Zahra Bil Laban – Cauliflower in Yogurt Sauce

This comforting dish that originated from Palestine always has me feeling back at home. It consists of fried cauliflower florets, homemade yogurt sauce, and tender beef or lamb stew. Served over vermicelli rice. This is the best homemade Middle Eastern dish you will never forget.

A little about Zahra bil laban

Zahra bil laban which translates to, “cauliflower in yogurt sauce.” This was a meal my mother, (may her soul rest) made for me and the family growing up. This dish is so comforting and always hits the spot on a cold winter day. You may think that cooking yogurt is a bit different, however, it is the most creamy and slightly tart soup that compliments the fried cauliflower and tender beef stew.

Main Components of Zahra bil laban

With a few simple ingredients, you will have a comforting and filling Middle Eastern dinner.

  • Head of Cauliflower – One of the main ingredient to this dish is the cauliflower. Deep fried in vegetable oil until the cauliflower is golden brown. This gives the texture a crunch and a sweet nutty flavor.
  • Yogurt – The soup is made of yogurt that is thickened with corn starch, to make the texture creamy. Traditionally, this dish is made with Jameed, which is a hard dry yogurt made from either sheep’s or goats milk. I make this recipe with regular yogurt, since it is readily accessible in all grocery stores.
  • Beef Stew – Cooking the beef stew will make an aromatic infused beef stock that will be cooked in with the yogurt sauce. Adding protein as well will make this dish very filling.
  • Vermicelli Rice – Vermicelli rice is known in Arabic as ruz ma shareeya. It is basically a rice pilaf that consists of roasted vermicelli noodles in olive oil and Basmati rice. This rice pairs perfectly with the stew.

How to make Zahra Bi laban

Follow these step by step instructions, and you will have a delicious and comforting Middle Eastern meal that you’ll never forget.

Frying the Cauliflower

  • You will need 1 large head of Cauliflower. Begin by rinsing the cauliflower with water, and pat dry any excess water.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, pour vegetable oil.
  • Slice the cauliflower, and then break apart the cauliflower so you have smaller pieces. You don’t want big chunks of cauliflower when your frying. Having smaller pieces will fry faster too!
  • Once the oil has reached a high point, carefully add cauliflower and fry until golden brown.
  • Drain on a paper towel plate.

Cooking the beef stew

  • Rinse the stew meat thoroughly with cold water, lemon, and salt.
  • Once you have cleaned your meat properly, place in a large cooking pot, and pour water until the top of the meat.
  • Skim any foam coming out of the water.
  • Add a bay leaf, an onion, whole cloves, salt, pepper, and 7 spices. This will give the stock a lot of flavor.
  • Simmer heat on low until meat is tender. This should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Do not drain the stock because we will cook the stock with the yogurt to make our sauce.

Making the Yogurt Sauce

For the sauce you will need: Exact measurements is listed below.

  • 2 Lb (32 OZ) Plain Whole Milk Yogurt. You can use Stonyfield or Dannon PLAIN yogurt, for this recipe.
  • Reserved meat broth. Should be about 3 cups or 3 1/2 give or take.
  • Whole bulb garlic chopped.
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Cornstarch – This ingredient will allow the soup to thicken and texture to be creamy.
  • Cold Water
  • Salt

How to make Yogurt Sauce

  1. In a small bowl mix cornstarch and cold water together.
  2. In the same pot you used to cook the meat in, keep the meat stock in the pot. Just remember to take the meat out and set it aside. You don’t want overcooked meat.
  3. On medium heat, pour the yogurt, cornstarch mixture over the meat stock and STIR continuously until the sauce is thickens and comes to a slight boil. This requires patience because you don’t want the sauce to separate from the yogurt and broth. So work those arms and STIR.
  4. Once the sauce comes to a boil, reduces on low and add the fried cauliflower florets, and beef stew in the sauce.
  5. On medium heat, pour vegetable on a skillet or small pan. We are going to bring all the flavors together and this will give the sauce a flavorful and aromatic garlic infused with cilantro dressing over the sauce! Saute chopped garlic and cilantro together until garlic is golden in color.
  6. Pour the dressing over the yogurt sauce and all it to cook together for another 10 minutes. Voila!
  7. Serve and enjoy with rice pilaf or vermicelli rice, or just even regular rice!

Zahra Bil Laban – Cauliflower in Yogurt Sauce

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Recipe by Dena Merhi Course: DinnerCuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

25

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 
Calories

300

kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 Cauliflower head

  • Vegetable Oil

  • For the yogurt sauce
  • 1 2 lb Plain yogurt

  • 5 cups Meat Broth

  • 5 tbsp Corn starch

  • 1/2 cup Cold water

  • 8 Garlic cloves chopped

  • Salt

  • 1/2 cup Cilantro chopped

  • For the Beef Stew
  • 1 lb beef or lamb chunks

  • 1 Bay leaf

  • 1 Cinnamon stick

  • 5 Cardamom pods

  • Salt

  • 1 Onion

Directions

  • Cooking the Meat
  • Wash your meat with water. Rinse well and pat dry.
  • In a large pot over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, brown each side of the meat for about 2 minutes.
  • Add water to the meat, reaching few inches over the meat. Let water come to a boil.
  • Once water comes to a boil, you will notice the impurities of the meat on top of the water. Skim off the foamy impurity.
  • Once you skim off all the impurities, add in the bay leaf, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and salt.
  • Cover the pot with lid and lower the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until meat is tender.
  • Once the meat is done cooking, using a colander and bowl, drain the meat broth. Set meat aside and reserve the meat stock.
  • Fry Cauliflower
  • Wash the cauliflower with water and pat dry.
  • In a frying pan add vegetable oil.
  • Cut cauliflower into florets.
  • Fry cauliflower florets until golden. Set on paper towel and set aside.
  • Yogurt Sauce
  • In a small cup mix cornstarch and cold water until well combined.
  • Use the same pot you cooked the meat in and on medium to high heat pour the plain yogurt and cornstarch mixture in together. Mix together.
  • Pour the reserved meat broth and consistently stir the soup until reaches a boil.
  • Once the soup comes to a boil, bring to a simmer and add cooked meat and fried cauliflower florets.
  • Cilantro dressing
  • In a small pan heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil.
  • Saute chopped garlic until half way golden.
  • Add cilantro and mix with the garlic together for about 2 minutes.
  • Pour this dressing over the yogurt sauce and cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Assemble
  • Once yogurt stew is done cooking, serve with vermicelli rice and enjoy!

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