There may be nothing elegant about pouring hot meat and broth over a plateful of bread, yet around the world such humble fare is regarded as savoury, satisfying comfort food at its best. In Morocco, you’ll find chicken and lentils served this way; in Iraq, chicken and chickpeas and in the UAE, lamb and vegetables. In Italy, a number of soups are ladled over bread, while in America, roast beef and gravy ‘sandwiches’ might be presented in similar fashion.
Tharid – A One Dish Meal
Meat and bread dishes date back centuries, if not thousands of years. Not only can references for such stews be found in medieval cookbooks and texts, but tharid, a meat dish served communally on top of a platter of bread, was known to be the favourite meal of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). As Abdullah ibn Abbas said, “The food the Apostle of Allah (SAW) liked best was tharid made from bread and tharid made from Hays.” (Sunan Abudawud)
In fact, the Prophet (SAW) is famously quoted as saying, “The superiority of ‘Aisha to other ladies is like the superiority of tharid to other meals.” (Bukhari)
From another hadith, we learn that, on at least one occasion, the tharid served to the Prophet r included gourds along with the meat.
Likewise, modern day versions of tharid typically feature lamb, beef or poultry stewed with either beans or vegetables. Seasonings vary from one country to another. In some cuisines the consistency may be as thin as soup while, in others, it’s as thick as stew. In Morocco, the word trid (assumed to have derived from tharid) describes a traditional preparation of meat or poultry served atop shredded bread, while in Iraq, meat and bread dishes may be referred to as tharid, taghrib or tashreeb.
Talbina – A Soup, Condiment and Cure
In the time of the Prophet (SAW), tharid wasn’t always served plain – it might also be garnished with a healthy quantity of talbina, a barley flour-based soup with the consistency of yoghurt. Tharid prepared this way was a traditional meal offered to a bereaved family, while talbina itself was believed to be beneficial for the sick. The Prophet (SAW) said: “At-talbina gives rest to the heart of the patient and makes it active and relieves some of his sorrow and grief.” (Bukhari)
Modern science shows that barley is indeed good for our health. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, barley is also low in fat and significantly high in fibre. Not only does the soluble fibre in barley help reduce cholesterol and help slow sugar absorption, but the insoluble fibre in barley may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers, according to www.barleyfoods.org.
Make Your Own Talbina
Talbina is easy to make. Simply cook one tablespoon of barley flour in one cup of milk or water for about 15 minutes or until thick, stirring several times while the mixture simmers over low heat. If desired, stir in a little honey to sweeten the mixture to taste. Serve plain or spooned over tharid.
Although we don’t know precisely how the tharid enjoyed by the Prophet (SAW) was prepared, you can replicate his favourite meal by serving any soup or stew of your choice over slices of day old bread, shredded pita or torn flatbread. Or, try the curry-style tharid recipe below.
Iraqi Tharid with Chicken – Tashreeb Djaj
(Serves 4 to 6)
• 1 whole chicken, cut into 4 to 8 pieces
• 4 tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 or 2 onions, chopped
• 4 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2 or 3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
• small bunch of cilantro (coriander ), chopped
• 1 to 2 tbsp curry powder
• 1½ tsp salt, or to taste
• ½ tsp black pepper, or to taste
• ½ tsp turmeric
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
• 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 6 servings of pita, naan or other bread
1. Wash and pat the chicken dry. If desired, remove and discard the skin.
2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. In batches, brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken from the oil and set aside.
3. Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, coriander and spices. Cook for several minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften.
4. Return the chicken to the pot and add the water and broth. Bring the liquids to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Add the chickpeas and potatoes (and a little more water to cover if necessary – you’ll want ample broth) and continue simmering until the potatoes are cooked and the chickpeas are heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
5. On a large serving platter or in individual bowls, make a bed of broken or torn bread. Arrange the chicken in the middle and spoon the sauce, chickpeas and potatoes over all. Serve immediately.
Christine (Amina) Benlafquih writes on varied topics including religion, food, health and culture. You can find more of her writing on the web at Moroccan Food at About.com (http://moroccanfood.about.com).