pieces, about the size of a pea. In a wide bottomed pan fry the meat in vegetable oil or lamb fat until it becomes dark brown. It should lose its redness completely. Wash and drain the rice. Add the rice and spices to the pot. Add three cups of boiling water. Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for another 10 minutes before serving.
This mixture is excellent as it is, served with fresh salad but it also can be used to stuff chicken like the way I had it In Nazareth. If it is used as a stuffing, according to my hostess, the rice needs to be cooked half as long.