The beauty of having family around is that there is someone else nearby to remind me of favourite foods and convince me to cook them even though I’ve never made them before, such as Malawach…
Malawach is a Yemanaite flat bread, made of leafy dough (more similar to that of croissant rather than filo dough) that is pan fried and served with the traditional Yemanite condiments: hilbeh (a fenugreek paste, which will make you smell of fenugreek for an entire week following the feast), zehug (a very hot paste made with pepper, garlic and coriander). In Israel, these can be had with no hard work or Yemanite root, via the frozen section of most supermarkets and requires minimal preparation. In Canada, of course, nobody heard of Malawach, let alone capitalize on it as a frozen product. And so me and my brother Noam hd no choice but to make our own, from scratch. We set off today to make the most delicious brunch possible – one that left us un-hungry for many hours to come (we ate around 11am and weren’t able to eat anything else until about 9pm!).
I took care of the Malawach, and my brother made the zhug. Here is the recipes for what we’ve made – and I hope you will feel inspired to make them yourself. They are simply delicious and slightly addictive.
Malawach – Ayala’s Recipe
1-1/2 Cup Water
3-4 Cups Unbleached Wheat Flour
Dissolve the salt in the water and add flour slowly while stirring with a whisk or a wooden spoon. Add flour just until the dough becomes soft and but not sticky.
Divide the dough into two equal portions.
Roll each portion of dough into thin sheets (about 0.5cm thin).
Spread margarine all over the sheet, and than fold each corner into the center to cover the margarine.
Roll the dough until thin again and repeat the process of spreading the margarin and than folding the dough in. Fold the dough into 4 and roll it again several additional times (2-4 times).
Let the two sheets rest on the counter, covered with a towel, for 30 minutes, so the dough rises a bit.
Roll each sheet very thinly (about 0.25cm). With a medium sized bowl or a large, round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles, small enough to fit your frying pan.
Fry the circles in vegetable oil on both sides, and serve with the condiments described below - tomato dip and zhug.
Zhug (Noam’s recipe)
4 banana peppers (or one small sweet pepper), thinly sliced
2 jalapenos (or more, to taste), thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
¼ - ½ cup cilantro, chopped (to taste)
1 Tbs. Coriander seeds
1 Tbs. Cumin, ground
¼ tsp. Salt
¼ cup olive oil
Sauté all the banana peppers in olive oil over medium heat until the peppers soften a bit. Add 2 cloves garlic and the jalapeno and sauté for a couple more minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, and using mortar and pestle, add the spices and mush the mixture until it achieved a paste-like consistency. Transfer to a clean jar.
Chop the cilantro and add to the jar, and mix well.
Serve as a condiment along with Malawach, and also great in sandwiches and an addition to sauces and marinades.
For the Tomato Dip:
6 large, soft and ripe tomatos
1 or more garlic cloves
1 tsp. olive oil
salt to taste
Using a grater, grate the tomatos (including the seeds) and place in a bowl. Add crushed garlic, salt and olive oil and serve together with the Malaawch and Zhug for dipping.