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If you’re looking for true blue Middle Eastern soul-food, you’ve hit the jackpot. This meal will present you with lip-smacking goodness; and the fantastic thing is that tripe is available to us glistening clean these days, in contrast to years of yore, when the homemaker had to repeatedly blanch and scrub the tripe in preparation for cooking.

Tripe pockets need to be formed – so sewing is involved here! (Optionally but not optimally, the seams may be secured with wooden sticks.) The pockets are to be ‘loosely’ filled with the stuffing, for as they cook in the stock (water), the tripe will shrink, thus tightly enclosing the stuffing, and not allowing the rice to become mushy by the lengthy cooking process. Also, no need to be too particular about the size of the stitches – they can be quite large and irregular.

Often, a homemaker will also stuff intestine alongside the tripe. The skill of stuffing intestine has to be witnessed to be learned, so I will not go into detail here; one highlight worth mentioning though, the process of inserting the stuffing into the intestine will turn the intestine inside out. An interesting skill to see!

Traditionally, sheep or goat tripe is used. In North America, we gladly settle with calf tripe. I say ‘gladly’, for I find calf tripe is thicker and meatier, with a preferred ‘bite’ to it. It is advisable to purchase tripe in large sections, then cut it into desired pocket-size. Also, ask your butcher when in the week to best purchase the freshest tripe. If you’re buying tripe already sectioned – they’re offered in trays – it’s best to pick honeycomb sections. And never purchase tripe if it isn’t glistening white and appetizingly fresh!

Happy cooking!

calf tripe including honeycomb section – 40cm to 45cm in diameter (approx.) or about the size of the circle formed by your hands in front of you

FILLING
375 mL (1 1/2 cups) long or medium grain rice
1 kg (2 pounds) beef or lamb, coarsely ground, (preferably cut into small grape-size pieces)
40 mL (3 tbsp) melted butter
10 mL (2 tsp) salt
5 mL (1 tsp) black pepper
5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon
10 mL (2 tsp) allspice
3 mL (3/4 tsp) nutmeg – not to be omitted

Water
Salt
3 – 4 bay leaves

SAUCE
1 L (4 cups) natural yogurt
15 mL (1 tbsp) cornstarch
7 mL (1 ½ tsp) salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) black pepper
2 mL (1/2 tsp) nutmeg (not to be omitted)
1 mL (1/4 tsp) cinnamon
500 mL (2 cups) tripe stock

Wash tripe thoroughly and lay flat on a wooden board. Remove – by pulling out excess fibers of fat. Carefully ease a sharp knife into stuck-up folds (if present) to further thin out and expand it. Cut tripe into portions, that will allow you to form pockets approximately the size of your hand or larger.

Make filling by washing rice under running water. Drain. Add meat, butter, 10 mL (2 tsp) salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg! Combine thoroughly.

Insert lengths of ‘white’ thread into several needles and put aside. To make a pocket, fold a piece of tripe (the smooth fatty side on the inside) and using big stitches, sew the seams together, leaving an opening to put the filling through. Insert the rice filling through the opening until the pocket is only three quarters full, and complete the stitching of the pocket. Do likewise with the rest of the pockets. Lay filled pockets on a wooden board. With the tip of a sharp knife stab both sides of each pocket in three or four spots.

Pour a generous amount of water into a very large pot. Add salt and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Place the stuffed pockets into the pot and bring to the boil. Skim and discard lather that forms. Lower heat, cover pot and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours. Scoop out the pockets (save the stock) and lay pockets in a deep oven-proof tray.

Measure yogurt into a cooking pot. Add cornstarch, spices and tripe stock. (Read notes below.) Place over medium high heat and continuously stirring bring to the boil. Lower heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, for 2 – 3 minutes.

Pour sauce over tripe pockets. (If you have too much sauce for the size of your tray, do not fret, spoon it later over individual servings.) Place tray under broiler and broil pockets until golden brown. Turn over and broil other side also.
Serve warm.

To serve: Make sure your family is seated and ready. Bring your work of art to the table. Soak up all of the praise!

Place a pocket on a wooden board. Pull out the sewn thread. Scoop out the filling and place into a large serving bowl. With a sharp knife, slice the tripe into bite size pieces and add to the rice. Spoon some yoghurt sauce over the rice and mix. Serve individually.

It is excellent as a left over.

Note 1: Refrigerate the leftover stock. You may need it to make more sauce for the leftovers; this often happens in our household.

Note 2: If you run short of sauce, spoon plain yogurt over individual servings.

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