Saturday, February 27, 2016

Chicken and Lamb Soupy Stew with Hawaij

First of all, I appreciate the kind responses to my last post. Thank you. The past couple of months have brought about chances to plunge into new opportunities and it feels really good. Skate skiing is a blast, I’m starting a new venture on an awesome local board, Bob’s training to be a volunteer firefighter and we found a definite benefit of no kids at home is no school nights.

I know there will continue to be peaks and valleys in life, and this is just life. A gracious community, whether virtual or in person, can see you through the journey with compassion, humor and a friendly hand. And food.

Fortunately, food can be shared in many ways. A community I’m inspired by and enjoy cooking with is Tasting Jerusalem. We are scattered around the world and share so much. We kicked off this year with the Yemenite spice mix called hawaij (also spelled hawayij or hawaish) as our first ingredient to explore in 2016.

Hawaij was a new spice blend for me. You know me, spice mixes and condiments are my thing, so any opportunity to learn about a different one is a thrill. I dug through my boxes of cookbooks (new shelves in the kitchen just for cookbooks coming soon!) to pull out a few books by authorities on Middle Eastern cooking that I thought would be helpful to learn about hawaij.

So here we go – everything we ever wanted to know about hawaij!

In Sephardic Cooking, Copeland Marks says hawaij is the spice mix that gives Yemenite cooking its identity. He also shares a tip for keeping it fresh - store a bay leaf with the spice mix. I will. I love learning these little tidbits!

Janna Gur makes Yemenite Calf Leg Soup in The Book of New Israeli Food and hawaij is what spices it up. Calf leg soup is definitely something for me to aspire to.

Like most spice blends such as ras el hanout, dukkah and za’atar, there are different proportions and variations in the spices used. I found that hawaij traditionally includes cumin, black pepper, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. I also saw caraway, saffron, nutmeg or cloves included in some.

For my mix, I used the foundation of traditional spices and then added caraway seeds. Like other spice blends, it was quick to mix up. I was drinking coffee while grinding up the spices, and there was such an enticing aroma I dropped a big pinch in my cup. It jazzed it up quite nicely, sort of like an enhanced Turkish coffee.

So, what to make with my new spice blend?

I’ve cooked a lot from The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan and when I saw her Yemenite Chicken and Beef Soupy Stew I knew I’d found my recipe. Who can resist soupy stew on a snowy day?

This hearty dish begins with simmering marrow bones and beef together to create a flavorful broth. The marrow is silky smooth and just melts. Luscious. I used lamb in place of beef since we have lots of lamb cuts in the freezer right now (no calf legs yet).

Garlic, onions, tomatoes, parsley and fresh dill enhanced the broth and then I added the chicken. I kept it easy and just plunked the whole chicken into the pot rather than cutting it into parts. Since you’ll be pulling the meat off the bones and adding it back to the pot, it didn’t seem necessary to cut the bird up.

Towards the end of cooking, add the potatoes, zucchini (I swapped in green beans) and a generous spoonful of hawaij. A big squeeze of lemon and scoop of zhoug complete it and brighten up this rich stew. Hawaij is aromatic and delicious with a warm, peppery flavor that nicely complements the richness of the lamb and beef marrow. Joan Nathan suggests serving the stew over rice – even heartier! As with most stews, I found it was even tastier the next day. This is a marvelous dish to slurp and share.

And hey, have you been following Food52’s Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks? If not, please go check it out – another terrific community. Love, love, love the collection this year. I’m disappointed that A Girl and Her Greens was already knocked out but I have my fingers crossed for Gjelina. I ordered all of the books for the store and now my big decision is which one(s) will end up in my kitchen (my kitchen that no longer has super ugly counters – hooray for warm, wonderful butcher block wood!).

So in closing, as always, it’s about food and friends. This is what comforts and sustains me, and ultimately inspires and challenges me.


1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cardamom

Combine all the spices in a mortar, grab your pestle and pound away until well mixed. Store in a sealed jar and sprinkle liberally.

Chicken and Lamb Soupy Stew
Serves 6-8
Adapted from The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan

8 cups of water
½ pound lamb, cubed
4 or 5 small beef marrow bones
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 cup canned tomatoes, diced
¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs
2 large carrots, left whole
4 celery stalks
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ pound green beans, snipped and broken in half if long
3 small yellow potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon hawaij, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Rice for serving (optional)
Zhoug for serving (not optional)

Bring the water, lamb and marrow bones to a boil in a large soup pot and skim the foam off the top. Lower the heat and add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, parsley and dill.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the chicken. You can cut into parts or just plunk it in whole like I did. Bring back to a boil, add the carrots, celery and cumin and then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.

Carefully remove the marrow bones and chicken from the pot. Pull the chicken from the bones and cut or shred into bite sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pot.

Gently mash the cooked carrots, celery, onion and garlic into the broth. Add the green beans, potatoes, hawaij, salt and pepper to taste and simmer another 10 minutes or so, until the veggies are cooked. Pour the lemon juice over the top and mix in.

If preparing ahead of time, wait to add the green beans, potatoes, hawaij and lemon juice and cook this step when ready to eat.

To serve, ladle the soupy stew into bowls (over rice if serving) and have zhoug and more hawaij on the table.