Beans and grains casserole (Makhlouta)

 

Makhlouta means “mixture” in Lebanese Arabic, because in it you will find various legumes and beans: lentils, kidney beans, white beans, chick peas, bulgur, onions, wheat. It will energize you and give you strength and stamina. It will give you lots of fiber and lots of nutrients and protein. Traditionally made in the mountains in winter, it is a dish that can be varied ad infinitum depending on what you have available in your pantry.

Traditionally, this is a  vegetarian dish;  Lebanese farmers would  sometimes add some animal fat for extra flavor; the animal fat  would come from a jar of  preserved sheep fat confit called awarma. I have not been able to find this type of fat (tail fat) simply because the sheep in the middle-east does not hang out in the States. So my suggestion is to brown some lamb bones or chops and cook the makhlouta with it, if you are keen on that lamb flavor. It is delicious both ways.

INGREDIENTS: This quantity will serve up to 6

  • 4 oz red kidney beans (about 1 cup)
  • 4 oz large white beans (1 cup)
  • 4 oz garbanzo beans (chick-peas)(1 cup)
  • 4 oz lentils, preferably brown (green OK)(1 cup)
  • 4 oz bulgur (needs to be thick bulgur-can substitute another whole-grain)(1 cup)
  • 4 oz wheat berries (optional)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil  OR replace by lamb fat if doing the meaty version
  • Spices: salt, pepper, ground cumin (2 teaspoons or more)
  • 3 Tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 cup of tomato paste (optional)
  • 3 or 4 lamb chops (optional)

METHOD: VEGAN  VERSION

  1. Soak the beans overnight separately in at least one quart of water.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans the next day. Place all beans  in a large pot, add 3 quarts of water and simmer for about two  hours  until well cooked.
  3. Place the bulgur in a bowl, cover with water and soak for about 15  minutes, then drain.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and fry the chopped onions in the oil until browned (not burnt! careful!)
  5. Cool the onions a bit and puree them in a food processor. Add them to the beans. Add the tomato paste if using.
  6. About 30 minutes before the 2 hours are up, add the lentils and the wheat berries (if using). Cook the lentils for about 15 minutes, then add the bulgur and the pomegranate molasses. Add the spices. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes or so, until the bulgur is cooked and soft.
  7. Uncover the pot. If it is still too wet, cook a few minutes more; it will firm up upon cooling. Serve hot or at room temperature. The makhlouta needs to be thick and rather dry.

METHOD II: Meaty version:

  1. Soak the beans separately overnight in one quart of water.
  2. The next day, drain and rinse the beans and cook them in 3 quarts of water until well cooked, about one hour or longer.
  3. Soak the bulgur in water for 15 minutes, then drain.
  4. Get a few lamb chops (3 or 4) and rub them a bit with half a lemon and set aside in a bowl.
  5. Heat a large soup pot, add a tablespoon of olive oil; pat the lamb chops dry and throw in the pot to brown for a few minutes on both sides. Remove from the pot.
  6. Add the chopped onions and brown them in the lamb fat. Add  the bulgur and fry a minute or so. Add the beans and their water and add the lentils. Add the spices, the pomegranate molasses and cover the pot and simmer until the bulgur and lentils are cooked.
  7. Uncover the pot and cook a bit longer if still wet, otherwise remove from heat and serve, placing the lamb chops on top of the makhlouta.

Source for the recipe: Mijotons de Micha Sarraf, Fragrance of the Earth by Nada Saleh, The Rural Taste of Lebanon by Chérine Yazbeck. Also, used some suggestions from Haj Makari and Hashem who advised me to use pomegranate molasses.

NOTE: My daughter likes to throw a dollop of yoghurt on her plate of makhlouta.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted January 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    You know, I made this before, but I forgot all about it til I saw your inviting photo. Thank you for posting. My friend, Rita, who is originally from Beirut but now lives in my town, showed me how to make it.

  2. Posted January 13, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that’s healthy! A bean lover’s paradize! I bet this dish tastes wonderful!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. Posted January 14, 2010 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Bucharian Jews also use this tail fat in a traditional dish called Osh Pollo. I have “smuggled” some in from the Middle East to my friends in the US who, of course, couldn’t find that strange pack of fat from the sheep’s tail in the US. The American sheep breeds simply don’t have it; but breeding this eastern variety might make a great business idea! Nice blog.

  4. Posted January 14, 2010 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    you made me hungry! Thanks… will keep reading your blog…although i should finish writing MOUNEH… challah!

  5. Posted January 14, 2010 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    This sounds like a delicious and hearty dish. Perfect for lunch or dinner (or both) and packed with flavor! Not that I would expect anything less from you.

  6. Posted January 15, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I’m glad to have found your blog. I enjoy middle-eastern food having lived there for some years! Will come back for more!

  7. Posted January 17, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    j’adore ce plat du terroir, bourré d’énergie et de protèines en plus d’étre délicieusement bon!! et comme j’aime les légume secs , je suis preneuse surtout par ce froid!! bises! kouky

  8. cmiranda
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never heard of this dish but enjoyed reading about it.Thanks for sharing.

  9. Posted May 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Une casserole de haricots ????? Oui, mais…!!!! Quelle casserole, tu élève dans cette recette l’ art culinaire à un haut niveau visuel, on croirait voir une superbe pâtisserie. Bisous et passe une belle semaine

  10. Eva
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Recently ate this dish in London but made with roasted (?) seasonal vegetables (mostly roots) rather than grains. It was truly delicious, particularly the sauce! Any ideas on how to make this with veggies?

  11. Joumana
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    @Eva: I would need more details on the dish you ate. What was the sauce like? Were the grains completely omitted? What were the ingredients? This is a very simple recipe so I am assuming they just roasted the veggies and mixed them up with some olive oil and lemon. ?

  12. Eva
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    No it did say seasonal vegetable makhlouta as the name of the dish but it didn’t have any grains/lentils, just roasted vegetables in tangy red sauce – it seems to me that mixing tomato paste with pomegrenate molasses would create that flavour but wondered if you had any experience of this variation. Not sure whether to pre-roast the veggies and then add them or cook them in the sauce? May have to trace the supplier :-) It was just so tasty, came with a pitta and falafel.

  13. Posted February 12, 2013 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident
    (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!

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