Recipe? I Don’t Need No Stinking Recipe!

Well, I mentioned in my last post that I wasn’t 100% sure if the recipe I had for Mulukhiyah was the right one. My dad’s recollection of the dish was pretty different to what I had recipe-wise. He said he didn’t recall my mother or his mother making Mulukhiyah with onions or by boiling the raw meat first and marrying the two major ingredients together.

I haven’t been feeling well the last few days and didn’t have the energy to investigate alternate recipes, so we made adjustments to the recipe I had based on his memory. Though the ingredients were the same, the way in which it was cooked was very different to what I had.

I get that you have to be open-minded when it comes to cooking. You need to be willing to steer away from the recipe – to create a spin off that fits your tastes and your personality. I really do get that concept. I was just hoping that literally recreating my mom’s recipes would bring me back to simpler times – before she was gone – before I stopped feeling like a kid.  I was hoping it would help me remember her better because  nineteen years is a long time.

Anyway – I couldn’t find a decent cut of lamb that wasn’t overpriced, so I opted to use beef instead.  We sautéed the beef chunks in olive oil before boiling in water. It cooked on medium high heat for about 10 minutes. The beef was cubed in pretty generous pieces, so the cooking time may vary depending on size.

Dad also mentioned that mama and tata (his mother)  never used onions in their Mulukhiyah – which is fine by me. I like the taste of onions, but I can’t deal with them in their raw state. I’m slowly getting over this phobia – but we’ve got a long way to go with that. : )

We boiled the sauteed meat with a tsp. of salt, pepper and about ¼ tsp. of  allspice in about 6 cups of water and boiled for about 15 minutes before adding two 14 oz. packages of thawed leaves. I sautéed garlic in a separate pan with olive oil and a pinch of ground coriander.  It’s important to note here that we ended up buying frozen leaves from a different local market that didn’t carry dried Mulukhiyah leaves.  I don’t think I’ll try this dish again with fresh or frozen leaves.

One of the reasons I didn’t like Mulukhiyah as a kid was due to how “slimy” the leaves would make the stew. Think okra. Making it with fresh leaves doesn’t help that slimy consistency one bit. To top it off, it turns out two bags was way too much. So,  we added two more cups of water and adjusted the spicing by adding about 2 more tsp. of salt, ½ tsp.  more of pepper and a dash more of allspice.  We added the garlic at about the 10 minute  mark. After adding the garlic, we cooked everything for another 20-25 minutes for a total of about 30-35 minutes of cooking time WITH the leaves.

We finished the stew by adding about 3 tbs. of lemon juice – then another cup of water and some salt and simmered for another 5 minutes. I usually add more lemon juice to my bowl because I like tart flavors – this is up to your discretion though.

Final verdict: I don’t care for Mulukhiyah. My dad seemed to really like it and that made me happy. It could have used more spicing, though.  It’s been a long time since either of us had eaten it – which seems to be the case with at least half of the recipes I plan on cooking.  I’m willing to give it another try with the dried leaves because I do think that will make a difference in the consistency of the broth. I’d also opt to use smaller cuts of meat to ensure optimal tenderness. I think it might also taste better with chicken or lamb vs. beef.

This week made me realize that even if I don’t feel well and don’t like the food I’m making, I still enjoy the act of cooking and being able to make food my family likes – or, well, pretends to like. : )

Mmmm...boiled meat

Garlic!

Yep. That's Mulukhiyah alright...

Mulukhiyah over Rice - Actually looks pretty good, yes?

Recipe of the Week: Mulukhiyah

I would love to see the looks on people’s faces as they try to pronounce this week’s recipe of choice.It may be a tough one to pronounce but I’m hoping it proves to be easier to make than I am anticipating.

Mulukhiyah is very much like a stew, though I grew up eating it over rice vs. on its own like a stew or soup. The dish consists of  the mulukhiyah leaves cooked in the broth of whatever meat you use plus spices and lemon juice.
Up until very recently, I thought mulukhiyah was made with dried grape leaves – turns out I was totally wrong about that. You can cook this with lamb, beef or chicken. I vaguely remember eating this with bone-in chicken, but I think my mom stuck to using lean cuts of lamb or beef instead.

My mom had lots of random things growing in the backyard of my childhood home. I remember our fence was overrun with grape leaves and I loved helping my mom pick them. I guess I just assumed that was also what she used to make this dish. We had a big, sturdy cloth bag that sat at the bottom of our pantry that was filled with dried mulukhiyah leaves and she would cook this stew more often than I cared to eat it.

The leaves are a little bitter tasting and according the the wiki article I just skimmed, they also have a natural thickening agent. The leaves apparently come from a jute plan and there is a good chance that was growing in our backyard too.

Isn’t it lovely how clueless we were as children?

Although we have since moved out of the house I grew up in and no longer grow random leaves and veggies in our backyard, I am saved by the fact that many of the local Middle Eastern markets sell imported boxes of dried mulukhiyah.   I was actually mesmerized by this very discovery last week when I went to pick up a few things to make my mom’s kifta recipe.

To be honest, this wasn’t one of my favorite dishes to eat when I was a kid.  That being said, I’m curious to see how my taste buds have matured.

Mulukhiyah

3 1/2 cups of dried mulukhiyah

1 onion finely chopped

1 lb.  – 1 1/2 lbs. lamb meat ( you can use chunks or lamb shanks)

4 cloves of garlic

7 cups of water

salt, pepper, allspice and lemon juice to taste

Boil meat in water with salt and spices.  Cover and simmer until the meat is tender.  Once the meat is tender, remove from water and saute with chopped onion in a bit of olive oil or butter. Add the mulukhiyah and cook it a bit before adding the stewing broth to the mixture ( at least 6-7 cups). Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add lemon juice to taste at the very end. * Serve over rice.

(*I have a feeling slight adjustments will be made to this recipe. The translation was a little vague – so we’ll see how it goes!)