Jew Mallow stew (M’lookhiyeh) Coptic-style

m’lookhiyeh?  I remember:  How everyone would swoon at the mere mention of that word. An invitation at so and so to a m’lookhiyeh? Teta Nabiha making it  for Sunday lunch and  inviting Tante Wadad and Khalo Nkoola…always an event.  Teta’s double-sized bed would be covered with a clean sheet and on it would lay the m’lookhiyeh leaves, in neat rows, until they were dry (but not wilted). Then, Teta would gather them, one at a time, pile them up in a tight bundle like little soldiers and with her sharpened knife shave them in ever so fine ribbons. The presentation was always according to custom: M’lookhiyeh soup in a tureen and on the  buffet :   A crown of white rice, then a platter of chicken, a platter of lamb shanks, a bowl of pita croutons, a bowl of vinegar and chopped onions, a bowl of lemon juice and chopped onions. Whew! What a production! Then people would get up and with an expression of anticipated pleasure, proceed to the buffet with their own personal procedure for eating this delicacy. Hanna liked his with the croutons at the bottom, while Khalo ate his with a lot of vinegar and onions, while Tante only had the broth with some rice…

Well, m’lookhiyeh is an Egyptian dish that has been thoroughly adopted by the Lebanese, albeit with some differences in execution. So, I decided to enlist the help and expertise of my friend Phoebe Hanna, who is Egyptian-American and a self-proclaimed m’lookhiyeh queen. I had tasted hers and really liked it, so we decided to try  her method . She grows  her own m’lookhiyeh in her backyard, but she said hers will be ready in early June (the first harvest), so we went hunting for m’lookhiyeh (Jew’s mallow) in the Asian supermarket near my house. It was available there in large quantities. I think it is used in Vietnamese cuisine, though I am not sure…  Phoebe had told me that her method was easy and fast and she mentioned the  food processor..  This method will produce a m’lookhiyeh that is pure and fresh and with a wonderfully vibrant green color. It can be frozen for months and will retain taste and color, especially if it is frozen in a standing deep freezer.

Now, for that slime factor… A couple pointers:

  • Wash it well and cut off the leaves. This needs to be done carefully because it is the stalk that gives  a slimy m’lookhiyeh.
  • When the leaves are dropped into the broth, don’t boil them!

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INGREDIENTS: To feed a family of 4 or 6 people

  • 2 bunches of fresh m’lookhiyeh or one package of frozen (400g)/ Fresh leaves chopped will weigh about 8 oz.
  • 1 chicken, cut up in 4 pieces or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes, if vegan. You need 2 quarts of bouillon. The chicken can be substituted or added to 3 lamb shanks
  • 6 to 10 cloves of garlic
  • salt, black pepper to taste
  • 2 Large onions, one for the chicken broth and one to chop and serve with lemon or vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter or olive oil or ghee
  • 2 pita breads, cut up in small squares and toasted in a 275F oven
  • 2 cups of rice of your choice (I use Basmati or Jasmine), cooked according to direction on package
  • One cup of vinegar (rice or red) or fresh lemon juice

METHOD:

  • Make the broth the day before. Place a whole chicken, cut up in 4 pieces in a large pot. Fill it up with cold water and bring to a boil. When it starts simmering, skim the froth at the surface and regulate the heat so that it simmers gently for about an hour. Add an onion, cut in quarters. You can also add  a cinnamon stick, some salt and black pepper, a few whole allspice grains, but this is strictly optional. If you are vegan, simply dissolve a veggie cube in 2 quarts of water and set aside.
  • Cool the broth and remove the chicken pieces. Run the broth through a sieve and put the chicken  in a bowl and when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and cut  into  serving pieces. Place the chicken on a  platter. One extra step is to place the broth in the fridge overnight and the next day, scrape off all the fat that has congealed on the surface. The broth should measure about 2 quarts.
  • Wash the m’lookhiyeh and make sure it is perfectly clean. Now dry it in a salad spinner, or if you want to use my grandmother’s technique, cut off the leaves and dry them on a clean bed sheet for a couple of hours, by laying them flat on the sheet, vein side up. Discard the wilted leaves.
  • While the leaves are drying, chop the fresh garlic cloves  and run them  through a press into a small skillet. Place 2 tablespoons of butter, or olive oil, or samneh (ghee) in the skillet. Heat the garlic and fat for a  minute until golden. Remove from the heat. Heat the broth and drop the toasted garlic in it, stirring for a few seconds. Remove from the heat.
  • Gather all the leaves and drop them in the food processor without packing them. Process the leaves in batches, pulsing all the while in one-second pulses, until the leaves are chopped very well. Place the chopped leaves in a bowl and heat up the broth. When the broth is simmering, drop the leaves in the broth, stirring with a wooden spoon, until they are well spread out with the broth and turn off the heat. Add some salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Present the m’lookhiyeh in a soup tureen along some plain rice, pieces of boiled chicken, toasted pita croutons, a small bowl of vinegar with chopped onion (can be substituted with lemon juice). Sahteyn

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NOTE:

The traditional way to eat m’lookhiyeh is with the following:

  • A platter of plain rice or rice with vermicelli noodles rez be sha’aryeh. Can be done in advance to save some time.
  • A bowl of toasted pita croutons, also can be done ahead of time.
  • A small bowl containing about 1 cup of vinegar (or lemon juice) to which a chopped onion has been added.
  • A platter of chicken, cut in small serving pieces.

How you eat it is up to you! You decide the order of ingredients. Usually, people like to pile the rice and chicken (or meat) and then pour the soup, then the croutons, then the onions and vinegar.

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Also, some recipes call for adding coriander, dried and fresh, to the m’lookhiyeh. I personally tried both and prefer this version. I find that the taste of coriander overpowers the taste of the m’lookhiyeh. I find that lightly fried garlic is sufficient and will produce a dish that is pure and fresh tasting. The coriander pesto that is part of the Lebanese repertoire and found in numerous stews and soups is explained in detail in my post for cilantro pesto.

In our home, a platter of boiled lamb shanks was also served alongside the chicken, for people who prefer the meat over the chicken. Simply braise some lamb shanks in 2 quarts of water, adding a stick of cinnamon and some salt and pepper. When the shanks are thoroughly cooked, remove from the broth and cut in serving pieces. The broth can then be used to cook the m’lookhiyeh in.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted May 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Looks good :)

  2. Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    I love el mouloukhiya and yours it look so good.

  3. Posted May 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    this is a second try to leave you a comment here:
    I love Mulukhyya, it has always been an event to have it for lunch when i was growing up..now it is an event and a special meal to cook for my family and friends…easy to prepare and always comes out great. thanks for sharing this delicious recipe!

  4. Posted May 25, 2009 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    this is my first visit here and i liked your recipes.. looks delicious. cant wait to try out. keep it up!! cheers!! :)

  5. Joumana
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for visiting! Hope you won’t b disappointed!

  6. Joumana
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    You are very welcome! Take care, Joumana

  7. Joumana
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much!

  8. Posted May 26, 2009 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    hello,
    çok ilginç bir pilav.

  9. Joumana
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    شكراً

  10. Yasmine
    Posted June 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Great Blog. It’s strange though that you chop your mlokhiyyeh. My family never did that in Leb. I live in Egypt now and they do chop it here, but here was the first time I tasted it that way.

    Anyhow, it still looks great!

  11. Joumana
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Hi Yasmine! Thanks for visiting my blog! You are absolutely right, in Lebanon some communities do not chop the mlokhiyyeh. My grandmother did though and she came from Saida. Anyhow, this recipe is from an Egyptian friend. I will try next time to include the Lebanese version as well.

  12. Elena
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Joumana, so interesting! What it is like to taste- it’s sour or tasteless or….?

  13. Joumana
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    @Elena: Not at all, just faintly nutty, delicate taste, very crunchy, fun to eat and filling after a while!

5 Trackbacks

  1. By Mouloukhieh (Jew’s mallow soup) on December 26, 2011 at 11:21 am

    [...] For some pointers on how to use the fresh mouloukhieh, click here. [...]

  2. [...] For some pointers on how to use the fresh mouloukhieh, click here. [...]

  3. By Mouloukhieh on July 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    [...] To prepare it Coptic-style [...]

  4. By How To Cook Mlookhiyeh | Arabic Language Blog on November 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    [...] preparing a tasty dish of Mlookhiyeh. Like other recipes, we have kindly borrowed this recipe from Taste of Beirut. It is a great place for getting authentic recipes if you are interested in Arabic cuisine [...]

  5. By How To Cook Mlookhiyeh | Arabic Language Blog on July 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    […] preparing a tasty dish of Mlookhiyeh. Like other recipes, we have kindly borrowed this recipe from Taste of Beirut. It is a great place for getting authentic recipes if you are interested in Arabic cuisine […]

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