Super Healthy Yemenite Inspired Meal

Cooking on a Chagny range made the experience extra fulfilling and easy. I used the gas oven to roast perfectly moist chicken thighs, the petite electric oven for crisping the pita bread, and the traditional plate as my aid throughout the process as a convenient working surface.

A visit at the unique Levinsky spice market in Tel Aviv prompted me to cook with ingredients used in Yemenite cuisine like Hawaij and Hilbe. The strength of Yemenite food is in its spices, which are filled with flavor and major health benefits.

Hawaij

Hawaij is a spice mix traditionally used in Yemenite cuisine. It is commonly made out of turmeric, black pepper, dried onion, dried garlic, cumin, salt, dried cilantro, cardamom, and cloves. Some add Hilbe to the mix.

Health benefits: anti oxidants, anti-cancerous, infused with minerals, vitamins, promotes brain and blood vessel protection.

Hawaij Soup

Hawaij is a spice mix traditionally used in Yemenite cuisine. It is commonly made out of turmeric, black pepper, dried onion, dried garlic, cumin, salt, dried cilantro, and cardamom, and cloves. Some add Hilbe to the mix. Health benefits: anti oxidants, anti-cancerous, infused with minerals, vitamins, promotes brain and blood vessel protection.

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 4-6 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Hawaij (You can find Hawaij on line or in middle eastern supermarkets)
  • 1 graded tomato - grade it on the wide blades, similar to a cheese grader
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock (you can use 4 cups stock instead of water)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 Large potato
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1
Turn the oven to 400F (I like to use gas as it keeps the chicken moistened).
Step 2
Rub the thighs with olive oil on both sides.
Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
Let it roast for approximately one hour. Turn the chicken over in the pan after 30 minutes and let it roast for additional 30 minutes.
Step 3
On a large heavy pot (use one of the larger burners like the 15,000 BTU), heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Add the onion and simmer until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and simmer for two more minutes.
Step 4
Add the Hawaij and stir until everything is blended.
Add the graded tomato and stir.
Step 5
When the chicken is ready, add the thighs and any juice from the pan.
Stir in the chicken stock and water.
Add potato and tomato paste.
Step 6
Let the soup boil and then reduce to low heat.
Let it cook for 30 more minutes, up to 1 hour, or until it thickens a bit.
The soup is even more flavorful the following day.
Step 7
Enjoy with a spoon of Hilbe stirred into your bowl of soup, and Za’atar pita toast on the side.

To health!

Hilbe

Hilbe, or fenugreek, is a staple used in Yemen as a companion in almost every meal. It comes in the form of little grains, and it has a distinguished, somewhat bitter taste.

Health benefits: this magical herb contains vitamin C, iron, nutritional fibers, and is considered to be a detoxifier, blood sugar balancer, cancer preventer, bad cholesterol fighter, menstrual pain reliever, hair strengthener, and heart disease protector. And if that is not enough… it also increases milk in nursing mothers.

Hilbe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Hilbe soaked in water overnight or up to 48 hours
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup water (add water if the consistency becomes too thick)
  • 1 Small hot pepper
  • 1 leek (optional)
  • 1 peeled tomato, cut to quarters (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until a smooth and unified consistency forms.
Step 2
Transfer to a serving dish.
Step 3
Add a small amount of Hilbe to soup, as a dip with pita chips, as a spread on bread, or just eat a spoonful by itself as a health booster.

Za’atar

Za’atar is a spice mix commonly used in the Middle East. It contains oregano, thyme, sumac, sesame, and salt. Za’atar is wonderfully paired with olive oil, and is a great addition to hummus, Labneh cheese, and flat bread.

Health benefits – Za’atar has antiseptic abilities, and can alleviate abdominal pain. It is also believed by natural healers to be helpful with chronic cold, bronchitis, intestinal warms, increased appetite, pneumonia, sinusitis, anti fungal, and anti bacterial.

Za’atar Pita Toast

Ingredients

  • 1 pita cut into two rounded halves
  • olive oil
  • Za'atar
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Step 1
Drizzle the inner sides of the pita halves with olive oil
Spread Za’atar on top
Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste
Step 2
Broil for a few minutes, until browned
Step 3
Cut it to large pieces, if desired, and serve

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