The ultimate crowd pleaser!
My Friend had asked me to post my Mloukieh recipe a while back, I just got a chance to do this and so here we are.
This is one of my favourite Palestinian Cuisine concoctions. It also happens to be everybody’s favourite and is especially famous with kids! For the longest while, every time I asked my children what they wanted for lunch, they would always say “Mloukieh”!! If it was up to them, they will have it everyday of the week!
I even did a little experiment once with one of my son’s friends, who came over for a play date. I had cooked this amazing dish for them. Being English, and Mloukhieh not part of that cuisine’s offerings, he had no idea what this food was, but I asked him to just try and if he didn’t like it I would give him something else to have. He tried it, and loved it that every time he comes over he says: “I hope you cooked that seaweed soup, coz I love it!!” lol. He really thought it was seaweed soup! He even told his mum that I make the best seaweed soup in the world! She once called me asking for my seaweed recipe, because her son keeps asking her to make it! I had no idea what she was talking about! It was not until he came over after that, and explained to me what he meant by seaweed, that I made the connection heheheh 🙂
I totally recommend you give this a go if you have never tried it before, because it is truly good 🙂
Of course Mloukieh is not seaweed soup, it actually grows on land! It is the leaves of Jute (similar to spinach, yet more bitter in flavour). These fresh green leaves are treated as vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine. They are also known to North African, East African and South Asian cuisines. It is eaten cooked, not raw, and in Arabic cuisine it is usually cooked in chicken broth (most famous) or meat broth – and in some cases cooked including both meat and chicken together.
This stew is said to have originated in Egypt, however, as common with Middle Eastern cooking, it is not very well known how the region got to eat Jute leaves, and where it started exactly. One plausible story though, is that Jute leaves were consumed by the Pharos, and were brought west of Egypt and into Palestine by the migrating Jews. Of course the story is longer than just that line, but for this recipe post, I will leave it at that.
The preparation of Mloukieh or Molokhiyyah stew differs from country to another in the region. The Egyptian way is to very finely chop the leaves and then cook them in a broth producing a thick soup. While in Palestinian and Levantine Cuisine, the leaves are cooked whole when the leaves are in season and whatever whole leaves the cook managed to freeze. The finely chopped leaves are usually more commonly had when the leaves are out of season and reliant on the cook’s stock of frozen Mloukhieh. With that said, and since fresh Mloukieh leaves are not always available in all markets, most people would go for the store-bought frozen leaves, which mostly come finely chopped, rather than whole leaves. I personally prefer the whole leaves one in terms of texture, but nonetheless would have the finely chopped one any time.
Mloukieh is usually served with a rice pilaf, alongside roasted and browned chicken. Custom has it that when hostesses are cooking a special lunch for guests, they would serve the Mloukieh along side Djaj Mahshi (Stuffed whole chicken – stuffing is a mix of precooked rice and minced meat. The succulent and elaborate Stuffed Chicken recipe is in my book Plated Heirlooms). Usually each of the three items are plated separately and the hostess will plate rice topped with Mloukieh alongside a piece of chicken and a lemon wedge. Mloukieh needs a squeeze of lemon to perfect the flavour, or you can prepare a special vinaigrette with onions and chilli (recipe below), which fabulously compliments the flavours of this dish. I would normally have both ready, lemon wedges and the vinaigrette, and keep it up to each one to decide which to go for.
Some preparations of Mloukieh include coriander and some don’t.
When the recipe includes coriander, some will cook the coriander with the stew, and others would lightly fry coriander and thinly sliced or crushed garlic in a little olive oil, then add it to the top of the finished dish. Whichever way you decide to go, the outcome is the same as the flavours eventually intermingle creating the whole either way. However if you are not into the whole coriander business (although highly recommended) you can skip this step and cook it without coriander.
If you have access to fresh Mloukieh Leaves (It is sold at the Farmers’ market here in Dubai from Feb through to April. It can also be found at the Co-op during this time), then you need to cut the leaves off the stalks. Discard the stalks, then wash the leaves and dry them. Usually the leaves are placed on a large tray to air dry for a couple of days, tossing them occasionally to ensure equal dryness. They are then lightly stir fried and frozen till ready to use. My mother in law told me that she freezes them without stir frying, which I have tried and found to work very well too (one less step). Then the leaves are used in the same manner as the finely chopped method below.
After many explorations and experimentation and all, the below is how I cook Mloukieh at home. How I love it best and how my family likes it too.