Mulukhiyyah in Housaland and Morocco and a North African Recipe

Arch of Caracalla, Tebessa, North Africa.

Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr

Mulukhiyya leaves (Jute plant). Source Asif Anwar (Pathik)

A re-posting – because this entry is getting daily hits of 10-20; perhaps for Paula’s recipe, below. 

But no one has yet proffered a comment to the question in the blog..

The North African Merchant Shabeeni describes the following vegetable that existed in 18th Century Hausaland as well as in Morocco.  While the name and consistency of the vegetable is similar to the vegetable of the same name in Egypt, the part of the plant used – the pod – is unlike mellochia (or, mulukhiyyah) in Egypt, where it is the leaves that are used.

Any thoughts on this, other that use of the name of a vegetable that, when processed, has the same consistency as that in Egypt?  The name would have been brought back to Morocco and to West Africa by pilgrims to Mekka who spent some time in Egypt.

Perhaps the pod of the mulukhiyyah is used, which I think is the case in parts of India.  Here is a photo of the pod:

Mitha Pakh (?) - Mulukhiyyah from India. Flikr

The country (of Housaland) was rich and well cultivated; they have a plant bearing a pod called mellochia, from which they make a thick vegetable jelly.  The pod of the mellochia, which grows near Sallee and [north, in] Rabat, is of an elongated conical form, about two inches long.]

Paula Wolfert has a very good recipe on her site, with other relevant information on the plant, and a good story.  Here is her recipe:

Serves 4
2 pound chicken parts
1 1 small onion, quartered
  Spice packet: 1 stick cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon mastic, 1 teaspoon peppercorns and 3 cardamom pods wrapped in cheesecloth
1 teaspoon salt
6 cup water
  Pinch each of sumac and dried thyme
  Olive oil
Onion-Cinnamon-Vinegar Dressing:
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 frozen 14 ounce package Molokhiya imported from Egypt (available at Middle Eastern grocers)
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 pita breads, cut into triangles and toasted until brown in the oven
2 cups freshly cooked white rice
1. Place the chicken, onion, spice packet, and 1 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart casserole. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook at the simmer for 45 minutes, skimming from time to time. Remove the chicken to an oiled baking pan, sprinkle with a pinch of sumac and thyme; moisten with 1/4 cup broth and keep covered with a foil tent.2. About 1-1/2 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.3. Strain the chicken broth; discard the fat, measure the broth and add more water if necessary to make 4 cups. Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil. In a skillet heat the butter to sizzling, add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and the coriander and fry, stirring, until the texture is sandy and the color brown, but not burnt. Add to the boiling broth and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.4. An hour before mealtime bring soup to a boil, add frozen molokhia and cook uncovered over medium heat until it completely defrosts, without undue stirring. (If using fresh or dried molokhiya, see note to cook.) Makes about 3 cups sauce. Meanwhile, set the chicken in the oven to brown. Make the onion- vinegar-cinnamon dressing and let stand 30 minutes.5. To serve in layers in individual cereal bowls: place toasted pocket bread triangle on the bottom; add a few spoonfuls of plain rice, the chicken, a ladleful of sauce and top with a spoonful of the onion-vinegar-cinnamon dressing.Notes to the Cook: One-half pound dried molokhiya can be substituted for fresh or frozen: rub the leaves between hands until finely crushed. Forty minutes before serving, rinse quickly in a strainer, drain, soak in enough hot broth to cover for half an hour, then add to the boiling soup and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.If using fresh molokhiya: Rinse and carefully dry. Use a mezzaluna or half-moon chopper to finely chop then set aside until ready to add the last 10 minutes. Don’t worry if it feels a little slimy to the touch. (A food processor can be used for the chopping.) Add the fresh molokhiya to the boiling soup, immediately reduce heat and cook, uncovered, (to retain its green color) for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat the moment it begins to boil.

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-North, Africa-West, Colonialism, Cuisine, Egypt-Ancient, Egypt-Recent, Explorers & exploration, Food, History-Recent, Middle East, Recipes, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mulukhiyyah in Housaland and Morocco and a North African Recipe

  1. Moxtar says:

    It’s okra. In Morocco it’s called Mloukhiya, the Egyptian Molokhiya is unheard of.


  2. Pingback: A Taste of 2012 – Top Posts Favor Colonial Era; Food; Ancient Egypt | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, the Middle East, Agriculture, History & Culture

  3. Jeremy says:

    You don’t suppose it might be okra?


    • dianabuja says:

      That’s what I thought, too, Jeremy. The confusing variable is that the word used – مولخيياه (mulukhyya) – is Arabic for a leafy veg. plant (quite popular throughout the middle east), and the word for okra – بامية – (bamya) is not used. But both mulukhiyya and bamya are ‘slimy’… however…


  4. good .very good [pics of jute plant.

    Liked by 1 person

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