Ancient cooking was based on necessity and making do with what is available.Needless to say, food cooked for royalty and food cooked by the peasants varied greatly in contents.
The first would be opulently laced with preserved fruit and luxurious nuts. The latter would be more basic, consisting mostly of meat, onion, and bread.
What might be surprising though, is how delicious peasant food was.
This Iraqi meat simmered in vinegar (لحم بالخل) is as plain as could be, yet you do not need to be a peasant to make it. It is so good that you will find yourself craving it once in a while.
The vinegar lends a delicious tanginess to the dish and tenderizes the meat, even tough cuts, beyond measure. The type vinegar you use will alter the taste of the dish. I used apple cider, but I think balsamic would also be good. I also increased the amount of water used since simmering for an hour with only two cups water will burn the meat.
Adapted from the amazing cookbook/encyclopedia Delights from the Garden of Eden.
2 Tbsp oil
700g boneless meat cubes
1 tsp turmeric
1 onion, sliced
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp chili powdder (optional)
6 cups water
1/3 cup vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp honey
In a heavy medium pot, sauté meat in oil until browned, about 10 minutes.
Add turmeric at the last minute. Remove meat and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and sauté until it softens.
Stir in the flour and chili, until the flour is fragrant.
Add the hot water and vinegar slowly, stirring all the while to prevent clumps (a whisker whould be useful).
Bring to boil, return the meat to the pot, and simmer covered on medium-low heat for about one hour, until the meat is tender and thesauce has thickened.
Remember to give it a stir once a while to prevent sticking.
Add the salt, pepper, and honey about 10 minutes before the dish is fully cooked.
Serve with plain rice.