Today I’m sharing 2 preparations of desert truffles (kamah): in salad form with garlic and as a stew with meat and rice.
Desert truffles (or kamah) grow in the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. Distantly related to the European variety, this delicacy more closely resembles the flavor an earthy mushroom with the texture of artichoke and the shape of a potato.
Without fail, every March, you’ll find Syrians talking about how much kamah came to the markets that season. They say that the abundance of desert truffles is at the whim of early autumn thunderstorms and God. They’re not wrong. Kamah comes from microscopic spores underneath the desert surface. The presence of lightning causes rain in October and November to have higher levels of nitrogen. This element in the sand causes the truffles to form. When the weather gets warmer, they cause cracks on the sand’s surface, indicating there are truffles underneath.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been purchasing 10’s of kilos every single year from Syria, and she’s not the only one. Bedouins and others have started businesses exclusively selling kamah in the months of March and April (I’ve heard of prices ranging from $10 to $40 a kilo, depending on the year).
This year, you’re in luck! Kamah has hit the markets in record numbers! It’s the most distributors have seen since 2003. Although, buyer beware. Cleaning them is extremely tricky and requires lots of scrubbing and peeling to get rid of the grit. You can buy cleaned kamah at a premium, but they always need another go-through. I’ve never had to clean them myself, but most people will tell you it’s worth it.
Kamah is eaten in a variety of ways. It can be grilled, made into stew with meat, served with a yogurt sauce or made into a salad with garlic. Today I’m sharing the stew and salad version.
I love the stew. You separately boil kamah and cubed meat and then combine them to let the flavors come together. No part of the kamah goes wasted, and you use the kamah water to make rice. Pro tip: sneak aside a couple truffles, sprinkle them with salt and eat them raw. You deserve it for your hard work!
The salad is a perfect accompaniment. Earthy truffles combined with the delicious bite of garlic and good quality olive oil. It’s easily my favorite preparation. Scroll down for recipe.
If you get your hands on some desert truffles, give these recipes a try! And don’t forget to tag #omayahcooks and @omayahatassi on Instagram.
Desert Truffle Stew with Meat and Rice (Kamah bi Rouz)
A stew of meat and earthy desert truffles served with rice
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 hours
2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into cubes
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp 7 spices
4 lbs kamah, cleaned
2 Tbsp butter or ghee
1 Tbsp corn starch
4 cups medium grain rice, such as Calrose, Egyptian or Jasmine
1/3 c neutral cooking oil, like canola
- Soak the rice in cold water for about one hour.
- Combine the meat with onion, 7 spices, 1 tsp salt and few grinds of black pepper in a large stockpot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides and onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until meat is soft but not falling apart, about 1-1.5 hours.
- Add kamah to another pot with 4 cups of water. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Drain the kamah, reserving the liquid. Cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch chunks.
- In a large skillet, melt butter or ghee and add the kamah. Season with 2 tsp salt and some black pepper and sauté until browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add kamah to the pot with meat and cook until the flavors come together, about 45 minutes.
- Dissolve the corn starch with 2 Tbsp of water in a small bowl. Add to the kamah and Simmer for another 15-20 minutes and adjust seasoning. Kamah stew can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead, reheat before serving.
- About 45 minutes before serving, drain the rice and rinse by filling the bowl with cold water again and draining. Repeat until water runs clear.
- In a large nonstick pot, heat 1/3 c neutral cooking oil. Add rice and 3 tsp of salt and sauté until rice is translucent.
- Add the kamah water plus tap water to make 5 cups. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to lowest setting. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Don't lift the lid to check! Simple tip the pot to see if the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat and allow to fluff for 10 minutes.
- Serve by placing rice on a plate and topping with stew. Enjoy!
Desert Truffle Salad (Kamah Bizzeit)
Delicious salad of earthy truffles, garlic and olive oil topped with Aleppo pepper
Prep time: 10 minutes
1 lb desert truffles, cleaned
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Salt to taste
Aleppo pepper for garnish
- Boil the desert truffles until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and smash with mortar and pestle.
- Combine smashed truffles, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice (if using). Season with salt.
- Place in a serving platter and top with Aleppo pepper. Prepare up to 1 day ahead and serve at room temperature.