Archive | December 2010

Homemade Snacks: Baleela and Fule

In the fall and winter, the streets of Amman are filled with men selling Baleela and Fule off of small carts. Baleela – not to be confused with the Egyptian wheat cereal – is chickpeas cooked in a tomato broth, while Fule is fava beans cooked until tender with lemon and salt. Both are flavored with cumin, and are eaten as a popular street food.

I particularly remember leaving the University of Jordan campus on gray, rainy winter evenings, and stopping to order Fule from the man with his cart who stood right outside the main gate. For 25 piasters, I would get a good-sized plastic pouch of Fule from the steaming hot mound piled high, and decorated with slices of fresh lemon. I would snack on the hot beans as I waited to get a taxi home.

Many people make Baleela and Fule as an evening snack at home, too, because it’s so easy,and you can control the quality and quantities of seasoning.

Baleela

2 cups of good quality chickpeas (dried or canned)

2-3 large onions, sliced into rings

1 cup of tomato sauce OR 3 tbsp of tomato paste

1 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of ginger

1/2 tbsp of black pepper

1/4 tsp of turmeric

1/4 tsp of paprika (optional)

hot pepper flakes or hot chili powder to taste (optional)

salt to taste

Method

If using dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight, or give them a Quick Soak: Put the chickpeas in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Let boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let the peas soak for an hour to an hour and a half. They should be slightly tender by now. Add half a cup of water and simmer, covered, on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until chickpeas are cooked and tender. Proceed with recipe.

If using canned chickpeas, drain the liquid off of them, rinse, then put in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Proceed with recipe.

To the pot of chickpeas and water, add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer, covered, on low heat for 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls, with plenty of the broth! Squeeze fresh lemon on it right before eating.

Fule

2 cups of good quality dried fava beans (they’re usually quite large, but the variety I found here at my Middle Eastern store were really tiny, as you can see in the picture)

2 onions, chopped

1.5 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of black pepper

hot pepper flakes or hot chili powder to taste (optional)

salt to taste

Method

Soak the beans overnight or using the Quick Soak Method described above for the chickpeas.

To the pot of fava beans and water, add the rest of the ingredients. Let simmer, covered, on low heat for 20-30 minutes. The skins of the beans should start to crack open; this is a sign that they’re ready.

Fule is usually served steaming hot and without the broth. People sprinkle salt, extra cumin, and a squeeze of lemon onto their individual servings. You eat them with your fingers, popping the skins off before putting them in your mouth. Delicious!

Egyptian Lentil Soup: Warm Up Your Winter Evenings

 

My family in Jordan eats a lot of lentil soup in the winter. They say that lentils are one of those foods that heat up the whole body, and give you a huge boost of energy. Most of the time, we make Palestinian fattit 3adas, but once in a while, my Taita will make Egyptian lentil soup for a change. It’s a bit lighter than the Palestinian version, and also differs in that it has vegetables and noodles in it. You can really cater this recipe to your tastes, and it only takes about half an hour to make. It’s an excellent soup for those cold winter evenings, and is healthy too!

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp of vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter

2 cups of yellow lentils/split peas, washed and drained

4 cups of water OR any kind of stock

1 large onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 large tomato, roughly chopped

1 carrot, shredded or finely chopped

2 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp each of chili powder and paprika (optional)

1 tsp of hot pepper flakes (optional)

3/4 cup of vermicelli noodles (optional)

salt&pepper to taste

 

Method

In a pot, heat your oil or butter, then add the split peas or lentils.

Sautee them gently for a couple of minutes, then add the water or stock. Let the liquid reach a boil, then add the onion, garlic, tomato, and carrot. Cover, and let simmer on low heat until the lentils are tender. This usually only takes about 15 minutes.

Once the lentils are fully cooked and very tender, let the contents of the pot cool for a bit, then puree them in a food processor, blender, or using a hand blender. Return the pureed mixture to the cooking pot.

Add all of the spices, and salt&pepper to taste. Stir the soup, then cover and let simmer for a few more minutes, so that the flavors from the spices really infuse the soup.

If you feel like the soup is too thick, add some more stock or water to get your desired consistency.

 

Optional: If using vermicelli noodles, heat some more oil or butter in a small pot or frying pan, then add the vermicelli. Brown the vermicelli in the hot fat, being careful not to burn them. Once browned, add the vermicelli to the pot of lentil soup and stir.

 

Traditionally, this soup is served with tiny Egyptian onions on the side, or fresh green onions, as well as arugula and sliced radishes. The spiciness of the onions, radishes, and arugula contrast nicely with the full-bodied flavor of the lentils. To make this meal extra hearty and filling, we often tear up a loaf of pita bread into our bowls. You can even toast the pita bread in the oven first, then break it up into pieces like croutons!

For a non-traditional twist, add a dollop of sour cream, or drizzle some olive oil into your bowl before dipping in.

Shakshooka: A Simple Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner

A new post is long overdue. After the very labor-intensive stuffing recipes, I think it would be appropriate to add some quick and easy recipes that you can make any time of the day, in less than half an hour.

Shakshooka is a very simple and hearty egg dish that is made in different variations all over the Middle East. It is usually eaten as a breakfast food, but people make it for lunch and dinner too! The following recipe is the way my Taita makes Shakshooka. You should definitely try it out for a super quick and very satisfying meal.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter

1/2 a large onion, finely chopped

1/2 a chili pepper, chopped

1 large green pepper, diced

3-4 large tomatoes, diced

4 eggs

Method

Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan. Add the onions and chopped chili peppers, and sautee until soft.

Add the tomatoes and green peppers, and sautee for a couple of minutes.

Cover and let cook on medium heat until the vegetables soften to desired texture.

When softened, dig out little holes in the vegetables with your spatula, then crack each egg into a hole. Add salt&pepper to taste, then cover again until the eggs cook.

When the eggs are cooked how you like them, you’re done!

Serve hot with fresh pita bread or toast, or fried potatoes. Perfect for a late lunch on a cold winter evening.

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