A few weeks ago one of the program directors here at AMIDEAST had a few of the students over to her house for a cooking lesson. This visit was the result of a failed trip to a culinary school that the program had tried to arrange. As is often the case with long-term plans in the Middle East, things fell through at the last minute. Instead, Wa'fa, our academic advisor here, offered her kitchen to a small group of us. Her home was beautiful, packed with artifacts from distant lands and exotic locals. Despite the international feel of the surroundings, in the kitchen it was 100% Jordan. On the menu was hummus, shatta, al-khierib leban, maklouba, and asir limon ma nana. Seem like a lot? Well it was! And Wa'fa had graciously purchased not only all of the ingredients, but enough for everyone to have a hand in making everything! It was very impressive. And incredibly generous. There is that Jordanian hospitality for you!
The above photo was the only one I managed to take before my camera died. So, the rest of the photos in this post are courtesy of my friends Allegra and Lauren. I was also elected to be the eggplant frier, so Lauren recorded the recipes while my hands were busy. Wa'fa started out by explaining everything we were going to make. Maybe I should do the same for you.
|Wa'fa explaining the instructions|
Most of the dishes I listed above are Arab condiments. Hummus is undoubtedly the most well known outside the Arab world, shatta is a hot chilli sauce, and al-khierib leban is a cucumber yogurt sauce. Hummus is readily available in most supermarkets in America, any hot chilli sauce can be substituted for shatta, and cucumber yogurt sauce is pretty straight forward. Nonetheless, here are the recipes:
- ¼ kilo of raw chickpeas
- 2-4 heaping spoonfuls of Tahina (sesame seed paste)
- ½ of a lemon, juiced
- 2-3 large spoonfuls of plain yogurt (optional)
- 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic
- Olive Oil
1. Overnight, soak chickpeas in lukewarm water.
2. Fill large pot with soaked chickpeas and water until 1 inch above the level of chickpeas. Boil for an hour, uncovered.
3. Taste chickpeas to see if soft. Put in blender or food processor and add several spoonfuls of Tahina. Blend until chickpeas are broken up.
4. Add lemon juice, garlic cloves, and salt. Blend.
5. Add water and yogurt until it’s the consistency desired.
6. Serve in a bowl with olive oil drizzled on top.
- 12-15 hot red peppers
- 1 large tomato
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
1. Cut the hot red peppers in half. Cut the tomato in to slices.
2. Put vegetables in a small bowl and let them steam for 10 minutes in a double-boiler. Cover until peppers and tomato are mushy.
3. Put these ingredients into blender. Make sure it is not too runny.
4. Add the olive oil. Blend until desired consistency.
5. Serve or refrigerate (keeps for 1 month).
Al-Khierib Leban (Yogurt with cucumber sauce)
- 6 small cucumbers
- 1 large container of plain yogurt
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- Salt to taste
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
1. Cut the ends off of the cucumbers. With a cheese-grater, grate the cucumbers into a large bowl.
2. Peel the skin off the garlic, grate the cloves into the same bowl as the cucumbers.
3. Cut the mint leaves into very fine pieces. Set aside.
4. Mix the yogurt into the cucumbers and garlic in the large bowl. Salt to taste.
5. Sprinkle the mint leaves over top.
6. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
We also made something called asir limon ma nana. It sounds much more complicated and fancy than it really is. It translates to lemon juice with mint. I won't provide the recipe, because it is simply lemon juice and mint blended with 7-Up or Sprite. It is delicious however. And, if you use fresh mint, it takes on a fantastic green color!
The main dish, the star of the evening, is called Maklouba. In English, it translates to "upside down." Essentially, it is a whole bunch of veggies (and chicken if you so desire) topped with rice, all steamed together until the veggies are tender and the rice is infused with the succulent flavors of the produce. When it is all done cooking, you flip it over onto a tray (much the way you would with an upside down cake!), hence the name. It is delicious.
- 1 large eggplants
- 1 large onions
- 1 large green bell peppers
- 2 large tomatoes
- 2-3 boneless chicken breasts
- 2-3 cups of short-grained white rice
- Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- Black pepper
- BBQ sauce
- Lemon juice
1. Cut chicken breasts in 1 x 2 in strips. Marinate overnight (12 hours) in a mixture of ~ 1-2 cups of lemon juice, a sprinkling of parsley, crushed fresh mint, 1 Tablespoons of BBQ sauce, and black pepper.
2. 3 hours prior to cooking, put rice in a large pot. Fill with lukewarm water until rice is covered. Let rice soak for 3 hours.
3. In a large frying pan, heat up several tablespoons of vegetable oil. Cut eggplant into 1 inch thick disks and salt each side (leave for 10 minutes). Cut onions, tomatoes, and green peppers into 1 inch thick rings/rounds, set aside.
4. Once oil is hot, fry eggplant until light brown, flipping to ensure both sides are browned.
5. In a large pot, place 3 onion slices and 3 green bell pepper slices in the bottom and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Crush these ingredients together with hands, making sure all vegetable is covered with seasoning. After thoroughly crushed, make sure the bottom of the pot is covered with vegetables.
6. Salt this layer. Place one layer of tomato rounds on top of the crushed onions and green bell peppers. (do no crush tomatoes)
7. Place a layer of eggplant rings on top of tomatoes and then sprinkle with minced garlic and cilantro.
8. Layer on top of the eggplant & seasoning the marinated chicken breast strips. Press down, crush the chicken breasts and all previous layers flat as much as possible with hand. Sprinkle black pepper.
9. Add 1/2 - 1 inch layer of rice on top of chicken and vegetable layers and sprinkle this with salt.
10. Fill pot with water until rice is covered. Place pot on stove on high heat until boiling. Bring to a simmer and cover, cook for 20 minutes.
11. Taste for rice to be ready. Turn off burners, take pot and turn upside-down on a kibsa (large, circular) platter. Lift slowly so it has a cake-type form. Serve.
Absolutely delicious! And super Jordanian. We are supposed to have another cooking lesson with Wa'fa before the end of the semester, but, as with everything in the Middle East, this may or may not happen. Insha'allah! In the meantime, I have some other classic Jordanian meals to tell you about, but I want to get you exact recipes and instructions to accompany the many picture I have! It is also crunch time in school and I have become extremely busy with my work. But, as always, I will post when I can!