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MIDDLE EAST

Judaism, was also largely avoided by the Christians of the region. Beef was generally considered to be an inferior meat, consumed, if at all, by the poorer classes. This may reflect the quality of the beef it was possible to produce on the sparse pastures of the region. Beef, however, was considered suitable for certain dishes, such as harissa, a porridge of pounded grain and meat. Camel meat was consumed in some parts, but is not so commonly now.

Prominent among the meat preparations were the grilled meats, kebabs, which distinguish the region. There is a wide variety of these grills, with many regional specialties and styles. The most common are the cubed cuts on skewers, known as shish kebab in most places, but tikka in Iraq (and India). Chicken may also be grilled in the same fashion. Another common variety is kofta ke- bab (kebab kobedeh in Iran, or just kebab in Iraq), made from ground meat, sometimes with onions and spices, shaped around the skewer like a long sausage and grilled. A popular kebab of recent origin is the doner kebab, also known as shawarma in much of the Arab world (gass in Iraq). It is either layers of meat and fat or a shaped ground meat loaf, placed on a large skewer that rotates vertically next to a strong heat source that cooks the outside crisp. The cooked outside pieces are then sliced off and served with bread and salad. There are many other types of ke- bab: ribs, thin slices of meat wrapped around a skewer; small cubes of liver, kidney, and sweetbreads, sometimes alternating on a skewer with cubes of fat (kofte or liver); wrapped in caul fat, like a sausage, and many others.

Kebab is typically a street or restaurant food, served with bread (rice in Iran), salad, and pickles. It is not usu- ally prepared in domestic kitchens. In recent years, ke- bab, and especially the doner/shawarma variety, have become regular features of fast-food joints in European and American cities.

Meat and vegetable stews, served with rice, bulgur, or bread, are the other genre of typical meat preparation in the region. A typical domestic meal for those who can afford meat would be a stew of lamb in butter or oil, with onion, tomato (usually as paste), and spices with one veg- etable, such as okra, beans, or aubergine (eggplant). Of- ten poorer families would use little meat, usually on a large bone, to flavor the stew. There are many variations on this theme, including the distinguished Iranian stew of korma sabzi, of lamb in butter and a mixture of green herbs minced fine, as well as whole dried limes, often with the addition of red kidney beans or split peas.

Offal, tripe, heads, and feet are much appreciated in many quarters. A typical broth found in practically all parts of the region is kelle pacha, made with sheep heads and feet. This is typically found at a street or specialized restau- rant, which is often open all night or very early in the morning, catering to early-rising workers for breakfast, and to revelers after a night of partying and drinking.

Kibbe (Syria) or kubba (Iraq) is a genre of pie or dumpling made with meat and cereal. The most common

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are made with ground meat (typically lamb) and burghul, worked together like a dough, then stuffed with minced meat that has been fried with onion, aromatics, and, sometimes, pine nuts or almonds and raisins. This can either be in the form of individual small dumplings (usu- ally shaped like a torpedo), or in slices like a cake, baked on an oven tray with the stuffing placed between two lay- ers of the dough. In the form of small dumplings, this can also be cooked in a sauce with vegetables. One strik- ing variation is a kibbe niyye, raw kibbe, made by pound- ing lean meat and burghul together with seasoning, which is then served as small dumplings, sometimes with dips of lemon juice and chili sauce. In Anatolia this genre is known as kofte, in common with other ground meat ris- soles: the stuffed version is called icli kofte, and the raw one is cig kofte. In Iraq and Iran, there are versions of this dumpling made with rice instead of burghul.

Poultry. Chicken is ubiquitous in the region. Squab pi- geon is eaten in some parts, notably Egypt and Morocco. Wild fowl, especially duck, quail, and pheasant, are ap- preciated by some, especially in the Caspian region of Iran, but also in many other parts where there is a tradi- tion of hunting.

In the past, before the introduction of industrial pro- duction of chicken, these birds were tough, and were gen- erally boiled and stewed, often in sauces and vegetables, just like meat. If they were to be fried, they would be boiled first (in pieces), then finished in a frying pan in oil or butter. A banquet dish would be chicken stuffed with rice or some other grain with meats, nuts, and aromat- ics, then stewed or baked in butter and further aromat- ics. Modern battery hens are tender and do not require boiling or long cooking. But old habits persist, especially in domestic kitchens, though many cooks are now roast- ing and frying their chickens.

In Egypt, pigeon is served grilled (after being spatch- cocked, or opened flat) or stuffed, typically with rice or firik, and baked or stewed.

Wild fowl are cooked in a similar fashion as chicken. One unique dish of wild duck comes from Caspian Iran and is called faisanjoun. The pieces of duck are stewed in a sauce of pomegranate syrup and walnuts. This dish has now become popular all over Iran and in parts of Iraq, but chicken is substituted for the duck. Iranians regard it as one of their foremost national dishes.

Fish cookery and consumption tend to follow spe- cific local tastes and styles, depending on local varieties, forms of fishery, and, sometimes, religious beliefs. Even the names given to the same fish vary widely, and in Mediterranean regions, often follow Greek or Italian de- rivations. Fried or grilled fish are the most common, as indeed elsewhere in the world. However, local styles are important even for simple grilling. In Baghdad, for in- stance, Tigris fisherman developed a method of grilling the local carp and barble (called shabbout, and highly val- ued, now almost extinct), by opening the fish flat, like a

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