Tag Archive | winter

Refreshing Ramadan Drinks: Hibiscus

I wanted to try and get at least one Ramadan post written before the month ends, especially because it’s been a long time since I last updated! During Ramadan in Jordan, my aunts and grandmother make several special Ramadan drinks that are both refreshing and healthy, including tamarind, sous (licorice root), khushaf (an apricot juice with nuts and dried fruits), and karkadeh (hibiscus). When I was in Jordan this summer for a few weeks, I made sure to buy some hibiscus flowers with which to make hibiscus drink for when I came back to Turkey.

These are what the hibiscus flower petals look like dried…

Often referred to as “hibiscus tea,” the drink itself is very easy to make, and is known to have various health benefits. Its antioxidant properties, for example, help strengthen the immune system. It also helps your body flush out toxins, and is beneficial for lower blood pressure and diabetes.

I know a lot of people who like to boil the hibiscus petals in water, but simply letting the petals steep in hot water preserves the health benefits of the flower, and renders a fresher tasting drink. This is how we make karkadeh:

Put two cups of karkadeh petals in a teapot or heat resistant container.

Boil 4 cups of water, then pour boiling water over the petals.

Let steep until it cools, then strain, discarding the petals and keeping the liquid. This is your karkadeh concentrate.

Chill the concentrate, and then dilute with cold water to taste. I prefer it a bit more concentrated, but some people like it much more diluted. It is very sour, so add sugar or honey as desired.

You can also drink it hot, which is especially nice during the winter. Unfortunately, my family only makes karkadeh during Ramadan, but I think it should be made all the time :D

 

Delicious Chicken Soup, Palestinian Style

I love this simple, delicious chicken soup that stands out because of the distinct flavor of cardamom. If you love a bowl of steaming hot chicken soup but want to try something new, this is the recipe for you.

Orzo or risi pasta is used to give the soup body. In Arabic, this small, rice-shaped pasta is called lsaan 3asfour, or “bird tongues,” because of its shape. I remember eating this excellent soup at my Taita’s house in Egypt, amazed at the thought that I was consuming tiny bird tongues!

Ingredients

approx 1/2 cup of orzo/risoni, or risi pasta

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

2 cups of excellent quality chicken stock

1 small onion or shallot

1 tsp of black pepper

1 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp of allspice (optional)

salt to taste

Method

In a pot, heat the oil. Add the pasta and sautee it for a couple of minutes.

Add the chicken stock. Put the onion in whole. Add the spices, and salt to taste.

Let simmer for a few minutes. Before serving, remove the onion.

Serve with a salad for a light meal.

 

Variation: In pot, sautee a medley of chopped fresh vegetables (onion, carrot, zucchini, green bean, potato) in some olive oil. When slightly softened, add chicken broth, cardamom, and salt&pepper to taste. Let simmer for a few minutes then serve.

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.

Moghat (and no, no one has given birth)

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!

Ingredients

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)

The crazy yellow Moghat powder

Method

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.

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