Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cairo Molokhia

     Cairo Style Shrimp Molokhia!
     Molokhia is spelled several different ways in Middle East language dialects.  Molokhia is the edible leaves of the Jute plant.  The inedible fibrous Jute stalk is used to make fabric and carpet, so it is easy to see why this plant has been cultivated since ancient times.  Jute may have originated in India, but the use of Molokhia and Jute fibers actually predates the ancient age of the Pharaohs in Egypt, so this plant sprecies spread to the Nile basin long before written history came to be.
     Before the age of the Pharaohs, Molokhia was a common food item that was used to make soups and stews.  During the age of the Pharaohs, common people were banned from consuming this leafy vegetable.  Apparently the Pharaohs believed Molokhia was one of the foods of the gods.
     Just like okra, Molokhia is mucilaginous after it is cooked, so a Molokhia Soup does not need to be thickened.  Molokhia is a good source of vitamins, minerals and beneficial dietary fiber.  Molokhia also eases many digestive ailments which include constipation, so this may be part of the reason why the ancient Pharaohs held this leafy green vegetable in such high regard.            
     Molokhia leaves are usually finely chopped and made into a soup or stew.  Molokhia is one of Egypt's most famous foods and there are many regional recipe variations.  Chicken meat and chicken broth are most often used to flavor Molokhia Soup.  In Cairo, Egypt, shrimp is added to Molokhia Soup.  The slightly bitter aromatic flavor of Molokhia does taste nice with shrimp.
     Fresh Molokhia is not usually available in the western world, but frozen prepared Molokhia is available in Mediterranean food markets.  Frozen prepared Molokhia is easy to work with, because it is already very finely minced.  I used a small package of frozen minced Molokhia to make today's recipe photo example.
     Cairo Molokhia:
     This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups.  (2 portions)
     In a culinary sense, when the word Molokhia is used on its own in a recipe title, it can refer to stewed Molokhia Leaves or a thick soup made with Minced Molokhia Leaves.  The Molokhia is prepared as a soup in this recipe. 
     Frozen prepared minced Molokhia is available in Mediterranean food markets.      
     Step 1:  Cook 2 portions of Basmati Rice or Long Grain White Rice ahead of time.  (About 1/4 to 1/3 cup dried rice.)
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Step 2:  Place 3 cups of shrimp broth in a sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of thawed prepared Molokhia.  (Frozen Molokhia is usually already finely minced.)
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped tomato.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced seeded Green Serrano Chile Pepper.  (Use Green Jalapeño for a milder flavor.)
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 4:  Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil while stirring occasionally.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the Molokhia Soup is a medium thin thin puree consistency.  
     Step 6:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Ghee.  (Clarified unsalted butter.)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Add the hot garlic butter to the Molokhia Soup while stirring.
     Step 7:  Add 16 peeled large shrimp.  (Remove the tails.)
     Gently simmer and reduce till the shrimp are fully cooked the soup is a medium puree consistency.
*The consistency will be quite mucilaginous (slimy).  The soup consistency is correct, when it is just thick enough to float a large shrimp on.
     Step 7:  Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.
     This recipe describes 1 portion of Cairo Molokhia Soup.
     Step 1:  Place 1 portion of cooked Basmati rice in a custard cup.
     Invert the cup onto a shallow large soup bowl.
     Tap the rice mold against the bowl to release the molded rice.
     Remove the custard cup mold.
     Step 2:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the Cairo Molokhia Soup.
     Set the Shrimp aside on a platter.
     Step 3:  Ladle about 1 3/4 cups of the Cairo Molokhia Soup in the soup bowl around the rice.
     Place about 8 shrimp on the surface of the Cairo Molokhia Soup in a decorative manner.
     Step 4:  Garnish the rice with 1 tablespoon of Thick Harissa Sauce (or minced roasted red bell pepper).
     Garnish the Harissa with a few Italian Parsley leaves.
     After simmering, the Molokhia becomes very fragrant.  The aroma is like a very pleasant rare flower.  For those who relish the thought of tasting something different and delicious that has been made since ancient times, Molokhia is a must to try!

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