Khobbeizeh: Middle Eastern Greens

Khobbeizeh, or Malva Parviflora, is a wild green that grows throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In Palestinian culture, Khobbeizeh is a food for the common – a green that you can make a cheap, filling, and very healthy meal out of. The season for Khobbeizeh is late fall to early winter, and around this time of the year in Jordan, the markets are full of it. People even go out to large fields outside the city to harvest huge bundles of the wild Khobbeizeh. I’m not sure if you can get it in the US, so I don’t really know how useful this recipe is to people who don’t live in an area where Khobbeizeh grows, buuut because it is such a traditional dish, I definitely wanted to include it in my collection :)

Like spinach or most other greens, Khobbeizeh cooks down to very little, so you need to purchase/obtain it raw in large quantities. There are many, many ways to cook it, and the recipe that I am going to post is a combination of several different variations. Traditionally, the Khobbeizeh leaves are dropped into boiling water, then a traditional whisk-like tool called a Mifrak is used to whisk the leaves rapidly until they start to fall apart. My recipe uses a less traditional and slightly easier method. Although my family doesn’t really make Khobbeizeh that often, it is a very traditional Palestinian dish, and I highly recommend trying it if you like greens in general (or believe in eating them once in a while to feel better about your otherwise-unhealthy diet).

Only the leaves of the Khobbeizeh plant are used.

Ingredients

4-5 cups of Khobbeizeh leaves, washed, de-stemmed, and very finely chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

2-3 cups of water or stock

1 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 cup of coriander, finely chopped

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

5-6 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil

1 cup of coarse bulgur OR roasted green wheat (freekeh) OR regular or wholewheat flour

salt& pepper to taste

Method

In a large pot, heat 2-3 tbsp of oil, then add half of the chopped onion. Sautee the onion until tender, then add the chopped Khobbeizeh leaves. Sautee until they wilt and cook down.


Add the water or stock, and stir, ¬†letting it come to a boil. Don’t use too much liquid; you want to add just enough to get a very thick, stew-like texture. Add the chopped parsley and coriander.

If using bulgur OR smoked wheat: wash the grains then drain. Soak in hot water for ten minutes, then drain, and add them to the pot of Khobbeizeh.

If using flour: put the flour in a small bowl and gradually sprinkle a couple tablespoons of cold water all over it. Mix it gently with a fork until the flour forms little balls of dough. Sprinkle on more water if needed. Then, add the dough balls to the pot of Khobbeizeh.

Leave the Khobbeizeh to simmer on low heat for a few minutes while you prepare the ‘ad7ah. Remember, ‘ad7ah is basically adding sauteed garlic to whatever you’re cooking to give it an extra layer of flavor. So, in a small frying pan or saucepan, heat the rest of your oil, then add the rest of the chopped onion and the crushed garlic. Fry until golden brown, then pour the whole thing into the pot of Khobbeizeh. Watch out; it can really splatter!

Give the pot of Khobbeizeh a stir, add salt&pepper to taste, and serve with fresh bread, sliced lemons, and green onions on the side. Enjoy!

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4 responses to “Khobbeizeh: Middle Eastern Greens”

  1. Laila says :

    Hi!
    My name Is Laila El-Haddad, I’m author of the forthcoming Gaza Kitchen with my colleague Maggie Schmitt (and also author of the blog, and book, Gaza Mom). We’ve been researching traditional food from the Gaza District for a long time-and spent several months there last summer. We are nearing our book deadline. We also have a blog dedicated to our book and kitchen testing at http://www.gazakitchens.wordpress.com.

    Anyway- I’vejust happened by your site as I was google searching -in vain- a substitute for a leafy mucilaginous green like khobeizah! then I google searched khobeizah and lo and behold I came across your blog post! You must think I’m insane, but my co-athor and I are so devoted to our work and book for the past year and a half that we were excited to see this blog post :)

    I was thinking perhaps creeping spinach might make a good substitute.

    anyway-we just published a long article in Saudi Aramco World on Gaza’s food heritage-check it out: http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/201106/gaza.s.food.heritage.htm
    and please stay in touch with your thoughts and insights!

    • Zurzoor says :

      Hi Laila!

      Thank you for your comment and info – I’ve been inactive on the blog for a long time now, but would really like to start posting again. Your book sounds like a fantastic initiative, and I wish you all the best with it! Please keep me updated on the progress; I’d love to see the final product, and more importantly, would love to try making some traditional Gaza recipes :)

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