Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A taste of Egypt: Molokheya, Molokheya, Molokheya!

I know, I know. Those of you who have tried molokheya will either shout out "YES, finally a recipe for it!" and those that don't, will find this repulsive. haha. Molokheya is a traditional Egyptian dish, which falls into either "you love it" category, or "you hate it." Obviously, I love the stuff.

I first tried this with my family while we were on a Bedouin camping trip through the Bahareya Oasis. Our Bedouin guide placed a bowl of green "stuff" in front of us, offered us bread and chicken, and warned not to eat too much because it may cause "stomach issues later." Now, we've all been raised that no matter what is put in front of you, when you are being offered food as a guest, you have to try. Even just one bite. Turns out, my sister, mum and I all loved this "green stuff" whose name we were unable to discern.

I spent the next two years in Egypt trying to describe to people what I had eaten in the desert, and it wasn't until one of my Egyptian friends actually gave me molokheya, that I realised this was the delicious "stuff" we'd had in the desert.

The closest comparison I can draw, is to spinach dip. There's nothing quite like this outside of Egypt, and I am lucky enough to have been "inducted" into the crowd that can actually make molokheya.

So here it is, a step-by-step guide to making molokheya, with pictures so you can easily follow along. Bil hana wa shiva!

What you'll need:

Molokheya (Sold in bunches in the supermarket)
Minced garlic (4 tablespoons)
Butter (2 tablespoons)
Coriander (2 1/2 - 3 teaspoons)
Chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper

1. Take your bunch of molokheya, and strip the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems, and wash the leaves well under cold water.

2. Begin your stock. You want your stock hot when you add the Molokheya. There's really no definite ruling as to how you should make your stock; if you want to use chicken bones, go ahead! You'll need approximately 2 cups of stock.

3. The fun part :P Crush your molokheya leaves. You want them the consistency of ground spinach, not runny, but more of a paste-consistency. I was advised AGAINST using a blender, as it will make the molokheya watery, and will affect the taste. This is all about old-school cooking.

4. When your stock comes to a boil, add your molokheya leaves. Cover, and let boil.

5. Meanwhile, take your garlic and add to a small frying pan. Cover your garlic with coriander, and add the butter. Cook the garlic until browned, about 5 minutes.

Now here's the trick. Add the garlic sauce to your molokheya soup. It will spit, so you'll want to add the molokheya, and cover again promptly. Let come to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 3 minutes longer, and remove from heat.

Serve your molokheya with rice. Goes great with chicken as a side dish too.

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