Sunday, March 07, 2010

Stuffed Camel for Book Club Meeting

Mid April we're off to Syria (Damascus, Aleppo, Krac), Lebanon (actually just Beirut) and Jordan (Amman, Petra, Dead Sea). Our bedside tables are collecting teetering piles of Frommers and Lonely Planet guides. I've ordered a couple of novels set in the region for background reading. Better and more sophisticated choices would be history tomes, but I'm currently not in the mood for that kind of research. A feel for the culture is the most I can attempt so I know what to look for with this quick peek. There is an "Idiots Guide to the Middle East Conflict" but I don't think it would be illuminating for the kinds of touristy things we are planning to see, like the lost city of Petra and the souk in Damascus both  pictured below.

Richard's niece is married to a Syrian with a wonderful, loving, extroverted family. French is their language of choice and at holidays, when you walk into a room where the effusive and vivacious Syrians have gathered, gesticulation is rampant, laughter is loud and you can hear multiple melodic conversations in soprano and basso profundo voices and everything in between. Nobody stands still; kids run around your legs. Food is everywhere; wine flows freely. How dull we were until the lucky marriage that mashed us all together.

They are putting us in touch with a guide (long time family friend in Aleppo) and if all the schedules work out, he will drive and guide us during our visit. Any scraps of spare time I can find at the moment have been spent online looking at hotels (we hope to stay in the below pictured B&B in Aleppo, restaurants (for the basics) and the many travel blogs (for itineraries) being kept by young people who are in Syria to learn Arabic - apparently the cost of living is cheap enough to attract students and there are plenty of teachers available. As it's only a 4 hour plane ride from London to Damascus, the country is popular for vacations for Brits and for scholarship. The amount of writing on the net about traveling in the area is amazing.

As usual, I'll be on the lookout for interesting foods, but eating will rank low on our priorities for this trip. Two of the items I will be looking for are:

1. Aleppo pepper which has suddenly become one of the darlings of the culinary world. It's a red pepper flake which is apparently not too hot with plenty of flavor and rich fruity notes. 

2. Camel 

The camel has a single hump;
The dromedary, two;
Or else the other way around.
I'm never sure. Are you?

Ogden Nash

Recipes for camel always start with the basics: Find yourself a good looking medium size camel. Remove the rider; dust off coat, clean feet carefully (I'm picky about this). Whisper sweet nothings in both ears and then bonk on the head, hard. It's much easier to proceed with the recipes if the camel is unconscious or preferably dead. 
Here's a typical (slightly modified) recipe from RecipeBazaar: 

Whole Stuffed Camel for Book Club

SERVES 1 hungry book club



  1. 1
    Skin, trim and clean camel (once you get over trthe hump - careful with the toenails), lamb and chicken.

  2. 2
    Boil until tender. This could take quite a while.

  3. 3
    Cook rice until fluffy.

  4. 4
    Fry nuts until brown and mix with rice.

  5. 5
    Hard boil eggs and peel.

  6. 6
    Stuff cooked chickens with hard boiled eggs and rice.

  7. 7
    Stuff the cooked lamb with stuffed chickens.

  8. 8
    Add more rice.

  9. 9
    Stuff the camel with the stuffed lamb and add rest of rice.

  10. 10
    Broil over large charcoal pit until brown.

  11. 11
    Spread any remaining rice on large, decorative tray slightly smaller than your car. Place cooked camel on top of rice.

  12. 12
    Decorate with boiled eggs and nuts.

  13. 13
    Smash and jam the tray into your car and drive quickly to the book club meeting. There will be enough for seconds.  


  1. NO, NO, please no camel for book club! Wow, you're travel plans sound great. Can't wait to hear all about it.

  2. Oh oh....I'll have to cancel my order at Major Market.