Lablabli (lob-lob-ee). You may have heard of shakshuka, but have you heard of lablabi?
Lablabi: A Tunisian and Eastern Algerian chickpea stew, normally eaten for breakfast, though excellent as an inexpensive (and very filling) lunch or dinner.
Lablabi. You can make it spicy (or not — it’s up to you) with the addition of harissa (see more on harissa below).
Lablabi. You can make it vegetarian or vegan.
Lablabi. The sound of a seed rattling in a dried pod.
Lablabi. It’s the epitome of a simple dish, with simple ingredients, from simple roots. But don’t let that fool you, lablabi is anything but simple from a flavor standpoint. This is one of my favorite types of dishes. One in which humble ingredients may not shine individually, yet ‘sing’ when they come together.
Lablabi. I think I just like saying lablabi. I like eating it too.
Tear up some pieces of bread and ladle the cooked chickpeas and some of its cooking liquid on top.
Add a raw egg (it will get cooked in the hot broth), along with a few dollops of harissa; thick yogurt or labneh; a squeeze of lemon; a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; chopped cilantro, parsley, or mint; and/or toasted ground cumin if you like…
You could also add savories such as capers, olives, chopped/roasted peppers, hard boiled egg, soft-boiled egg, preserved lemon, sun-dried tomato, canned tuna, etc.
Stir to combine…lablabi will thicken up a bit as the bread soaks up some of the liquid. For a thicker, stew-ier version, use less chickpea cooking liquid and/or a bit more bread to soak up the liquid.
Added a big dollop of za‘tar-spiced labneh [procured from my new favorite Middle Eastern grocery store].
Dig in…breakfast Tunisian-style.
Harissa. A [Tunisian] hot chile-pepper paste. It’s addictive and versatile. Use it as a sandwich spread, a condiment for grilled things (meat, fish, vegetables), with eggs, etc.
There are many versions of harissa. Here’s a simple one based on dried chiles (used a combination of guajillo, ancho, and chipotle). Look for them at Mexican grocery stores (or Whole Foods).
Guajillo chiles are moderately hot, a bit smoky; ancho chiles are mild, fruity, and raisiny; chipotles are hot and very smoky.
You can alter the ratio to suit your desired heat level. You could also add other dried chiles, such as New Mexico or pasilla, to the mix.
serves 4 to 6
Torn pieces of day old bread
1 pound of chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
8 cups of *water or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons ground and toasted cumin seeds, plus extra
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
day old bread, torn into pieces
eggs, room temperature, 1 per serving
squeeze of lemon
harissa, store bought or homemade (see recipe below), or cayenne chile to taste
chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or mint
olive oil for drizzling over the finished dish
labneh or thick yogurt
green or red pepper
a spoonful of rice or couscous
a few strands of saffron (added in with the chickpeas)
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the water or chicken stock, the drained chickpeas, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the chickpeas are completely tender, about 1 hour.
Once tender, you can mash up some of the chickpeas and add back to the pot. Add the ground cumin to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves.
Tear up the bread into pieces and place at the bottom of each bowl. Ladle in the chickpeas plus a little chickpea cooking liquid. Add a raw egg. Mix all the ingredients together. Serve with lemon wedges, extra ground cumin, harissa, extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling), chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, or mint), and let each person season to taste.
*I had a leftover chicken carcass in my freezer (from a chicken I had recently roasted) that I added to the pot of water with the chickpeas. It added a really nice flavor to the broth.
4 ounces dried chiles, such as guajillo, ancho, New Mexico, chipotle); used half guajillo, half ancho, and one chipotle
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for topping
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
6 sun-dried tomatoes
salt to taste
squeeze of lemon
Cut the stems off the chiles. Cut the chiles lengthwise and remove the seeds and veins. Place the chiles in a bowl. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Pour the water over the chiles and let them steep for about one hour. Weight down the chiles with a small plate to make sure they’re submerged. When the chiles are soft, drain the liquid (discarding the soaking liquid).
Toast and grind the coriander/cumin/caraway seeds: Toast the seeds in a dry skillet, over medium-low heat, swirling the pan, until fragrant and slightly darkened, a minute or two. Grind in a spice-grinder or by hand with a mortar and pestle.
Place the rehydrated chiles and the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Blend until they form a smooth puree. Place in a jar and cover with olive oil.
Do ahead of time:
Cook the garbanzo beans ahead of time. Reheat before serving, adding more water or stock as needed. Make the harissa ahead of time (in fact, harissa tastes even better after a few days; store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before using).