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In days gone by, every homemaker made certain to have on hand the family’s yearly supply of dried mouloukhiya . There it would be, stored in a linen bag that hung by its cord on a nail in a kitchen corner. This dried mouloukhiya, along with the dried za’tar (thyme), the dried mint, oregano, sumac, bamia (okra) etc. would lend their melded aromas to the kitchen of the Middle Eastern homestead.

Mouloukhiya stew is best made with fresh leaves; the second choice would be frozen leaves available in the freezer section of Middle Eastern specialty shops; the directions below offer the third option, the use of the dried leaves.

If using fresh or frozen, then start the cooking process from the second paragraph below.

1 L (4 cups) dried mouloukhiya
125 mL (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
1 head garlic – large cloves sliced almond size
5 mL (1 tsp) salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) black pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
45 mL (3 tbsp) vegetable oil
juice of half a lemon or more

Check for foreign matter in between mouloukhiya leaves and discard wiry stems. Place mouloukhiya in a pot and very generously cover with boiling water. Cover and soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. Scoop up mouloukhiya and place in a sieve or colander, getting rid of water, and sediment in bottom of pot. Rinse mouloukhiya under running water and put aside.

Pour oil in a cooking pot and place over medium to high heat. Add the sliced garlic and sautée until golden in colour. Add drained mouloukhiya, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes turning over now and then. Add boiling water to cover. Cover pot, lower heat and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the leaves are tender. Uncover and cook further until most of the water has evaporated.

In a small fry pan, fry the crushed garlic in oil until golden brown; add the juice of half a lemon and bring to the boil. Pour over mouloukhiya. Cook for another 5 minutes and remove from heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve at room temperature. More lemon juice may be squeezed over individual servings. Scoop up mouthfuls of mouloukhiya with Arabic (pita) bread or with either French or Portuguese crusty bread. Accompany with black or green olives and with slices of tomato.

Makes 5 servings