Awarma is a Middle Eastern lamb confit or preserved meat that was traditionally essential to a villager’s winter diet. It was survival food.
Awarma is prepared using the fat derived from the tail of the fat-tailed sheep (as seen above), a breed of sheep (aka Awassi) native to the Middle East . This fat is known as lieh and in the instance of making awarma, it is first minced then rendered over a low heat into tallow before minced or small pieces of beef or lamb and some salt are added and cooked slowly until the meat is brown and cooked through. It is then transferred to sterilized jars (traditionally this would have been stored in pottery).
The ratio is generally agreed to be 1 part meat to 2 parts fat (i.e 1kg of meat to 2kg of fat)
In the old days and during autumn when the weather cools, villagers would slaughter the sheep as part of communal festivities. Parts of the sheep would be consumed, often raw, and the rest is used to preserve enough awarma to last them through the winter months.
Jars of awarma would be stored in the mouneh (pantry) providing villagers with peace of mind; for in such isolated parts of the country and during such snow-heavy months, it guaranteed them access to hearty protein to keep them strong and their appetites satiated.
Awarma can be used in a number of dishes; beginning with breakfast, it’s served with eggs, fried or scrambled, and traditionally this would be prepared in a clay (fakhar) cooking instrument. It’s mixed with kishk and spread on flatbreads or as a porridge, served over hummus b tahini, in kebbeh, as well as plenty of other stews and grain dishes. Lieh (the unrendered fat) is often served raw next to raw liver or it is barbecued on kebab skewers at family barbecues. It’s one of my favourite ways to consume it.
It is important to note that everything used in the cooking process- spoon, pot and storage jars-is sterilised and dry.