Galayet bandora, or Jordanian tomato stew, is an old peasant dish that has seen a surge in popularity in the last couple of years among younger foodies. Like fashion, what was once old is new again, and restaurants in Jordan are meeting the increased demand for more ‘ancient’ and traditional dishes like the galayet al bandora, which epitomizes simplicity in taste, and highlights all the good that Mother Nature has to offer. At its base, is a stew that has only three ingredients found in all Middle Eastern kitchens: tomatoes, onions, and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Simmer together, and you have the most fantastic “sop with bread” meal.
The dish requires little fanfare, fresh ingredients and a vessel to cook them in. Funnily enough, it’s also a dish that many Jordanian men know how to make. I’ve heard several men proudly boast, that their ‘galayet bandora’ is the ‘finger licking good’ or the ‘tastiest in the country.’ It’s a one-pan dish, it’s healthy, and can serve as a base for countless of other Middle Eastern (or Mediterranean) stews – what’s there not to like? Even following a step-by-step recipe is not really necessary and minor tweaks like adding a small chili pepper and a pinch of cumin are ok. In a heavy skillet (if adding eggs, to the tomatoes, a cover is needed) simmer one chopped onion in a generous amount of good quality extra olive oil and cook the onions on medium heat (almost to the point of being caramelized) stirring occasionally. Season the onions with salt and pepper. Add 5-6 roughly chopped fresh tomatoes (no need to peel them or remove the seeds, and in a pinch, a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes will do) to the onions and half a thinly sliced chili pepper (like Serrano chili). Let the tomatoes simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes. Sop up the fantastic stew with some warm Arabic bread and eat, or, alternatively, crack a couple of eggs on top (season them) by covering the skillet and cooking them for a few minutes or until the whites are cooked through.