Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cairo Molokhia

Egyptian Molokhia in the style of Cairo!
     Molokhia is spelled several different ways in the middle east.  Molokhia has been consumed since ancient times.  Molokhia at one time was a meal reserved only for Egyptian pharaohs.
     Molokhia is better known as jute.  The molohkia leaves are edible and the rest of the jute plant is used to make fabrics and rugs.  Molokhia leaves are usually finely chopped and made into a soup or stew.  Molokhia is one of Egypt's most famous foods.  The Egyptian molokhia recipe changes from region to region.
     Chefs in Cairo are famous for adding shrimp to the molokhia.  Chicken and rabbit are very popular meats to add to the soup in other regions of Egypt.  Molokhia has a slightly bitter, exotic aromatic flower flavor.  It does get a little bit mucilaginous or slimy when it is cooked and it is a great source of dietary fiber.  Molokhia is almost always served over rice as a soup or stew.  Chicken broth is almost always used to make this soup, but because shrimp are the featured ingredient in this Cairo molokhia version, shrimp broth was used instead.
     Molokhia is available fresh or frozen in middle eastern markets.  Frozen molokhia is easy to work with, because it is very finely minced before packaging.  I used a package of frozen minced molokhia to make this recipe.
     Cairo Molokhia Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 1 large portion!
     Cook one portion of white basmati rice or white long grain rice ahead of time and keep it warm.
     Place 3 cups of light shrimp broth into a sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of finely minced molokhia.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped tomato.
     Add 1 chopped seeded green serrano chile pepper.
     Add 1 handful of chopped onion.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 small handful of finely chopped cilantro.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Place the sauce pot over high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil while stirring.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the molokhia for about 20 minutes, till it becomes a rich medium puree consistency.  (Add more shrimp broth, if the soup gets too thick.  The soup should have a medium puree stew texture and it should not be thin or brothy for this recipe version.)
     Keep simmering the molokhia soup warm over medium low heat and add shrimp broth if necessary, while preparing the finishing ingredients.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 6 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 6 chopped garlic cloves.
     Cook the garlic butter, till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Add the hot garlic butter to the molokhia soup, while stirring.
     Add about 8 or 10 fully peeled large shrimp.
     Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Simmer the molokhia for about 5 more minutes.
     Place 1 portion of cooked basmati rice into a rice mold or a custard cup.
     Invert the cup onto a shallow bowl.
     Tap the rice mold against the bowl.
     Remove the rice mold.
     Ladle the molokhia soup around the rice in the bowl.
     Try to expose the shrimp on the surface of the molokhia in a decorative manner.
     Garnish the rice with a spoonful of harissa.
     Garnish the harissa with a few Italian parsley leaves.
     After cooking, the molokhia flavor and aroma seems to wake up.  The molokhia becomes very fragrant.  The after taste from eating molokhia is indescribably nice!  The aroma is like a very pleasant rare flower.
     The spices in this recipe accent the flavor of molokhia.  Molokhia is much less bitter tasting than kale.  The molokhia seems to absorb and conquer the flavors of the garlic and hot pepper too.  Those flavors were barely noticeable in this thick soup.  Molokhia is a must if you wish to try something different and delicious!  ...  Shawna        

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