My Palestinian Taita (grandmother) grew up in Egypt, so most of the food she makes is Egyptian food. It’s a nice change when she makes things we’re not used to having, like Egyptian stuffed potatoes, zucchini with bechamel sauce, or apricot pudding.
A few years back, Taita introduced me to the Egyptian drink “Moghat,” which is a popular drink for women after they give birth as a general refresher and lactagogue. I always wondered what exactly Moghat is, because when we buy it in Egypt from the spice seller, it comes in the form of a bright yellow powder. All they could tell me was that it was a plant, and that the roots are dried and ground then mixed with a variety of spices such as turmeric, ground rose seeds, sesame seeds, coconut, and raisins. Apparently, the scientific name for the Moghat plant is Glossostemon bruguieri, family (Sterculiaceae).
When cooked with sugar and water, Moghat becomes a thick, sweet drink that warms you wonderfully in the winter (it’s also bright yellow and looks really intense :P). Taita brought some Moghat powder back with her when she visited Egypt in November, so I decided to make some tonight. Here is her recipe!
Tip: The fat used to brown the Moghat powder in is called samneh baladiyyeh. You make it by melting down a quantity of butter, then letting it boil for a while until all the little impurities sink to the bottom. When cooled, what you get is clarified butter or “samneh.” Egyptians cook with samneh all the time; it is what makes Taita’s food so flavorful – and unhealthy :S The fresher and purer the butter you melt down, the better flavored samneh (and food!) you get. If you don’t have samneh, you can use butter.
Note: I apologize for how blurry some of these photos are. It was tough taking them with one hand, bad lighting, and hot Moghat on the fire that needed constant stirring!
For 3 cups of Moghat:
3 tablespoons of clarified butter (“samneh”) or butter
3 heaping tablespoons of Moghat powder (add more if you like it even thicker)
3 cups of hot water
1/4 cup of sugar (you can add more if you like it sweeter)
In a saucepan, melt the samneh or butter on medium heat. Add the Moghat powder.
Brown the powder in the samneh slightly, stirring constantly. The powder will clump a bit, and should look like this:
After browning the powder for a couple minutes, add the hot water. Watch out, it’s loud! Stirring constantly, add the sugar.
The Moghat will thicken after the sugar is added. Cook it for about two to three minutes – keep stirring! Check and make sure it’s as sweet as you’d like; if needed, you can add more sugar and stir for a bit longer.
Pour/ladle into your serving cups w sa77ah w hana :)
So next time you go to Egypt or know someone who is going, have them bring you back some Moghat! It’s pretty tasty.
One thing I love about Palestinian cuisine is its wide variety of simple yakhani (“thick stews;” sing. yekhen) featuring seasonal vegetables. Many of these yakhani are cooked following a basic pattern: cook meat and obtain broth, add featured vegetable and tomato sauce, then let cook. I love these dishes because I can savor the freshness of the vegetables, and it makes me feel like I am connected to the earth in which they were grown. I always end up pushing the chunks of meat off to the side and eating all the vegetables! Some of my favorite yakhani are yakhnit green fava beans, yakhnit tomato with ground meat, yakhnit white beans, yakhnit okra, and yakhnit spinach. You can eat most of these yakhani with bread or rice (or both, like my Taita does!).
Today we made Palestinian bamyeh, or okra, and I was really happy at the chance to take pictures so I could post the recipe here. The okra that Palestinians know and like best is the small, short kind. I really do not know what variety this is called, but it’s not usually what I have seen sold back in Minnesota. Even in the frozen foods section, it’s easy enough to find chopped frozen okra or long, thin okra, but those don’t work very well for the Palestinian okra dish. I’ll explain why in a bit.
Two things about our bamyeh:
1) We’re going to be cheating a little bit in this recipe, by using frozen okra. If you have fresh okra, all the better, but frozen works just fine when you can’t get fresh.
2) There are several Palestinian dishes that taste even better the next day (actually, they seem to get better day after day :p). Bamyeh is the best example. If you can, I really suggest making this dish a day before you actually want to have it. I’m serious; sitting in your fridge overnight just enhances its flavor, somehow!
500 grams (aprox) of small cubes of beef or lamb
500 grams (aprox) of frozen okra – if using fresh, wash and cut off the stems
8 tbsp of vegetable oil
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cube of chicken or beef bouillon
1 small green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
3 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the cubes of meat. Heat two tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a pot, then add the meat and brown it. Add enough water to cover the meat, then add 2 more cups of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and leave it until the meat is just cooked.
Remove the just-cooked meat from the pot and set aside. Remove the broth from the pot and set aside. Keep the pot with the bits of meat for later use!
In a small bowl, empty your package of frozen okra and add 4 cloves of the chopped garlic, the chopped chili pepper, and the bouillon cube.
In the pot used to cook the meat earlier, heat two more tablespoons of the oil. When hot, add the okra (+ stuff), and brown it for a bit.
Now add the cooked meat…
Crush the tomatoes in a blender with about half a cup of water. If it’s still very thick, add some of the broth from the meat cooked earlier.
Pour the crushed tomatoes through a strainer into the pot of okra and meat. Add enough broth from the meat cooked earlier until you get the stew to your desired thickness. I like it a bit on the thicker side. (Use the rest of the broth for making soups!) Let the stew come to a boil, then taste and adjust salt if necessary. Let it gently simmer for about 10-15 more minutes, or until the okra is cooked.
The final step is the most fun part! In a small frying pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil well. Add the remaining two cloves of chopped garlic, and fry the garlic until it is “sha’rah” (“blond,” or golden brown). Then quickly pour all of the oil with the fried garlic into the big pot of bamyeh and meat. It should make a sizzling sound as the hot oil hits the surface of the stew. Mix into the stew. This hot oil + garlic technique is called ” ‘ad7ah,” and is used to add a final layer of flavor to several different yakhani.
Serve your bamyeh with Egyptian or American short grain rice, or with fresh bread for dipping into it. Bamyeh is also commonly accompanied by a simple soup, and mlokhiyyeh, two great dishes for which I will be posting recipes soon insha’Allah :)
(Note on why chopped bamyeh doesn’t work well for this dish: Okra by nature has a “slimy” feel to it (in a good way!), and the “slime” is increased by cutting the vegetable open. If you use chopped okra, the stew itself will become very thick and slimier than it should be. )
Recipes coming soon for:
My aunt makes fettoush that turns out perfectly every time (like most of her cooking!). Fettoush is a salad that is famous in Lebanon and Syria, but Palestinians make it too. It gets its unique flavor from the combination of garlic and dried mint. Her special ingredient that always makes her fettoush foolproof is apple cider vinegar. Another tip is to use a smaller quantity of tomatoes relative to the “greens.” When she makes it , my cousins and I usually end up gobbling up the fettoush and forgetting about the main dish. I hope you enjoy her recipe for this simple, delicious salad!
2 ripe tomatoes, medium diced
4 large leaves of romaine lettuce, medium chop
Half a small onion, very finely chopped
Half a small red cabbage, julienned
3 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated or julienned
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 small cucumbers, diced
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of good quality sumac (optional)
1 small bunch of dill, finely chopped (optional)
2 1/2 heaping tablespoons of dried mint
Combine all of the vegetables and herbs (up until the dried mint) in a large salad bowl.
Then take the dried mint and rub it in your hands, letting it fall into the salad bowl. If you don’t crush it like this, the leaves and stalks might get stuck in your teeth or irritate you as you chew your salad.
For the dressing:
4-5 cloves of crushed garlic
6-7 tablespoons each of olive oil and apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
Mix these ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Mix well! You want the garlic evenly distributed throughout the salad.
Do this step right before serving the salad! Separate the two layers of a loaf of pita bread. Tear both layers into medium-sized pieces. Fry them lightly in some hot vegetable oil till light brown and crispy! Then mix three quarters of the bread chips into the salad. Use the remaining chips as decoration on top!
Sa7tain w hana :)