Hora’a Osbao – Syrian Lentil Stew

An absolutely incredible dish originating from Syria. I had it for the first time last year by chance, and had to ask what the name was, it was so amazing. It’s a fair amount of work, but the results are by far worth it.

According to my roommate, this is often served as a side dish, but it’s more than filling enough to serve as the main course!

This dish uses pomegranate molasses, also called dibis ramman, which was an entirely new ingredient to me. It’s tangy, sweet, and just flat-out delicious. My local grocery store carries it, but you might have to make the trek to a Middle-Eastern market to find it! If you can only find grape molasses (which has a similar flavour profile), you can use that in a pinch.

If you use gluten-free pasta, this dish can be gluten-free.

Prep time: ~1.5 hours.
Serves: 6-8, generously.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large white onions, peeled and cut into thin slices.
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying the onions)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed/minced.
  • 1 bunch coriander, half finely chopped, half with the leaves removed from the stems.
  • 2 pieces Arabic bread (pita works well), cut into small cubes.
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed well.
  • 8 cups water.
  • 6 tsp cumin.
  • 150 grams fettuccine (or similar pasta).
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses.
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice.
  • 1 tbsp sugar.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.
  • pomegranate seeds, to garnish.

Cooking Instructions:

Start off by heating 2 cups of oil in a large saucepan or pot on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough that an onion slice starts to bubble when dropped in, but doesn’t go brown right away, add in all the onions.

Stir occasionally, and cook until browned and crispy, 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oil, pat off the excess oil with paper towels, and set them aside to cool.

While the onions cook, preheat the oven as hot as it will go. Toss the bread pieces with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, until they’re nicely coated, then spread on a tray and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and brown. Set the croutons aside to cool.

Place your lentils in a large pot with the water and cumin, and place the pot on high heat. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down until they’re just simmering. Cook for 30 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, heat a small pan on medium heat. When hot, add 2 tsp olive oil and the garlic. Turn the heat down to low immediately, and cook the garlic, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

Add in the chopped coriander, then turn off the heat, but keep the pan on the stove. Stir occasionally until it begins to cool down, then set aside. This is called the “takliye”.

Cook your pasta for half the time specified on the package, then drain the pasta, but reserve 3 cups of the pasta water.

Once the lentils have been simmering for 30 minutes, add in half of the pasta water, an all of the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well until combined.

Add the pasta, 2/3 of the crispy onions, and all of the takliye, stir well, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper, and taste to see if the lentils are done. If they’re still too firm, add some more of the pasta water and let simmer for a few minutes longer.

When the lentils are cooked and the stew has a nice, thick consistency, stir in the last coriander leaves. If you are serving this for others, place in a large serving dish and allow to cool slightly, then top with the croutons, pomegranate seeds,, and the remaining onions.

This dish can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

 

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Fasouliah b’zeit

Also called Loubyeh b’zeit, this is a Lebanese dish. It consists of stewed green beans in a deliciously garlicky tomato sauce, served over rice. This is a friend’s recipe, with his little tips and tricks to make it the way he likes.

This also includes a bonus recipe for Adha – garlic toasted in olive oil. Super yummy, and a staple in many Middle-Eastern (particularly Palestinian) dishes.

Prep time: ~40 minutes
Gluten-free
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the stew:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced.
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced/crushed.
  • 500 grams green beans (fresh or frozen).
  • 2 cans whole tomatoes, sliced thinly, with the juice reserved.
  • 1 tsp Baharat (see recipe on this blog!)
  • hot sauce or dried chili flakes, if desired, to taste.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.
  • 1 1/2 cups rice.

For the Adha:

  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced fairly thinly.
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil.

 

Cooking Instructions:

Place a large pot on medium heat with the olive oil in the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic. Add a generous pinch of salt – this will help draw the moisture out of the onion and allow it to caramelize slightly.

Cook, stirring often, until the onion has just started to caramelize, then add in the green beans and tomatoes. Stir well to combine, and bring to a bubble.

While the stew is cooking, make some rice, about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup per person.

Once the stew is bubbling, add in the Baharat and hot sauce/chili flakes, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer gently for as long as you like, but at least 20 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Taste just before serving, and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Just before serving, time to make the toasted garlic.

Make sure the garlic isn’t sliced too thinly, or it will burn, but also not too thickly, because then the middle won’t cook properly. Heat a small (very small) frying pan on medium-low heat with the olive oil in it. Add in the garlic slices.

Fry, stirring frequently, until the garlic turns yellow. Take it off the heat, and allow the residual heat to finish cooking the garlic, until it’s a nice golden colour.

Pour it into the stew (or the rice, if you prefer). If you’re feeling fancy, remove the garlic from the oil and use it as a garnish on top instead of mixing it in with the rest.

Scoop a nice amount of rice into the bottom of a bowl, then top with the stew. Enjoy!

 

Molokhia

Another Middle-Eastern dish. Spelled many ways (Mulukhiya, molohiya, etc),  it’s basically the leaves of the Corchorus plant, also called Jute leaves. You can find it at Middle-Eastern markets, and possibly in the more adventurous supermarkets. Don’t count on it, though.

It tastes rather similar to spinach, so if you can’t find molokhia anywhere, frozen spinach can be a suitable substitute.

Prep time: ~25 minutes
Gluten-free
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen molokhia (or spinach)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, with half set aside.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil.
  • 4 cups vegetable stock.
  • 2 cups long-grain rice (white or brown).

Cooking Instructions:

First, get your rice going. Rice cookers are amazing, but if you don’t have one, just follow the directions on your rice. Different varieties of rice need more or less water, after all.

Next, place the oil in a small frying pan and heat it on medium heat. We’re going to toast off half the garlic to make the dish very aromatic.

Place the rest of the garlic, the frozen molokhia, and the stock in a pot on the stove on medium heat as well. You want to thaw the molokhia in the stock, that way it takes on more flavor.

When the oil is hot, add your garlic. Be careful, the oil might splash you, so keep your fingers back! Stir it frequently, making sure it’s nicely toasted and golden brown on all sides. When it’s toasted, take it off the heat.

Once the molokhia is thawed and starting to boil, add the toasted garlic along with the oil in the pan. Stir well, and let bubble for a few minutes. Serve the molokhia on top of a bed of rice, and enjoy!

 

Middle-Eastern Seven Spice – Baharat

My friend Amr’s not-so-secret trick to making delicious Middle-Eastern food. This spice mix varies from place to place, and from family to family. This is the one Amr (and, by extension, the rest of our household) uses! This spice mix is great in all sorts of stews, marinades, and sauces.

Prep time: 5 min
Gluten-free

Ingredients:

  • 4 tsp black peppercorns.
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds.
  • 1 cinnamon stick.
  • 3 scant tsp cloves.
  • 4 tsp cumin seeds.
  • 1 tsp cardamom pods.
  • 3 tsp nutmeg.
  • 4 tsp paprika.
  • 1 tsp allspice.

Cooking Instructions:

Place the spices into a dry frying pan on medium-low heat, and toast for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Place the toasted spices into a spice grinder, or a mortar and pestle, and grind until smooth. Store in an airtight container.

Koshari

Also spelled Kushari. A traditional Egyptian dish that I learned from my sister’s boyfriend. An incredibly filling, tasty dish that uses very inexpensive ingredients, so if you’re on a budget, this is a great option!

Just as yummy leftover as it is fresh. This dish can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.

Prep time: ~1 hour
Gluten-free (if using gluten-free pasta)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice, rinsed.
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed.
  • 2 tsp Baharat, aka Middle-Eastern 6 spice mix. See the recipe I have on this blog, under spices!
  • 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 large onion, half chopped, half thinly sliced.
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 can whole tomatoes.
  • 1 tsp vinegar.
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or hot sauce to taste.
  • salt and pepper, to taste.
  • 400 grams macaroni or other short pasta/gluten-free pasta.

Cooking Instructions:

Place the rice, lentils, and spice mix in a pot or a rice cooker with 4 cups water, a pinch of salt, and a dash of oil, and cook until tender.

Fry the chopped half of the onion in a large pot in the olive oil until soft, add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using them) and cook until fragrant. Puree the tomatoes and add to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat until simmering. Add the vinegar and hot sauce (if using it), season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, and strain, tossing with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

Prepare a small frying pan with enough olive oil to comfortably cover the bottom, heat until just below the smoke point. Lightly salt the sliced onion and press with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, then fry in the oil until browned and crispy.

Serve in layers: the rice-lentil mix on the bottom, the pasta, the sauce, and then the onions. Use up all the crispy onions while this dish is fresh, they’re no good when refrigerated.