Yemeni Salta/Fahsa with Hilba
Salta or Fahsa is probably the most iconic Yemeni dish. It is traditionally served in a Yemeni handmade limestone pot called a "magla" or "harada". Vegetables and scrambled eggs swimming in lamb marag (broth) are topped with whipped fenugreek. Salta/fahsa is served boiling hot family style. It is traditionally eaten straight out of the bubbling bowl with fresh bread.
The following ingredients typically serve 7-8 people. If you are serving more people, double the salta/fahsa base and add one more lamb shoulder or two necks. I recommend preparing the lamb marag one day ahead for convenience and enhanced flavor.
Important note: Fenugreek needs to be soaked at least 3-4 hours before using.
Lamb Marag (broth) المرق
1 lamb shoulder + neck (bone-in) cut into hand sized parts لحم غنمي - كتف و رقبة
2 tbsp vegetable oil ملعقتين ك زيت نباتي
2 yellow onions بصلتين
3 tbsp crushed garlic ثلاث ملاعق ك ثوم مقطع او مهروس
2 dried lemons ليمونتين مجففة
4-5 bay leaves ورق غار
2 tbsp paprika ملعقتين ك بابريكا
2 tbsp Yemeni Hawayij ملعقتين ك حوايج يمنية
3 tbsp salt ثلاث ملاعق ك ملح
4 -5 golden potatoes بطاطا
Salta/Fahsa Base (divided among 2 magla pots) خلطة الخضار
2 yellow onion بصلتين
1-2 tbsp olive oil or ghee ملعقتين زيت
2 jalapeno حبتين فلفل حار
1 tbsp crushed garlic ملعقة ك ثوم
3 - 4 vine tomatoes طماطم
2 tbsp tomato paste ملعقتين ك معجون طماطم
7 eggs بيض
1 tbsp salt ملعقة ك ملح
1 tbsp Yemeni Hawayij ملعقة حوايج يمنية
Hilba (Whipped Fenugreek)
6 cups room temperature water ٦ كبايات ماء عادية
2 tbsp ground fenugreek ملعقتين ك حلبة مطحونة
1 bunch of cilantro ربطة كزبرة
2 jalapeños حبتين فلفل حار
1 bunch green onions ربطة بصل أخضر
1 bunch Chinese chives ربطة كراث صيني
1/2 tsp cumin نص ملعقة ص كمون
1/2 tsp dried coriander نص ملعقة ص كزبرة ناشفة
1/2 tsp black pepper نص ملعقة ص فلفل اسود
1 tsp salt ملعقة ص ملح
Bread for dipping خبز للتقديم
If you don't have access to fresh fresh Yemeni or Afghan bread from your local markets, I recommend buying Middle Eastern pita bread, naan, or any type of flatbread. ممكن تقديم اي خبز عربي او الخبز الهندي - النان.
Yemeni Hawayij Alternative: 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp coriander, 1 tbsp turmeric, 1 tbsp black pepper, 4 -5 cardamom cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, pinch of nutmeg.
بدل البهارات اليمنية: ملعقة ك كمون، ملعقة ك كزبرة، ملعقة ك كركم، ملعقة ك فلفل اسود، ٤-٥ حبات هيل، حبة كبيرة قرفة، رشة صغيرة من جوز الطيب.
Lamb Marag (broth)
In a deep pressure cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add pieces of bone-in lamb. Using a large wooden spoon, toss the meat pieces every 3-5 minutes until they develop a nice brown sear all over. This may take time depending on the surface area your pressure cooker has. If you do not have a pressure cooker, I recommend using a heavy dutch iron pot.
Once lamb pieces are nicely browned, add chopped onions. Onions should be chopped in large chunks.
Continue mixing the lamb so that all the pieces take turns contacting the bottom of the pot then add your seasonings: dried lemons, bay leaves, salt, paprika, and Yemeni Hawayij. If you don't have Yemeni Hawayij, add 1/2 tablespoon of each: black pepper, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric as well as 5 whole cardamom pods, 1-2 cinnamon sticks, and a dash of nutmeg. Mix to combine and cook for 3 - 5 min.
Add minced garlic and mix well until garlic is fragrant (about another 3 - 5 minutes).
Pour enough water onto the meat until the lamb is completely covered.
If you are serving the salta on the same day you are prepping the lamb marag, go ahead and add the peeled and halved potatoes. If you are preparing the lamb marag the day before, do not add the potatoes until the day of serving.
Remove the dried lemons before covering the pressure cooker.
Follow your pressure cooker's cooking directions while on a medium low heat. If you are not using a pressure cooker, simmer on medium low for 1.5-2 hours or until the meat falls off the bone when you poke it with a fork.
Hilba (Whipped Fenugreek)
Fill a deep bowl with room temperature water. Sprinkle the ground fenugreek onto the surface of the water. Do not mix. Set aside for at least 3 to 4 hours. The longer the better. We usually do this the morning we plan on having hilba.
In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, green onions, chives, and jalapeños into a paste.
Add cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper and pulse until evenly incorporated. Set aside.
Once the lamb marag and fahsa/salta base is ready, drain the water from the soaked fenugreek then use an electric mixer to beat the fenugreek. Keep whipping until it triples in size and fluffs up like a meringue. It will be pale in color.
Add your desired amount of green herb paste and continue whipping the fenugreek.
Heat your magla pot over medium high heat. If you don't have a magla, use a Korean stone pot or a dutch oven with a wide opening.
Saute diced onion in olive oil until browned then add minced jalapeños and garlic. If you don't want your base to be spicy, make sure you remove the seeds from your jalapeños or green chili peppers.
Once garlic is fragrant, add tomato paste and freshly diced tomatoes. Mix the ingredients regularly and cook until tomatoes have completely cooked down.
Season with salt and Yemeni Hawayij. If you don't have Yemeni hawayij, season with cumin, coriander, black pepper, and turmeric like mentioned above.
Crack your eggs in a bowl and whisk. Add whisked eggs over the tomato base and mix as it cooks.
At this point, you can add any leftover stewed vegetables you may have in your fridge like cooked okra, green beans or potatoes. If you don't have any veggies you'd like to throw in, how ahead to the next steps for assembly.
Reheat your lamb marag until it is boiling. Don't forget to add in your potatoes if you are reheating the lamb marag from the night before. Boil until the potatoes are tender enough to break apart when poked with a fork.
While your magla and tomato and egg mix are hot, ladle in some of the cooked potatoes and the marag onto them. You should also add chunks of the cooked lamb. Be generous with the marag (broth) so that the vegetable mix is swimming in the broth. Bring to a rolling boil.
Serve while the marag is boiling and piping hot. Make sure the rest of the marag is hot and nearby so more broth and meat can be added later on.
Use a fork to mash the potatoes in the magla then top with your desired amount of whipped herb fenugreek. Mix as desired and eat family style by using ripped pieces of bread as your scooping vehicle. See video for demonstration.
Store ground fenugreek in the freezer for optimum freshness.
You will likely have leftover green herb paste. You can either use it for soups or other stews or freeze it for the next time you make salta.
You will also likely have leftover lamb marag. This makes the perfect base for a lamb and freekeh & bulgar soup or lamb ramen!
For this recipe, serve in two medium magla pots if you do not have one large magla pot. Two smaller ones are better for maintaining heat and sharing.