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
- Soak the beans overnight separately in at least one quart of water.
- 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.
- Place the bulgur in a bowl, cover with water and soak for about 15 minutes, then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and fry the chopped onions in the oil until browned (not burnt! careful!)
- Cool the onions a bit and puree them in a food processor. Add them to the beans. Add the tomato paste if using.
- 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.
- 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:
- Soak the beans separately overnight in one quart of water.
- The next day, drain and rinse the beans and cook them in 3 quarts of water until well cooked, about one hour or longer.
- Soak the bulgur in water for 15 minutes, then drain.
- Get a few lamb chops (3 or 4) and rub them a bit with half a lemon and set aside in a bowl.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.