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Ingredients

For the Hilbeh
1/4 cup fenugreek seeds you can also use ground fenugreek, if you have it
6-8 cups boiling water
4 cloves garlic
2 large ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp cumin seed can also use caraway seeds
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cayenne
to taste sea salt
For the Malawah
4 cups bread flour + more as needed
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp Kosher Salt
2/3 cup clarified butter (ghee) melted; regular butter will work too
roasted sesame seeds to garnish
olive oil to brush

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Yemen: Hilbeh & Malawah

Fenugreek Dip with Flatbread

Cuisine:
  • Medium

Ingredients

  • For the Hilbeh

  • For the Malawah

Directions

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Welcome to Yemen, where I’m giving you two recipes for the price of one!  This is only appropriate, as generous offering of food to guests is one of the customs in Yemeni culture.  Just be advised that a guest not accepting the offering is considered an insult.  Refusing my offer is understood to mean one of three things: that the guest feels the host cannot really afford to be so generous; that the food is unclean or not prepared properly; or that the guest does not like the host.  So please, accept my offer.  

What I’m sharing with you today was the first course from Saturday’s Supper Club.  Hilbeh (sometimes spelled hilbah or hulba) is a fenugreek based dip or chutney that is commonly served with bread or as a condiment for soup or another course.  Hilbeh is uncommon in rural areas, but a favorite in the city.  When I was first making it, I was concerned folks were going to find it a bit strange – fenugreek has a very distinct, bitter taste, and the jelly makes the dip an unusual texture.  However, I found that the flavors of the dip blended and mellowed by chilling in my fridge for a couple hours, and it was a big hit with my guests!  The garlic ended up being a more prominent flavor, and it reminded me a lot of a thicker gazpacho. Jen even took a jar home to eat on her breakfast tacos, and reported back it was a good combo!

I served the hilbeh with malawah, one of many types of bread commonly eaten in Yemen.  What makes this bread unique is that it is layered and folded with butter of ghee, making it very tasty!  You will most likely find this bread in the many restaurants in Sanaa, Aden, or Hodeidah.  In Yemen, malawah would be stretched across a stone and cooked in a tannur – a cylindrical clay oven.  The closest you’ll get in the absence of a tannur is going to be cooking it on a pizza stone.  This means you’ll likely have to make this in batches, but it reheats very well.  

In Yemen, meals are typically consumed while sitting on ground, with everyone eating from communal plates, taking the food from the part closest to them – this is good to keep in mind, should I end up with more Supper Club guests than fit at my small table!

Recipe Sources: Hilbeh – Food.com; Malawah – Queen of Sheba

Steps

1
Done
Overnight

For the Hilbeh

If not using pre-ground fenugreek, finely grind the fenugreek seeds in a blender. Place the fenugreek powder in a large bowl. Pour plenty of boiling water over the powder & stir. Using lots of water helps take away some of the bitterness of the fenugreek. Let stand overnight.

2
Done
10 minutes

For the Hilbeh

Carefully pour the water off, to reveal fenugreek jelly. Add remaining ingredients to a food processor and process until very smooth. Taste and season as desired. Add the fenugreek jelly & pulse to mix. Chill until ready to serve.

3
Done

For the Malawah

Mix together the flour, water, and salt and knead it until smooth using your hands or a stand mixer with a dough hook. You may need to adjust the flour/water ratio slightly - you want a perfectly smooth dough that doesn't stick too much to the table/and your hands. I had to add a good bit of additional flour, but better to start with less so your bread isn't dry. Form the dough into 4 equal balls and let it relax for at least 20 minutes.

4
Done

Begin tossing out each dough ball into a very thin sheet, preferably in the shape of a rectangle. You can do this any way you feel comfortable, such as pressing it on the table, tossing it between your hands, or using a rolling pin. I find it easiest to begin by pressing the dough into the table, tossing it out with my hands to get it a bit larger, and then finishing it off with a rolling pin. Once the dough is stretched out, brush with melted ghee/butter.

5
Done

For the Malawah

Fold the top down and the bottom up until you get a rope-like shape. Then tie the rope into a knot, tucking in any loose ends. You should have the shape of a rough ball with some air pockets. Cover and let it relax for another 20 minutes. At this point, preheat the oven to 500 F with the baking stone in the oven.

6
Done

For the Malawah

Begin to toss out the dough once again, just like before. Stop when you have a good size and thickness for bread - you want to stretch it to about the size of your pizza tone. It's okay - good even! - for it to be uneven. The thinner parts will be crispy and the thicker parts will be chewy. Transfer the bread onto the heated pizza stone and spread out a bit. Bake for bread for 6-8 mins, or until the top starts to get golden brown.

7
Done

For the Malawah

While the bread is cooking, repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Brush each piece with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
You can reheat all the pieces at 200 F when ready to serve.

Johanna

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