Thursday, August 12, 2010

Molohkia (Jute Leaf Soup)

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming a precocious cook and blogger, Mo from Mo's Kitchen.  From the moment you are read Mo's Kitchen you know the blogger means business.  She has something to say and isn't afraid to say it.  The recipes are diverse and the cooking spot-on.  All the while keeping health and healthy eating in the forefront.  This would be great for any of us food bloggers, but it is amazing when you learn the Mo is 16 years young.  She is light-years more advanced than I was at that age.

Make it a point to check out a future kitchen star over at Mo's Kitchen.

Enjoy...

Guest Post Spotlight Thursday


Hey, folks! I’m super excited to be guest-posting here today, something I’ve never done. I was honored when Lazaro asked me to. :)


My name is Mo (no, my parents aren’t cruel; this was self-inflicted) and I’m just a kid with a food blog. No biggie.

When Lazaro asked me to guest-post, he asked me way in advance so I had a lot of time to think of something. The problem was that none of my ideas were interesting enough to qualify, in my head at least, for a guest post.

My best friend, Marwa, moved to Cairo over 2 years ago. I live and have grown up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where all the diplomats and ambassadors and foreign services agents live. So a bunch of people from all sorts of different countries come and go, and I said goodbye to Marwa in June of ’08. Now, the foodie in me had not yet fully developed as of that time so I was not really interested in learning the delicious Egyptian recipes her mother always made us, and I was not at all fascinated by the spices or the interesting ingredients. I was sort of a “let’s make cookies instead” kind of a gal. So during our friendship and our many sleepovers, I took for granted the culture that was right in my face and on my dinner plate. When Marwa moved away I was sad only because of the fact that, well, she was moving away, to a place inaccessible by me. I thought nothing of the fact that I had much to learn about cultures other than mine in terms of food, and I could have done that by walking into her kitchen if I had felt like it.

Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I broadened my horizons when it came to food and different types of cuisine. I became increasingly interested in “weird” ingredients that were hard to come by in the States but popular in other countries. I especially opened my eyes to the world of spices, which continues to fascinate me. My dad brought me to a store he frequents, called Halalco, and it was as though I was in a toy store homogenized with a candy store, and I could have anything I wanted (also, I’m 5 in this scenario). Halalco, as you may have guessed by the name, is a Middle Eastern store that specializes in halal meat for the Muslim community. However, it is certainly not limited to that. Their spice aisle is a wondrous place that makes you want to purchase things which you have no idea what they are. You just know you want to try them. And even then they’re not finished. They have aisles and aisles of interesting finds, like legume flours that would cost you an arm and a leg in a regular grocery store, sweeteners such as date molasses and grape syrup, the biggest bags of basmati rice you’ve ever seen, all kinds of different cooking oils, bulk nuts and seeds for much less than you can get other places, Indian “TV” dinners, and a produce section that includes fresh olives (I don’t know about you but you can’t find fresh olives in the regular grocery stores around here, or in any grocery store I’ve ever been to as a matter of fact) and kindly-priced vegetables. Sometimes it’s a bit confusing going into the store, because you won’t know what something is, either because it’s called by its Arabic, Hindi or other non-English name or because you’ve just never heard of it in the first place. But after a while the foreign words become more familiar and it’s the only reason I know what cumin is in several different languages. Another thing I like about the place is that if you go in there looking for something you heard about (that’s used in the Middle East, at least), you’ll most likely find it.

Case in point: molokhia. This term refers to both the leaves of the jute plant and the soup which is prepared from the leaves. The conversation I had with Marwa over Skype as she tried to tell me what molokhia was was most interesting, given it was hard to tell when she was referring to the leaves and when she was referring to the soup. So, for the purpose of this post and the sanities of everyone reading this, I will refer to the leaves as jute leaves and the soup as molokhia. But when she told me about how she had to show me how to make it, I knew what I would be sharing with you guys today. (I actually attempted this on my own as she did not have the time to make it with me during her visit which just ended two days ago, but she guided me through the recipe as well as she could. )

Molokhia (muh-luh-KAI-ah – don’t say “mo-lo-khee-UH” unless you want an Egyptian to laugh really hard at you) is a traditional and very popular Egyptian dish, and I do not pretend to know any more than that. ;) I’m sharing Marwa’s family recipe with you today, but I wanted to research how other recipes are prepared. And it turns out it’s all relatively similar, but it varies by little things like spices, amounts and whether or not there’s meat in it. I was lucky enough to find frozen minced jute leaves at Halalco, but it is normally made with fresh leaves. However, if you can find jute leaves in the US, they will most likely be frozen, already minced and at your local Middle Eastern grocery store.

I tried to make as many actual measurements as I could with this because the recipe Marwa gave me was very inexact. I think this is great for a home cook doing her own thing, as Marwa’s mom is a genius in the kitchen and probably doesn’t really need to make measurements (then again I’m told that Egyptians don’t really measure anything anyway), but for food blogging I think it’s rather important. I also made the second version without chicken because it was just more practical for me to do it that way, but I included the original because it looks darn delicious. I hope Marwa’s mom would be proud of this, even though it’s probably a bit different than what she makes.

Molohkia (Jute Leaf Soup)

(Recipes by Marwa’s mom, adapted and improvised by Mo)

1 whole, 2-3 lb (small) chicken (you can remove the skin or not; your choice)
1 average-sized onion, peeled
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp whole peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1 bouillon cube (made with all-natural ingredients, s’il vous plait)
14 oz frozen minced jute leaves (molohkia)
1 tbsp butter
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

Place the chicken, the onion, the salt, the pepper, the cardamom (place each pod between your top and bottom front teeth, bite down to crack the pod, and place in the pot) and the bouillon in a large pot. Cover with water and cook on medium-high for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and onion from the pot. Throw away the onion (unless you have a use for a boiled onion) and allow the chicken to cool. Strain the liquid to remove the pepper and cardamom.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, add about 3.5 cups of the broth you’ve just made and the jute leaves. Heat this over low until the leaves are defrosted, then heat over medium-high until it is almost to a boil but do not bring to a boil*. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small pan, add the garlic, sauté a bit, and then add the coriander powder. When the garlic is a nice golden brown, add to the molokhia. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin.

To prepare the chicken, cut it up into its various body parts and brown each piece in a little bit of butter. Serve the chicken alongside the molokhia and (in my case, brown) basmati rice and/or pita bread. Eat up!

*When brought to a boil, the leaves fall to the bottom of the pot and the soup becomes dull and heavy, which obviously will make everyone sad.

With no chicken/vegetarian:

4 cups organic chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 average-sized onion, peeled
1 tsp salt (1.25 tsp if the broth you use is low-sodium)
2 tsp whole peppercorn
2 cardamom pods
14 oz frozen minced jute leaves
1 tbsp butter
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

In a large pot, place the broth, onion, optional salt, pepper, cardamom (place each pod between your top and bottom front teeth, crack the pod, and place in the pot). Cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the onion and strain the liquid into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. There will be less than 4 cups due to evaporation, but there should be at least 3.5 cups of liquid. If there isn’t, add enough water (or broth, if you have it) to make 3.5 cups. Pour this broth into a large pot and add the jute leaves. Heat over low until the leaves are defrosted, then heat over medium-high until it is almost to a boil but do not bring to a boil*. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small pan, add the garlic, sauté a bit, and then add the coriander powder. When the garlic is a nice golden brown, add to the molokhia. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin.

*When brought to a boil, the leaves fall to the bottom of the pot and the soup becomes dull and heavy, which sets off a chain reaction of unyummy soups and natural disasters. Stuff like that. The point is, don’t do it!

Serve alongside basmati rice and/or pita bread.

 
The verdict: I’m not going to lie to you all – molokhia is weird. Mucilaginous. It’s a bit like okra in that respect, I guess. Point being, I don’t recommend serving this to picky children. Or picky adults and anything in between, for that matter. It’s got a rather interesting texture but it actually kind of goes away once you mix it with rice, which is great. I definitely had to adjust the recipe after I made it to season it well since I wasn’t actually given any measurements the first time, and at this point I have no way of knowing whether or not the recipe tastes anything like what Marwa’s used to. All I know is that it’s delicious, regardless of authenticity, and definitely an experience. If you can get past the texture, which honestly isn’t as bad as I’m probably making it sound, I highly recommend making it, or at least some variant of it. :)


PS: Yes, I am insane for making soup when it is close to 100 degrees outside. There’s no denying that.

Please check out the fun & informative Mo's Kitchen.

31 comments:

  1. Hi Mo,

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I never really learned to cook until I moved out on my own so you're well ahead of me when I was your age. Sometimes we seem to miss things even when they are right under our noses. I always say, better late than never though. So thank you for taking the time to learn this recipe to share with us. I've never had this kind of soup before, sounds very interesting. Great job with learning the recipe and actually succeeding in making it.

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  2. Hi Mo - it's great to read you here :) I have no experience of Egyptian food and was not even aware that jute leaves were edible!! The other ingredients though, are not too far removed from Asian cooking, and are comfortingly familiar. I would love to try this soup and really appreciate the effort in explaining all its intricacies.

    Thanks Laz for featuring such a prodigious kitchen and writing talent.

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  3. This was such a great guest post! It is filled with so much information and I love the story behind the dish!

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  4. I am always intrigued by the ingredients and dishes of cultures other than my own. To be honest, I am a bit of a texture phobe when it comes to anything gelatinous,mucilaginous or spongy (like chunks of tofu). My brain always conjures up images of snails and head cheese and the bite simple won't go down! I have to commend you on your eagerness to learn about obscure ingredients and how to use them Mo. This was a wonderfully written post and gives the reader a real sense of what the soup is like; a job very well done indeed!

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  5. Thank you for featuring my post, Lazaro. :)

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  6. Hi, Mo Thank you for sharing this recipe with us - it's a new one for me and I would definitely love to try this delicious soup! We are neighbors (I'm in NoVa).

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  7. it looks interesting! I'm not a picky eater so I'd try it, and probably even like it!

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  8. Im a big fan of GREEN so i might try this when it's colder outside! thanks!

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  9. Great job Mo! First up, I'm so impressed at your fabulous post, nice work! Second, I'm even more impressed at your willingness to try new and unusual foods; if you could pass a bit of that onto my kids I'd be truly grateful.

    This soup definitely looks worth a try; healthy and different. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  10. Hi Mo,
    great writing. Informative, funny. Oh and, Nice to meet you!
    At 16 I was baking chocolate chip cookies and makine creme caramel. That was pretty much it. So I look like a toddler compared to you in cooking terms. Great job, can't wait to read more :)

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  11. What a great guest post! I first had Molokhia in the Middle East and I didn't like it at all...but its flavor really grew on me! I make it for hubby and I about once a month now (we both love it!).

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  12. Thanks for this great post, which is bringing me nice memories of my stay in Cairo. Had molokhia at a friend's place and loved it so much. Your (Marwa's Mum) soup looks absolutely delicious!

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  13. I have been looking for this recipe for over a week now. I want to try this one on the coming birthday of my mom. I am sure she will be surprise if I serve it to her.

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  14. How great to be cooking at your age.. I couldn't boil water then and wouldn't eat anything ... very brave to try this dish. Honestly, many new tastes aren't wonderful... but when you keep trying you find so many that are! That's the reward for curiosity and adventurous cooking.

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  15. Oh wow...sounds heavenly and exotic. Will have to try it.

    Lots of yummy love,
    Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner
    www.mawhatsfordinner.com

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  16. Momo! Sorry for a late comment. I was out of town yesterday and in fact today. Thanks to wi-fi! Good to see you here! I'm not familiar with Egytian food at all. So, it's really interesting for me to learn this. Great job on the recipe! I'm intrigued by the name and even more with the info and ingredients!

    Great choice of approaching Mo, laz!

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  17. I'm very impressed with your funny and original post, Mo - and your soup! Not many 16 year olds would have the courage or know-how to work with such a strange ingredient, but you obviously are a far more mature cook than I was at your age. Well done!

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  18. What an interesting sounding soup! I grew up in the burbs of DC and definitely didn't have the friends you had with all the worldly cooking- instead it was my family with the weird cooking :) ha

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  19. Lebanese love their molokhia too; however, they would be loath to prepare it like they do in Egypt; plus here every region prepares it differently; in our community, we shred the leaves very very fine and add fresh coriander; I posted an Egyptian recipe (coptic) for this on my blog and got some flak because I did not call for coriander! funny! Love your blog and post, thanks! nice to see the soup getting known a bit!

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  20. How interesting - I have never seen this before. I am intrigued by the consistency - since I like okra I bet it wouldn't be off putting to me. Great guest post, congrats!

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  21. I love your blog and visit it regularly. You always have such exotic foods that I wish to one day be brave enough to try.

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  22. I had not heard of jute leaf soup before AKA molhkia but intend to see what I've been missing soon. I lived in the suburbs of DC for a number of years and loved the diversity of cultures and foods I was exposed to.

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  23. What an interesting ingredient, one that I had never heard of before. Congratulations on your very informative post, I don't know much about Egyptian cuisine but I am always interested in learning something new. I'm going to check out your site, thanks!

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  24. Hi Mo
    what a great recipe!! You really pushed the envelope on this one, I have never heard of this soup, but you certainly brought it to life in your post! I would love to taste it! Thanks to Lazaro for having you guest post!
    Dennis

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  25. Hi Mo
    I have never heard of this soup too and you are giving me a good reason to try it out.
    Have a great Sunday ♥

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  26. Hey Mizz Mo, what a great post! I am impressed that you are so "into" checking out new and weird and wonderful things! Good for you! I was the same way but I had access to Indian and Latin stores AND some Middle East, being from Detroit with a huge Arab population. I remember going down the laundry soap aisle in a Latin grocery and it was so colorful, I loved it.

    Excellent post, you are very creative and adventurous for anyone, let alone a girl your age. Well written and interesting too. Good for you. I cook a lot of ethnic too, esp. Asian but I try not to get too weird to make it accessible to people, I like the idea of "introducing" them to other foods by not making too strange! Some people think polenta is exotic! Check out my blog if you want, I'll check out yours. Cheers! Thanks Lazaro, what a cool kid!

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  27. Oh, I can eat soup anytime of the year, and I would probably like this, I love okra, and in soups too...looks great and kudos for trying it!

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  28. Good information for me. I have never heard of this leaf - or this soup. But I love all kinds of soups all through the year.
    What does the leaf taste like? I got the texture!
    :)
    Valerie

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