A Tripolitan specialty enjoyed in Libya and north African countries, mafrum can be made with potatoes as a vessel or other vegetables like cauliflower, beets, and eggplant. Israeli native, chef Asaf Razon hold a special place in his heart for this hearty dish. In fact he loves it so much that he and his wife served this rustic dish at their wedding, held in an alleyway in the jaffa flea market at Dr. Shakshuka.
Traditionally served over couscous to sop up all the tomato juices and fat from the meat, the flavor of the warm ras al hanout spices are brought forward by the last squeeze of lemon that Asaf squeezes over his mafrum. For an eggplant mafrum recipe, click here.
Serving Size: Serves 6-8
For the Beef Mixture:
1 lb. ground beef*, 80% lean (use beef with at least 15% fat)
2 Tbsp. baharat spice blend or ras al hanout
2 medium-large yellow onions, grated on large holes of box grater
Large handful roughly chopped parsley, leaves and soft stems
Heaping 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste (should be heavily seasoned)
For the potatoes:
4-5 large, long Idaho or Yukon gold potatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Beat the eggs and tomato paste lightly with a fork and season with salt and pepper
Ap flour for dredging (rice flour can be substituted to make this dish gluten free)
Vegetable or Canola Oil for frying
Parsley for serving
Lemon wedges for serving
Couscous for serving
For the Sauce:
1 head garlic, cut in half and chopped, most of the peel removed, but some peel left on for flavor. With very fresh garlic bulbs, asaf doesn’t peel them at all.
1 large yellow onion, chopped into large dice
2 large vine ripened tomatoes, cut into very large chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
4 tbsp. harissa (homemade or prepared)
½ tube tomato paste
1 dry chili such as shata or guajillo
1 heaping tbsp. ground cumin
For the beef:
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and knead well until the mixture begins to get very sticky and leaves residue on the wall of the bowl. Cover and set aside in the fridge while prepping the potatoes.
For the potatoes and sauce:
Heat a very large, wide sautoir over high heat with oil. Once hot, add the onion and season with salt. Cook until fragrant and translucent but not golden. Once they start to “dance” add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute.
Add the harissa and ½ tube tomato paste. Cook for about 1 minute. Add dry chili and 1 tbsp cumin. Cook and stir frequently over high heat until a fond starts develop, scraping as you go. Add tomatoes and 1/3 cup water scraping the bottom of the pan where the tomato and onions have been caramelizing. Stir until thick and the tomatoes start to soften. Add 2-4 cups of water depending on size of your pot (you want the water to come about ½-3/4 up the potatoes when you add to pot.
Bring to a simmer. Cook until the oil breaks, scraping the goodies off the bottom all the while.
While simmering, prepare the potatoes. Peel the potatoes, storing in a bowl of cold water as you work. Cut in half lengthwise. Thinly slice off the rounded long ends of each potato ½(you should now have two flat sides to each potato 1/2. Lay potato on longer flat side and make a horizontal cut almost all the way through, leaving about ½ inch intact (imagine slicing a bagel in 1/2 or a cake layer in half to make 2 layers only not slicing all the way through.
If the potatoes are very large, cut whole potato into 3 fat pieces on a long bias and repeat the above technique. Cover the sauce halfway with lid and continue to simmer over medium low, about 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, gently fill each crevice in the potato with the meat mix, stuffing it gently and being careful not to break the potato. The outcome should look like a pacman with its mouth full!
Fill another large sautoir with vegetable oil about ¼ inch up. Heat until very hot. Dip potato in flour, tap excess off and dip in egg. Fry until deep golden on both sides and transfer to tomato sauce. Work in batches. Allow the sauce to simmer rather vigorously and cover with lid. After about 4 minutes, move the lid halfway off and continue to simmer lightly allowing some the liquid to evaporate and the sauce to thicken, about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are just pierced with a knife. Do not overcook them as you don’t want mashed potatoes.
A good indication the sauce is done is when it has thickened slightly and has vibrant red oil floating on the surface of the sauce
Serve over couscous with lots of sauce, some torn parsley, and squeeze of fresh lemon.
You can replace beef with lamb or other ground meat. You can also use rice flour in the dredging mixture as well as gluten free bread crumbs to make this dish gluten free.