The Iraqi staple dishes of rice and stew (timman w'marag):
Marga or marag is vegetables and meat simmered in tomato sauce. The stew is customarily served in a bowl, to be spooned and mixed with rice or sometimes bulgur, with plenty of salad or green onion, fresh herbs, greens, and sometimes spicy condiments such as home-made pickles and pickled mango ('anba).
Margat Fasoulya Yabsa (stew of white cannellini beans) is a wintertime favorite in Iraq (Delights from the Garden of Eden, p. 211).
Such a combination of nutrients makes a reasonably balanced meal. Besides, it can easily be converted into a low-fat meal, or even into a vegetarian dish by passing the meat. Another advantage, it provides the body with the much-needed liquids. Taken on a regular basis and as a way of dietary life-style it is a sure guard against ‘irregularity.’
Chapter Seven in Delights from the Garden of Eden offers an extensive coverage of this important food category in the Iraqi cuisine.
See my Blog In my Iraqi Kitchen for Okra Stew (margat bamya).
Sometimes, instead of serving stew with rice, it is made into thareed/tashreeb (sop) using Iraqi flat tannour bread (khubuz tannour), as in this tashreeb bamya (okra):
The perfectly cooked rice requires the right amount of liquid, which is more or less determined by your choice of rice itself:
Jasmine variety is aromatic, easy to handle and is good for every day use. With the right amount of water, you'll get firm but tender, and barely sticky rice.
The Indian basmati rice is characterized by its long and slender grains, which when cooked would separate and expand even more, lengthwise. However, it is less aromatic than jasmine.
Because basmati rice is aged, you need to soak it longer than you do with jasmine, and you need to be a little more generous with oil when cooking it. All-purpose long grain American rice can be substituted, its grains nicely separate when cooked, but it lacks the aroma of the jasmine rice.
No rice, however, compares with the native Iraqi timman anber, which grows in the marshes of southern Iraq. When lunchtime approaches, all the neighborhoods would be perfumed with the aroma of steaming pots of rice. It is not called anber (ambergris) for nothing. In this respect, Jasmine rice is the best alternative.
For a recipe, follow this link:
Timman versus Ruzz
Contrary to the entire Arab world, the majority of people in Iraq call rice, timman. The more familiar word ruzz is mostly used in the northern city of Mosul.
Evidently, the two words were used interchangeably many centuries ago. The ninth--century Abbasid prince of epicures, Ibraheem bin al-Mahdi, half brother of Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rasheed, uses the word tumman rather than ruzz in his poem on a dish called, maghmouma ‘covered', which is in a way similar to the layered maqlouba dishes we cook nowadays.
Another medieval citation of tumman occurs in the botanical volume Kitab al-Saydana by al-Biruni (d. 1048), where he mentions it as an Arabic name for aruzz.
The word must have its much earlier roots in the Akkadian language of the ancient Mesopotamians.