roland@equalpartners.ca
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Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – XVIII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (3 of 18)

Belilah

Belilah is simply boiled wheat! But here again there are various techniques, and as a result, not all belilahs are created equal. The type of wheat you use, how long you soak it overnight, how you cook it, will effect the final product.

Years later, in Canada, I simply bought hard wheat, washed it, and boiled it. No overnight soaking, no slow cooking, and no otherwise fancy approach. And we loved it.

The boiled wheat by itself, needless to say, has no taste. It’s what you add to it before eating it that will make it a tasty treat.

As a minimum, you should add sugar (plenty of it), milk, and cinnamon. You can then add a variety of nuts, raisins, dried fruits, and dried coconut. Some people add small pieces of fresh fruits. In other words, use your imagination.

It’s a tasty and healthy breakfast which can be substituted for cereals. And, yes, people with a hearty appetite sometimes consumed a bowl of belilah after the foul. Indeed, a breakfast that stays with you the whole day!

It’s traditional to make belilah when your baby has his or her first tooth. It’s an excuse to have a small party, for more than belilah will be offered to the guests.

Falafel

Falafel has long stopped being an exclusive Middle Eastern specialty. In the West, everybody and his dog has heard and probably eaten falafel.

Falafel (also called ta’miyya) originated in Egypt. It is made from spiced chickpeas and/or fava beans. It is shaped as a ball or a patty and is deep fried. The variety of falafel (depending upon the mix) boggle the mind. Falafel can be topped with fresh and/or pickled vegetables, a special sauce, tahini, and a whole lot of other add-on.

We never made falafel in our home. In the Sakakini district, there were so many businesses and street vendors cooking their own special falafel, it would have been absurd to prepare it at home.

Kobeba

Kobeba (also called kibbe) is shaped like an egg. It is made from cracked wheat (bulgur). You make a dough, form a hole, and fill it with ground meat (which has previously been cooked following a separate recipe which is briefly described below) and fried pine nuts.

(The recipe for the ground meat will differ, but will usually include in addition to the meat, salt, black pepper, onions, and some tomato paste. The whole concoction is then fried in oil, and constantly stirred).

The kibbe is then deep fried. It’s delectable, but it’s hell to make.

You need to soak the raw kobeba in water, drain it, squeeze all the water out of it, and then shape it, ensuring that your hands are moist at all times so that it doesn’t fall apart. While you’re doing that, create a hole where you will eventually place your stuffing. Finally close off the top and place it in the hot oil. Next, observe how the whole thing will disintegrate!

So how can you make the perfect kobeba? You need to have been trained at a very young age. Of all the members of my family, only nonna Bida could make it. She acquired her skill at her mother’s knees! And she didn’t make the small croquette-like kibbe. She made the long tubular one, keeping the walls of the kobeba thin. The ability to make this type of kobeba is what separates the men from the boys; or should I say the women from the girls! After nonna Bida, I never again ate this type of kobeba. You probably can’t order it even in the finest Middle Eastern restaurants, nobody knows how to make them. That expertise died with Bida’s generation.

If you want to try the small kibbe, order them in a good Middle Eastern restaurant.

Molokhea

While foul is the national dish, molokhea is the most typical Egyptian food. It has, however, in the last few decades, taken roots in many other Arab countries.

Molokhea looks like spinach, and only the leaves of the plant are used. They are chopped very finely. Chicken broth is typically used as a base. At the heart of it is garlic and coriander. Finely chopped onions, salt (if needed, the salt in the broth may be sufficient), cayenne pepper (if you can tolerate it) and some tomato paste is also added to the soup. You bring it to a boil, simmer it for a short period, bring it to a boil again, and add your molokhea. When it boils again, take it off the burner. Your molokhea is ready.

As you can appreciate it, there are many variations to the above. For instance, bone soup can be used, or bone and meat. Some people cook the chicken or the meat with the molokhea. Tomato paste can be skipped, or conversely a lot can be added.

You can eat it by adding rice to it, or pitta bread that has been baked until it’s hard.

My molokhea is quite basic and it’s still delicious. I use canned chicken broth and frozen molokhea. I add a lot of tomato paste to it. And I eat it with bread.

Molokhea is a green soup, and it doesn’t look appetizing to outsiders. If you’re Egyptian, and you’re bringing your Swedish fiancee to meet your family, make sure your mom doesn’t prepare molokhea!

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