Sumaqqiyeh (oxtail stew with chard, sumac and tahini)

Time5 hours
YieldsServes 4 generously
Sumaqqiyeh  — oxtail stew with chard, sumac, and tahini — on an oval plate
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
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The green chile, the dill seeds, the tahini sauce — the roll call of typical Gazan ingredients makes this a classic Gazan dish. In Gaza, the tahini would be red tahini, which is nuttier and richer than regular tahini. The difference between the two is the sort of heat the sesame seeds are roasted with; steam heating in the case of regular tahini, roasting with direct heat in the case of red tahini. Just make sure you are starting with what we call “proper tahini,” though any regular creamy Arabic tahini is just fine.

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Tahini Sauce

Make the tahini sauce: Whisk the tahini, water, lemon juice and salt in a bowl until smooth. Set aside.


To make the stew, put the onions, garlic and two-thirds of the chiles into a food processor. Pulse a few times, until finely minced but not so much that it turns to a puree. Set aside until ready to use.


Put the sunflower oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid and place over medium-high heat. Pat the oxtail dry and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. In two batches, sear the oxtail for 5 to 6 minutes, turning so that all sides get nicely browned. Once all the meat is browned, transfer to a separate plate, pour off the excess oil and wipe the pan clean. Add the olive oil and the onion, garlic and chile mix and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often, or until softened. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down. Stir in the cumin, cinnamon and baharat, then add the oxtail, sugar, water, 2¼ teaspoons salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and let simmer gently, stirring every so often, for 4 hours or until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone.


After about 4 hours, use a pair of tongs to remove the oxtail from the pan. Set it aside to cool slightly and add the chickpeas and chard stalks to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by half.


Meanwhile, once the oxtail is cool enough to handle, tear off the meat and fat in large chunks, discarding the bones; you should be left with about 1 pound 7 ounces. Return to the pan, along with the chard leaves, dill seeds, parsley, 1½ tablespoons sumac and all but a handful of chopped dill. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted and the meat has heated through.


Transfer the stew to a large serving platter and drizzle with a third of the tahini sauce. The remaining sauce can be served in a bowl alongside. Top with the remaining chopped dill, chiles and 1½ teaspoons sumac and serve at once.

Baharat translates literally from the Arabic as “spices.” The combination of spices in a particular blend depends on what is championed by each region (and within each household in each region), so no single flavor tends to dominate. Generally, though, it’s an aromatic, warm spice made up of a combination of black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cumin and nutmeg. It brings a sweet depth and flavor to all sorts of savory and sweet dishes. It’s widely available to buy, but if you want to make your own, place the following spices in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder: 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 small cinnamon stick, ½ teaspoon whole cloves, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Store in an airtight container, where it will keep for 2 months.
Adapted from “Falastin” by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley.
Make Ahead:
The oxtail needs a long cooking time — 4 hours — to ensure that it falls off the bone as easily as you want it to. You can make the stew a day or two in advance, though, taking it up to the point before the chard leaves and fresh dill get added. These should always go in at the last stage, so they retain their color and freshness.