with a Mediterranean twist – you know sometimes you go to the kitchen and are so inspired that what comes out is just magical ( and sometimes the opposite happens…) but this was one of those good occasions, do try this at home, if you happen to have the right spices handy, which I am aware is a big ask, also you’ll need a bottle of Sauternes that is left over from dinner with friends a week ago, and is not getting any better in the fridge, some red split lentils and the willingness to make your own lachuach – which I write as I heard it said.
Lachauch is a Yemen bread – Yemen is a tiny country, it is a poor country and it is a very troubled country, but like many of these it is very far away and so we tend not to think about them much. I was thinking about Yemen, firstly because reading one of my favourite books on food – the encylopedia of Jewish food by Gil Marks I came across the recipe, and I thought of Lachuach again as I was writing my intro for The Dinner Party Collective – when I was thinking of all the foods I have eaten and loved around the world. Lachuach, was a bread I encountered in the West Bank. We ate it daily, prepared fresh, in the house of a Jewish family, Shoshana, the wife, had moved from Yemen to Israel.
I met Shoshana and Yaakov one Shabat afternoon. It’s one of those lovely travel stories about the people you meet on the road, when you are willing to be open to opportunity. On the afternoon I met Yaakov I was standing by the roadside near a bus-stop figuring out which road I needed to stand on in order to hitchhike to my destination. I think I asked him for directions. He was there waiting for his sons. The reason I was hitchhiking was that I was unwilling to pay 50 dollars to get from A to B on a Shabbat….I felt I was being ripped off by the taxi drivers, maybe I was, but with hitchhiking you never know if you are going to get to the destination or not and ultimately with hindsight i’d value my life at higher than 50 dollars, but back then i was younger and more stibborn perhaps. Anyhow, there I was at the bus stop, trying to hitchhike and this lovely man stops and says “look, I don’t think this is good for you to be doing, i feel guilty driving away and leaving you to hitchhike here alone, why don’t you spend the night with us in our hotel and then the next day we will drop you off where you want to go” – isn’t it amazing to remember a time when you could spontaneously do things without worrying that you’d miss a deadline and in blind faith? Now I am aware that this could have gone very wrong, but it didn’t. I got into the car with Yaakov, his wife and sons and we drove to a beautiful hotel, the night before I had spent on the beach near the dead sea, so I wasn’t in a very presentable state. However, they were lovely, Shoshana lent me of her clothes so I could have dinner with them, and the next day they drove me to the place I was staying at. A month later I went to spend 2 weeks with them in their house in the West Bank and Shoshana taught me how to make Lechuach, we ate it every day with hummus and tomatoes. It was wonderful. Staying with this family made me understand Israel in a way being a total outsider would not have done, I love the language, I love the fact that so many words are onomatopoeic – such as shilshul or lischtovev – nowadays I cannot sadly remember more Hebrew than that beyond lo and ken lo ledaberet ivrith….
Anyhow, after the trip down memory lane I wanted to make Lachuach – I did it following Gil Marks recipe, because I don’t know where I put Shoshana’s, it must be somewhere, even after so many years. If you have even the slightest interest in food, food history, and influence of cultures on food, then get Gil Marks book, it is wonderful, the recipes are wonderful, it’s an education. Here is his recipe for Lachuach – which he spells Lahuh:
I couldnt find it online, And i adapted anyway – do have a look at the book.
Lahuh (adapted from Gil Marks)
21/2 tsp instant yeast, 3 cups warm water – i used 5 cups, 1 tablespoon sugar (I used less, adding too much sugar to breads is a peculiar US American perversion), 5 tablespoons vegetable oil ( I used olive) 31/2 cups bread or unbleached all purpose flour.
mix as you usually would – it will be very thin and runny which is what you want. Leave to rise for 1 hour, stir and let rise again. Then you are ready to use. Place pan over heat – pour in some batter, about the amount you’d use for a pancake – place over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes until bottom is dry, DONT turn over, you should have bubbles on the top. I ended up covering the pan to help it dry out. When finished take out of the pan ( I rolled them up for space storage, and because it works).
I served this with an Ethiopian inspired lentil dish – mainly because I felt like something spicy and also because Lahuh is similar in texture, if not in taste, to injera.
Sweet and spicy Red split lentils – Ethiopian style
Enough red split lentils to serve 2 .- I do this by eye – probably about 1 1/2 cups – rinse in water until no longer cloudy and then boil until soft about 2o minutes
- 1 red onion chopped, fry in some oil, not brown you are looking for that molten sumptuous soft texture, add a generous pinch Mekelesha (this is probably where you start running into trouble – if so check out this page), one generous pinch berbere (oh ok I added about 2 tsps, careful it’s a very hot blend), 1 pinch black cardamom ground (NOT the same as the green stuff beware), – stir and make sure nothing sticks – when you think it’s time Add the lentils to everything else, stir and add seasoning if neededadd about 1 small espresso cup (about 2 tablespoons) full of sauternes you have left over (obviously don’t open a new bottle) or use some much cheaper but also very drinkable Samos wine from Greece – both are reminiscent of Tej, Ethiopian honey wine. You may be templted to leave this out but it really does make a difference
- Add the lentils to everything else, stir and add seasoning if needed
Roll a lachuach roll around a filling of lentils, add some more on the side, I also served it with a gentle goat’s cheese (don’t use feta, it’s too harsh) – it comes in rounds, packaged like feta, and in taste is little like ricotta, with a squeaky texture, almost but not totally squeaky, I cannot remember the name, if you cannot find anything like the description, don’t serve cheese.
I also served a big puddle of hot chilis in oil from Italy
Because I love the heat and it looks so pretty!
If anyone is up to experiment with a quasi-recipe, do let me know, honestly it was really really good