ghammeh-finished copy

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.

ghammeh-tools of the trade copy

ghammeh-cutting tripe

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!

ghammeh-stuffing copy

ghammeh-sowing & stuffing

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-feet copy

ghammeh-in the pan

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!

ghammeh-cut open copy

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

To finish

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

There is 20 comments on this post

  • Anissa I adore the haute couture triperie. Perhaps you have a new career at the borders of fashion and offal cookery… the Coco CHARNEL of London?

  • this is very funny fuchsia, i should suggest designing a tripe dress for lady gaga!! what do you think 🙂

  • I am pleased to say I love the look of the finished tripe dish. The consommé is such a brilliant accompaniment. You are showing many skills in the assembly of this fine dish, I’m almost tempted to have a go myself!

  • you should 🙂 let me know how it turns out if you do…

  • I have recently made Richard Olney’s tripe gratin a few times, though where he puts the pigs-feet in whole, I usually make ‘trotter gear’ beforehand. I’ve been buying washed tripe. I’m always slightly put off by all that washing with the green kind. I don’t know why people are so uptight about tripe generally – it has a very satisfying soothing taste to me.

  • i like tripe too although i didn’t relish all the washing 🙂 and i prefer lamb’s to ox.

  • Je tire mon chapeau devant le boulot réalisé, waooow

  • merci marie claire 🙂

  • I love you for this post. I want to do this. I think I might start with the washing up liquid though first off. I have heard about the smell. It sounds as arduous as the time I butchered and blooded 3 hares! Will let you know how I get on whenever I do…

  • hey, thanks tommi. yes, it was a smelly afternoon and a hard morning’s work the following day but the result was totally worth it. i made it again with cleaner tripe but they had bleached it so the result was not so good. am really impressed by you butchering and bloodying 3 hares. wow. result must have been delicious. we must cook together 🙂 x

  • Thanks for always being so informative. My gran always used to make when they lived on the farm but my mom never learnt how. I have noted that the folks from Bsharre and Hadeth el Joubbe don’t use tomato and chickpeas. I tried it as you have and it was very well received.

  • delighted to hear this mike. and yes, some people don’t use tomatoes. didn’t know about the chickpeas. i like them in this dish because they add texture whereas i don’t like them in vegetarian stuffed vegetables. in fact, i made my mom change her recipe to accomodate my preference 🙂 she now always makes meshshi silq, kussa, batinjen and warak ‘enab qate’ without chickpeas. she doesn’t seem to mind 🙂

  • Please can tell me where I can buy cleaned lambs tripe in London thank you

  • Please can you tell me where I can buy cleaned lambs tripe

  • I love ghammeh!! I also am very happy to stumble upon your blog, which made me by your offal book 🙂

  • glad to hear this tonia. hope you enjoy it 🙂

  • My grandmother used to cook the ghamma in the back garden so we were spared the smell of the cooking as they also skimmed the froth off the top of the boiling liquid. To make an attractive service both she and my aunt would remove the stuffing and create a rice-stuffing ring in the centre of which they placed the diced tripe and chopped trotters and intestines. They also reduced the remaining broth with a white wine to create a rich sauce. (They always used lamb’s tripes – hence the white wine in the sauce.)

  • I absolutely adore ghammeh! My favorite part are the stuffed intestines, you’re right, it isn’t a pretty dish, but it is a very soulful and comforting dish.

  • When our mother made the tripe, she used lamb stomach. The filling did not have tomatoes but had rice, lamb, chick peas and allspice. When finished, she cut up the balls in quarters, put them in a baking pan with some of the broth, a layer of yogurt and toasted Syrian bread. Then she baked it for a while. It was so delicious.

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