This delicious and exotic Middle Eastern inspired camel meat recipe is quick and easy enough to cook, delicious and healthy – camel meat is extra lean and super high in protein!
The camel meat is marinated in natural yogurt, cooked on high heat on a cast-iron pan with fresh mint leaves and a flavorful blend of roasted cumin and caraway seeds – that I’ll teach you how to make yourself!
As we’re moving out of the UAE soon, I decided it was past the time to tackle on camel. I know it sounds weird, but then again any meat does before you first try.
In Dubai I tried camel milk, which is quite different to cow’s but really not bad – it’s a bit salty and really smooth with vodka. There’s also camel chocolate, camel ice cream, and I’ve seen camel soap for sale!
But it’s not only in the Middle East and Africa that you can easily find camel. Apparently, Australia has been stormed by a plague of wild camels and it started exporting camel meat to the UAE. The things you learn…
Anyway, I’m terribly sorry, but I have no idea from which part of the camel is the meat I got. Call it a mystery (camel) meat. In retrospective, I should’ve asked the butcher for more details. The sign just read: “Fresh Camel Boneless”.
The cut looked really good, more affordable than most other meat, and I’d tried camel before in shawarma and it was awesome, but when shawarma isn’t, right? Alas, I took home this “fresh camel” pictured and started working on a new recipe…
How does camel taste like
Camel meat is incredibly similar to beef. If you tasted it and nobody told you it was camel, you probably wouldn’t know the difference. Daniel thinks it tastes a lot like brisket, specifically.
It is often said that camel tastes sweet, but I personally don’t feel so. Several savory dishes from Arabic cuisine actually taste quite sweet, as there’s plenty of raisins and sultanas, cashews, cinnamon and cloves, or the floral tasting sumac.
My guess is that the sweet taste that some folks report on eating camel is not from the camel meat itself, but from these spices used in traditional dishes. Or, my taste buds are defective.
Marinated camel meat
Camel is much leaner than beef, which can make it a bit tougher. You could compare the camel texture to a very lean, more budget (because it’s hard!) beef cut, such as silverside.
That’s why it’s better to cook it slow and long… or make a nice tenderizing marinade!
Lactic acid is great at tenderizing meat, and it’s the perfect choice to marinate the camel. You can use either yogurt or sour cream as both are low-carb options that will yield exactly the same results. I recommend natural yogurt, because the yogurt-y taste will be more true to Middle Eastern flavors.
You can use Greek yogurt for the marinade, however it’s harder to mix and coat the meat because it is, well, harder. But if you are minding your carbs on keto, it might be worth the effort. Greek yogurt has about half the amount of carbs of plain natural yogurt, as they get filtered out.
How to cook camel
After you manage to procure some camel meat (which I assure you is probably going to be the most challenging part of this recipe), start preparing ahead of dinner time so it can spend as long as possible marinating. You can start as early as the day before.
Roasted cumin and caraway seed blend
Cumin and caraway look very similar, but are not the same. Visually, you can tell the difference by color: cumin seeds are brown, and caraway seeds are a greenish brown.
You can get ground cumin and caraway spices and use in this recipe. But their combined flavors, specially when freshly roasted and ground, are sooo much better, more fragrant and interesting than the powders that comes from a bag at the store. Really, you should try!
To make your own roasted blend of cumin seeds and caraway seeds, just add a tablespoon of each to a piping hot and dry iron pan – no oil. Using a wooden spoon, turn the seeds around in the pan as they roast, to avoid burning on one side. They will be done in a couple of minutes, getting a few shades darker.
Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the seeds into a mortar, and, after they cool down completely, grind them until they turn into a rough powder. You can also process them in an electric spice or coffee grinder, if you prefer.
You don’t need the whole 2 tablespoons of seeds in this recipe, but it’s easier to process them in a larger quantity. Keep the excess in a closed container to use again 🙂 They are great in hearty beef or lamb stews and curries.
Yogurt & mint marinade
Cube the camel meat into about 2 inch sized pieces. Transfer it to a deep plate or bowl. Season it well, rubbing it in salt and pepper, then add some crushed garlic, and mix in the natural or Greek yogurt, or sour cream, as you prefer. Add half of the mint leaves and the roasted cumin and caraway blend.
Mix very well until all meat is coated with the tenderizing marinade. Cover it with cling film, or transfer into a freezer bag. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours (the more the merrier), or until the next day.
Cooking on high heat
After the lactic acid had time to work its magic on getting your camel nice an tender, it’s ready to cook. It gets done really quick! I like to use my cast iron pan for this recipe, as iron gets super hot and maintains the heat better than anything else and this really helps the meat get done faster and keep the juices in.
You’ll be cooking the camel in a really hot pan in animal fat, which is going to give the best flavor. It can be lard, tallow, duck or… Camel! I’m not kidding, you can get camel hump fat from Amazon, and it’s very rich and amazing to cook with. Some folks even put in their coffee (for real, just read those reviews!)
Put your choice of fat on your cast iron pan, and bring up the heat. When it gets really hot (I like to see a sign of smoke as cue), at once lay the camel meat with all of the yogurt marinade. Be mindful of splatters.
Immediately start tossing the camel around with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the outside is browned. If your pan is larger, it will cook faster, as the pieces of meat will encounter more hot surface.
Serve garnished with the remaining mint leaves.
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