Molokhia is a deep green leafy vegetable that is used to make this delicious stew.
Molokhia and mulukhiyah are the most common ways of spelling this extremely Egyptian dish.
It is packed with vitamins and antioxidant goodness, and dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt.
Also known as Jew’s Mallow, Egyptian Jute or Nalta Jute, consumption of this vegetable was banned around 1000CE.
Some believed that it would lead women to a life of debauchery and no good.
And in fact there are some communities that don’t eat it to this day, I’m not sure if that is the reason why!
It could be that this ban was put into effect because of the aphrodisiac effect it possessed.
Some men seemed to get quite preoccupied with women’s behaviour, especially if they couldn’t control it.
Best in that case to ban Molokhia!
My theory is that it was banned by someone who was not a fan of the lovely and gooey texture it has.
Thankfully, Molokhia today is consumed by both men and women without any ill effects that I have seen.
Quite the contrary in fact!
Molokhia brings families together over the lunch table and provides them with a super nutritious meal.
What is Molokhia?
A common and popular dish in the Middle East, Molokhia is a dark leafy vegetable that is most often cooked into a stew.
Known as one of the most comfort of comfort foods, it’s a leafy green vegetable.
It makes a very viscous and gooey green stew, that people either love or hate, there is very little in the middle.
But the best thing about Molokhia beyond the amazing flavor is that it is so good for you.
A superfood full of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, it is well known for being a sleep aid.
Good for digestion, it is also said to help with maintaining good eyesight.
In the Middle East, Molokhia is made from fresh or dried leaves, as well as from frozen form.
In the US it is mostly found frozen at Arab and Mediterranean specialty food stores.
A well known Egyptian food, it is made in most households throughout the Middle East, and Mediterranean.
The plant itself is very fast growing and easy to cultivate, with a harvest in as few as sixty days.
The seeds can be sown directly into the ground after the last frost.
Allowed to grow this plant can reach six feet tall and resemble a small tree.
Usually after the plant is two feet tall the top few inches are harvested and those leaves quickly grow back.
The Molokhia plant likes hot weather, full sun, and a well drained soil with lots of water.
Some areas of Egypt have all these aspects in abundance, making the growing of Molokhia a no brainer.
How to Make Molokhia
I often make Molokhia using chicken as the meat choice, and I like to make my own chicken stock.
Start with bringing to a boil eight cups of water over high heat, add the chicken which creates a pure stock, and slowly cooks the meat.
I most often use frozen Molokhia leaves since that is usually easiest to find any time of year.
If using fresh leaves, treat like frozen, and you can decide if you want whole or chopped leaves
Once the chicken broth is done remove from the heat.
Remove the chicken and pour the broth through a sieve.
Add four cups of broth to the Molokhia mixture and mix well.
Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring intermittently.
Add four cups of broth along with the chicken.
Add the lemon juice, stir and remove from the heat.
Like most dishes in the Middle East, every household will have their particular way of making Molokhia.
You will have those who like the stew thicker, and those who like it thinner.
Those who like it with a certain type of meat and those who like something else.
Will you be a fan of more lemon or less, lots of garlic or not so much?
Some like to add extra ground coriander.
A little more salt and pepper for your Egyptian Molokhia?
Where to Find Molokhia Leaves
Summer is the season when you find fresh Molokhia and it is often sold at roadside stands in many Arab countries.
Lots of people stock up on it to eat both fresh, and to prepare for long term keeping.
The leaves are removed from the stalks, washed and chopped for freezing, or leaves are left out in the sun to dry.
Molokhia leaves are processed and frozen in Egypt and sent all over the world and sold in supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Most people will be able to find these frozen Molokhia leaves at their local Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern stores.
If you are unable to find these leaves in your neighborhood or local shop, there is a way to create somewhat of a substitute.
It will not be exactly the same but it will give you some of the main characteristics.
You will need some okra to provide the viscosity that is so ubiquitous to Molokhia.
Cook some okra in water until it becomes soft and mushy, add a package of defrosted frozen chopped spinach.
Blend together in a food processor until you have a soupy consistency, use this as the basis for your faux Molokhia stew.
Tips for Making
- Making your own broth from whatever meat you are including in your dish will definitely make this dish taste better.
- Chop the garlic finely as opposed to mincing it for a better flavor.
- Cook the meat you are using so that it is very soft or falling from the bone.
- Leave skin on the chicken, and a bit of fat on lamb for a more robust taste.
For the Stock
- 6 Chicken Legs drumstick and thigh
- 8 cups Water
For the Stew
- 14 oz Molokhia Leaves (or Spinach) chopped and frozen
- 6 Chicken Legs from the stock
- 4 cups Chicken Stock from the stock
- 10 Garlic Cloves chopped
- 2 oz Butter
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1½ tsp Seven Spices
- 1½ tsp Salt
For the Stock
- Place whole chicken legs in a pot with 8 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a strong simmer for about 40 minutes.
- Remove chicken and pour stock through a sieve. Set aside.
For the Stew
- Melt butter in a saucepan.
- Add olive oil, salt and spices.
- Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about three minutes.
- Add molokhia, stir well.
- Add 4 cups chicken stock and cooked chicken legs.
- Cook for 15 to 30 minutes - more depending on the thickness of the sauce desired.
- Add lemon juice, stir and remove from heat.
- Serve hot over rice.