So, you saw what the tripe looked like when I got it back from the butchers. It wasn’t pretty and it smelled bad! As a result, it took forever to clean. I rinsed it in what seemed like a hundred changes of cold water and every time I changed the water, I had to hold my breath. As the dirty water poured into the sink, the smell became more intense. But the stink eventually subsided and the tripe started to whiten and look clean — I also stripped the strips of fat and muck off and scraped the dirty fuzz. And in a final push to get rid of the smell, I added a little Ecover dishwahsing soap to the water and washed the tripe as if it were a piece of cloth. The interesting thing was that one stomach cleaned really well while the other didn’t. It didn’t really matter. One was enough.
Then came the fun part. Preparing tripe for ghammeh (Arabic for stuffed tripe and intestines) is a little like dressmaking and you need the same tools of the trade: scissors, thread and needle. I had never done it before but I had watched my mother make ghammeh many times and I cut up the tripe the way she did, in good-sized well-shaped pieces that were neither too small nor too large to have nice-looking parcels once the tripe was stuffed and cooked. Mine were a little smaller than my mother’s.
The brown stomach is the one that did not clean properly. I guess I could have tried a little harder to scrape the fuzz off but I was too exhausted by then!
I made the stuffing before starting with my haute couture sewing. My mother uses fresh tomatoes but she lives in Lebanon where tomatoes are good half of the year. I had to use canned tomatoes for more flavour. I also toyed with the idea of using pre-cooked chickpeas preserved in glass jars but because the tripe takes a long time to cook, I worried they might go mushy and decided to soak some. It was the right call. The chickpeas cooked to perfection, and softened up without becoming mushy. And even though the making of the tripe parcels took forever, I rather liked the exercise and I hope you will too. Be careful though not to overstuff the parcels. The rice expands during cooking and will be too dry if you use too much stuffing.
Ghammeh is always cooked with raw lamb’s feet for a rich broth but I think the ones in the picture were pre-cooked. They are not so presentable once cooked, so, I take the gelatinous bits of meat off the bone and cut them in small dainty pieces to add to the broth which I season with a little crushed garlic and lemon juice just before serving. Ghammeh may not be the prettiest dish despite my best efforts at making it so but it is incredibly delicious and totally worth the effort, if you like tripe that is!
Stuffed Lamb’s Tripe (Ghammeh)
In Lebanon you buy both tripe and intestines already cleaned but this is not to say that you won’t need to wash them again. In fact, you have to wash them in several changes of lightly soapy water and then rinse them very well so as to get rid of the slightly off taste. I give the recipe here for both stomach and intestines. It’s easy to find intestines in Lebanon but I didn’t even try to ask my butcher here. Halve the amounts for the stuffing if you are using only one stomach. Serves 6-8
For the stuffing
200 g chick peas, soaked overnight in plenty cold water with 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
450 g short-grain Egyptian or Calasparra rice
2 x 800 g Italian canned tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
500 g onions (about 2 large ones)
500 g minced lamb from the neck
2 teaspoons ground seven-pepper mixture (or allspice)
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
sea salt to taste
4 trotters, singed and washed
2 cinnamon sticks
1 medium-sized lamb’s stomach, washed, rinsed and cut into pieces half the size of an A4 sheet of paper, you should have 6-7 pieces
1 full intestine, stripped of part of its fat, washed the same way as the tripe and left whole
Drain and rinse the chick peas then rub them with the teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Leave for 15-20 minutes then rinse well. The purpose of this operation is to soften the chickpeas further and hence shorten their cooking time.
Rinse the rice, drain and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients for the stuffing and mix well.
Put the trotters in a large pot. Cover well with water and place over medium-high heat. As the water is about to boil, skim it clean then add the cinnamon sticks, cover and cook for 1-1/2 hours.
Sew one and a half side of the pieces of tripe to create a pouch. Fill these with the stuffing, making sure they are only three quarters full. The rice will expand during cooking and you need to leave space for it to fill the pouches. Sew up the open ends and set aside.
Now start filling the intestine. This job is quite fiddly, especially when you get to the thin end. Take one end of the intestine and invert a short length. Push a little stuffing into it with your finger. As you are doing this, more of the intestine will pull up for you to fill. Again you want to fill the intestine loosely as the rice will expand. Tie each end of the intestine securely with a thread and rinse again.
Add the stuffed tripe and intestines to the trotters. Add more water to cover if necessary and salt to taste and cook for 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Serve very hot with some of the broth on the side. You can, if you want, season the accompanying broth with a little crushed garlic and lemon juice.
©Anissa Helou, from Offal, The Fifth Quarter