This delicious dish features the star vegetable, molokhia, which is often referred to as Egyptian spinach. It has its roots in Middle Eastern, East African and North African countries and is a perfect hearty dish to start a family meal or can feature on its own on cold winter nights. The vegetable has a certain glutinous texture.

Recipe from Samaher Choukchouk and Mona Maarabani. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Ingredients:

200 g of fresh Molokhia leaves *

2 brown onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 bunch of coriander, chopped

1 tomato, diced

1kg chicken breasts, cut into small strips

Butter for cooking

Lebanese bread (optional)

Lemon wedges to serve

Lebanese Rice:

2 cups of medium grain rice

2 cups of Lebanese rice noodles

Butter for cooking

* Also known as Jute leaves or Jew’s mellow. Dry leaves can also be used but must be soaked in water beforehand. Frozen pre-packaged leaves are also available from Middle Eastern grocers.

Method:

Melt the butter in a pot, add the diced onions and crushed garlic and sauté until slightly browned. Add the tomato and coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken strips and cook for a few minutes until golden brown. Add the molokhia leaves (if using dry leaves, they need to be washed and soaked in water first.) Add two cups of water and leave the molokhia to cook slowly until tender

Lebanese Rice:

Place the noodles in a pot with butter and cook until golden brown. Then add water (for every cup of rice, add 1.5 cups of water). Bring to the boil and add salt. Add the rice and leave on low heat until the rice is cooked through. Serve the molorkhia on top of the rice or as two separate dished. You can enjoy on its own, with Lebanese bread or a wedge of lemon

The story behind the recipe

“This recipe came from mum. My dad has grown molokhia in our backyard for as long as I can remember! The first time I cooked it was while my parents were overseas and I had to fend for myself! Mum freezes the leaves so we can eat this dish in any season and it’s quite easy to prepare. Molokhia is originally derived from an Egyptian dish; however the Egyptian version has a soup-like texture. As a kid I didn’t enjoy eating this dish because of its slimy texture. But as I grew older, my taste in food changed and I really started to enjoy the flavours of the dish. It is a dish we have regularly with the whole family. I generally leave out the coriander and sometimes I replace the chicken with more tomatoes. The molokhia leaves are definitely the main standout ingredient. Garlic and onion are staple ingredients in Lebanese dishes. My father grows the molokhia plant as well as tomatoes!

-        Samaher Choukchouk