Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Around the World continues: An Iraqi Feast!

When my special friend Gabrielle made plans to come to town for one night, we decided to cook up a fancy feast for ourselves. We were discussing the many appealing cuisines I hadn't had a chance to try during my Around The World in 30 Days veganmofo adventure. Eventually, we settled on Iraq, and I got to work planning out a menu.

First up we made this stew - Shorbat Rumman, or Pomegranate Soup. In fact, there are only 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses in the whole thing, so it's a bit of a misnomer. This soup was really good - chock full of flavors and textures and nutrients: beets, been greens, spinach (we subbed collard greens), split peas, lime juice, fresh herbs... It had a little touch of sugar, and along with the naturally sweet beets and the pomegranate molasses, it had a definite sweetness about it... but not in an overpowering or unpleasant way. This recipe made a lot, so I have been enjoying it as left overs. Lucky me!

We also made Vegetarian Spinach Stew - Spinakh, using this recipe. We used fresh spinach (10 oz) instead of frozen.

This was my favorite dish of all. The spices added both depth and tang, and the whole thing came together quite quickly. The spices for this dish were really special. First off, I got to use a spice neither of us had ever used before: crushed dried lemon (lemon omani). Gabrielle and I poked our little fingers in and were amazed at the lemony power punch! (instead of 1 crushed lemon, we used 1/2 tsp pre-crushed dried lemon). Also, this recipe required mixing up a batch of "Arabic Spices," we followed this recipe... but since we technically only needed 1/3 tsp, I didn't feel like making three cups of the stuff. You can find our way pared down recipe at the end of this post. I really recommend this recipe, it was delicious!

Gabrielle also threw together this simple and yummy Sumac Salad. It's just cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, a little olive oil, and a bunch of sumac. We cut the sumac in half and felt like it was just right that way... It's always nice to have a little fresh salad with your soupy entree!

And of course we made some bread to go with our soup and salad! It's so fun to make bread from different countries, because it seems like every country has their own rich tradition of bread making and bread varieties. I found this recipe online for Iraqi Samoon bread. We halved the recipe and still ended up with a LOT of bread: 5 loaves, and they were at least 2 servings per loaf. It's a moist dough, which results in a light, fluffy bread. There are little specks of wheat bran in there, which give the bread a little more substance and character.

We made two nice desserts. First up, we just had to make Kleicha cookies, which evidently are the national cookie of Iraq. (*recipe at end of post*) It seems like it would be wrong not to make them! The dough is very faintly sweet and has a generous dose of cardamom in it... which results in a very delicate flavor. And we made 2 different fillings: half were made with a sweetened walnuts & rosewater filling and the others with dates, earth balance and rose water. Both very good, and worth making again! The walnut filling was surprisingly scrumptious!

Our second dessert item was Date Truffles, aka Madgooga. Hello, friend. These are so super simple, so super quick, and so super yums. The truffles are made with just dates, tahini and a little cardamom. The recipe offers ideas for all different things to roll them in, and we decided to pick 4 toppings and make a few truffles with each. We made a half batch and ended up with about 18-20 little truffles.

Here is our date-truffle-assembly station. Small bowls with each of the 4 toppings, and another small bowl with the date-tahini paste. Ready to go! Sticky fingers! The toppings we picked were: cocoa powder, shredded coconut, chopped hazelnuts, and toasted sesame seeds.

Naturally, they were all delicious. But - to my surprise - the toasted sesame seeds were my favorite topping. In fact, I think all three of us liked these ones the best. Somehow, it was a perfect harmony of flavors and textures. Those crunchy little seeds were great with the mooshy truffle interior. Mmmmm!

Arabic Spices
based on this recipe, but makes only a couple of tablespoons
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/16 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp crushed dried rose petals
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Kleicha Cookies:
Makes 16-18 cookies
based on this crazy conversation, but quartered, and modified

1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 c earth balance margarine, preferably cold out of the fridge
1/4 c almond milk

Date Filling:
1/4 cup fresh dates, chopped up
1 tsp earth balance margarine
1 1/2 tsp rose water

Walnut Filling:
1/4 c crushed walnuts (mince 'em up fine)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp rose water

To make the date filling:
Melt the earth balance and mix it together with your dates and rose water into a paste.

To make the walnut filling:
Mix it all together. Don't eat it all.

To make the dough:
Preheat your oven to 350 Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder & cardamom. Cut in the earth balance. Add in the almond milk and stir to create a dough. Put it on a lightly floured surface and roll it to about 1/8" thick (maybe a little thicker than that). Cut it with a round cookie cutter. Take about 1/2-3/4 tsp filling and put it in each cookie, fold it over, use a little water to help seal the edges, and use a fork to crimp the cookies shut. Put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 14-16 minutes, until golden on the bottom.



  1. Beautiful meal! Congratulations to you both-- very inspiring!

  2. Looks yummy Amey! I recently made the port wine cookies from Vegan Cookies and they had sesame seeds covering them. I never knew they could go so well with sweets!

  3. Everything looks delicious, but I'm especially intrigued by those truffles, they seem like something I could easy get the ingredients for (OK the tahini took a while to hunt down but now I've got it).. Any way I could find the recipe somewhere?

  4. This totally makes me want to go to Iraq! Well, maybe just your house ;)

  5. Amey your food is amazing! I think you win MoFo, BTW. Your posts were by far the most daring and inspirational.

    I have been following your blog for a while now - since I lived in Santa Cruz and served as the local host for a news program on KUSP. (Maybe you listened!) Now that I am in Wichita, Kansas I appreciate your recipes even more - - No going out to eat here!

  6. Gabrielle Pope5:02 PM

    Yay! It was the funnest/most delicious night ever!

  7. Iraqi food looks really delicious! Crushed dried lemon sounds very intriguing, and I think I've had sumac once before but I'm not sure, so these would be some new flavours for me! And those truffles, oh my they look good.

  8. Those cookies sound totally amazing, Amey! I'm definitely making them because I was looking for such a recipe for ages. I once tasted something like this and liked it a lot. But I didn't know what to google for. Thank you!

  9. An amazing feast! I can't even comment on one dish because everything looks outstanding. I love that there are rose petals and crushed lemons in the meal!

  10. This is so amazing, and even more so because I heart Gabrielle. <3

    aka I'm even more jealous of this feast!

  11. Wonderful dessert recipe!

  12. What a delightful vegan blog you have created. I came across your yoga website first after searching for Iyengar prop methods online. Now I am following both of your blogs. I also have a yoga website and vegan blog. Namaste

  13. Wow! I've never been too familiar with Iraqi food, but from the looks of it, I should start to make it! Everything looks absolutely delicious.

  14. You got to meet Gabrielle!

  15. Me and my mom made Kleicha this weekend, by far the best batch we've ever made! The flakiest cookie you can imagine! I'm impressed with your bravery to bake these-they're very time consuming!

  16. i'll have to try this. looks great! greetings from barcelona.



I love comments, they really make my day! Thanks for reading my blog! I'm sorry I had to turn on word verification and comment moderation - I was getting so many spam comments!