Balila is the epitome of the poor man’s dish in Lebanon; it is served for breakfast in every neighborhood joint for the throngs of workers who eat it before heading to their job on the construction site or at the office. It is absolutely delicious and part of every mezze.
Making balila is super simple. All you need are chickpeas and some good olive oil, garlic and lemon to season it. Oh, and some ground cumin too.
The secret to this recipe is simply using good quality chickpeas; a famous balila seller in Beirut told me he gets his chickpeas from …Mexico! Apparently the local chickpeas are too scrawny for his (high) standards and the Mexican ones are big and plump. In any case, the chickpeas need to be cooked to death until they get super soft and dressed at the last minute with the magic Lebanese combo of olive oil, lemon and freshly mashed garlic. The balila gets sprinkled with cumin right before eating for the final touch.
Balila should also always be served with the trimmings which include fresh radishes, fresh mint, a few chili peppers, spring onions, sliced tomatoes, and olives, and some warm pita bread to scoop the soup with. Cut off a piece of bread, scoop up as much balila as possible, top with a mint leaf, and inhale it with some radish or olive or onion or all of these.
BalilaJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern December 15, 2020 Legumes, Main Dish, Soups, Vegan, Soup, vegan, chickpeas, olive oil, lebanese food, cumin,
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
2 cans cooked chickpeas OR one cup of dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight (can add a pinch of baking soda), then drained and cooked in plenty of water for two hours or until extra soft.
Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin, as needed (at least 1/3 cup)
4 cloves of garlic, mashed with a pinch of salt till pasty
Ground cumin, to sprinkle over the soup
2 lemons, juiced (more or less as needed to taste)
- If using canned, drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with fresh tap water and cook for 30 minutes or longer simmering slowly; mash a few to get a soupy texture.
- Add the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice (can mix the dressing beforehand). Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with cumin on the side and all the trimmings. Sahtein!
Ground cumin can be replaced with ground cinnamon (or both can be added) or even some ground Aleppo or chili pepper.
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