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Debbie Rogers
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Jordan ~ Zarb at Wadi Rum

Traditional Zarb Dinner

The sun had just set and the evening chill was just starting to kick in as we sat beside a campfire whilst traditional Zarb cooked in pits below us. Wadi Rum is stunning at sunset and for a while we all just let the atmosphere soak in as we explore our setting for dinner and sip on hot coffee then chilled champagne. A fantastic start to our dinner. 

A traditional Beduin dinner experience

Wadi Rum is just a 90-minute drive from our hotel and we arrived at sunset just in time to enjoy sundowners of crisp dry champagne to toast the sunset and celebrate our trip to Jordan.  We also drink coffee from gold coffee pots which are ornate and heavy. The coffee is scented with cardamon and hits the spot perfectly.

We are seated in a raised majlis beside a central fire which warms the cold desert air.  We are visitors for the evening at a Beduin campsite where it’s possible to stay over.  Tonight we are not staying over, but I would love to come back and experience this place for longer. 

Tonight’s dinner is a traditional Zarb dinner. The Zarb is a Beduin underground Barbeque and consists of lamb and vegetables which are cooked underground.

In front of our majlis are three raised mounds in the sand.  Each mound contains a zarb which has been cooking for a few hours.  Zarbs are the traditional Beduin way of cooking and are essentially pits in the ground with hot coal on the bottom. On top of this is placed a three tiered metal shelf like system called a Barbeque rack.  On the bottom shelf is the lamb or other meat and then the vegetables are on the top two shelves.  This is then covered by a lid and topped with hot coals. The lamb has been cooking for about three hours.  There’s no aroma of food as the zarb is sealed. Instead three-tiered high level of anticipation as we have been eagerly waiting to see zarb. Whilst waiting for the zarb to finish we are given a quick lesson on cooking as our Chef who makes Galayet Bandora

 

In front of our majlis are three raised mounds in the sand.  Each mound contains a zarb which has been cooking for a few hours.  Zarbs are the traditional Beduin way of cooking and are essentially pits in the ground with hot coal on the bottom. On top of this is placed a three tiered metal shelf like system called a Barbeque rack.  On the bottom shelf is the lamb or other meat and then the vegetables are on the top two shelves.  This is then covered by a lid and topped with hot coals. The lamb has been cooking for about three hours.  There’s no aroma of food as the zarb is sealed. Instead three-tiered high level of anticipation as we have been eagerly waiting to see zarb. Whilst waiting for the zarb to finish we are given a quick lesson on cooking as our Chef who makes Galayet Bandora.

Galayet Bandora

Galayet Bandora is made over a roaring fire in a heavy pan, ripe Jordanian tomatoes are cooked slowly with Jordanian olive oil, Garlic, green chilli, and onions until it makes a deliciously rich and hearty tomato sauce.  The team also made two different types of traditional Jordanian bread for us which was fantastic at mopping up the rich Galayet Bandora.

Galayet Bandora Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Good slug of olive oil – be generous if you are using good olive oil
  • Sliced white onions – lots
  • 1 or 2 Green chillies
  •  Ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped – equal amount as the onions

Method

  • Heat the olive oil
  • Add the onions and green chilli and cook on a low heat until soft and not coloured
  • Add the tomatoes and continue to stir on a low heat until the tomatoes are soft and have lost their shape/texture
  • Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to season

Recipe “guesstimate” after watching it being made on the campfire.

 

 

 Unearthing the Zarb

After some time, we get a call to let us know that the zarb is ready and we huddle around the zarb area to watch the team carefully excavate the mound of sand and raise the zarb out of the ground.  Once the foil is pierced, the smell is amazing and the air is filled with an intoxicating smell of roasted meat and veggies. We are in awe of the guys who skilfully remove the hot sand from the pit along with all of the lamb and vegetables without spilling a thing.

The proof, as they say, is in the eating! And eat we do!

It’s been worth the wait, tender lamb, rice, rich Galayet Bandora, Zarb with a buried treasure trove of lamb and vegetables, and crispy bread hit the spot alongside Arabic salads, tabbouleh, hummus and oh so hot and flaky Arabic bread.  Suddenly all chatter around the fire dies down as we tuck into a gorgeous meal, simple in ingredients, but so deliciously tasty, tender, succulent and fresh a real desert fireside Beduin treat.

The result is tender succulent lamb which literally melts in your mouth. Tasting slightly smoky, rich and slightly fatty, the meat is shredded by hand. Served over a bed of rice then surrounded by the vegetables which have been cooked on shelves above the meat and are usually slightly charred and extremely tasty.  A side of Galayet Bandora (a simple rich tomato, garlic and olive oil sauce). Served with a crispy bread which makes a perfect desert dinner served in the most stunning of settings, Wadi Rum

 

JORDANIAN PANCAKES

As if all of the above wasn’t enough, we are treated to a traditional dessert, which came in the form of a water and flour mixture which was made into a thick batter.  Cooked like pancakes, a pile of these were stacked high, each layer spread with butter.  Once stacked they were cut into wedges and simply covered with some sugar. This simple dessert provided the final ending to an amazing traditional Jordanian/Beduin meal.

Simple | Tasty | Traditional

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Jordan ~ Zarb at Wadi Rum

time to read: 4 min