Maftoul has always been one of my absolute favorite things to eat. Naturally, it was one of the first foods we explored with our revamped dinner menu in 2017. Its also the dish that stayed on the menu the longest and definitely in my top three.
The base for this recipe, an aromatic chickpea and onion stock, is inspired by the traditional recipe I grew up eating. But we’ve upped the ante with briny capers, sweet raisins, crunchy almonds and a few more aromatics to compliment the humble carrot, an underrated vegetable in our cooking. Most of these additions are ingredients many of us already have at home and are very easy to find.
While maftool is usually steamed over the stock, we cook it right in the pan with all the other ingredients. This method rewards you with more complex flavors and gives you more control to get the cook on the maftool just right. I prefer a bite to mine, but others who prefer it more plump can just add a bit more stock and cook for slightly longer.
The recipe is surprisingly simple to make at home, and if you have the stock prepared it comes together pretty quickly. The key is to measure out and prepare all your ingredients before you start finishing the dish in the frying pan. If you do that it's quite difficult to mess up so don’t sweat it, just enjoy the process.
2 medium white onions
150G dried chickpeas
5-7 green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 pcs lumi (dried limes)
3-5 dry bay leaves or 7-9 fresh ones
½ KG carrots
250 G dried Maftoul
3-4 cloves of garlic
4-5 spring onions
2-3 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
Salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the stock:
Rinse and soak chickpeas for at least an hour or up to overnight. If you’re in a pinch, go ahead and use unsoaked ones but account for a longer cooking time.
Heat a large pot on medium heat, add the cardamom pods and black pepper corns. Toast them for a minute or two until fragrant. Move them into a mortar and pestle, gently crack open the cardamom and just barely crush the black pepper. Return them to the pot.
Add the onions, peeled and cut into quarters, the lumi, bay leaves and the drained chickpeas with a small pinch of salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until chickpeas are tender.
Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove all the spices and onions. If not using immediately, store the chickpeas in the broth until ready to use. When cooled down, keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
To prepare the maftool:
Preheat your oven to 180C. Wash your carrots and cut in half lengthwise. If using larger carrots, chop them into 1cm slices on the diagonal, so they are well distributed in the final dish. Season with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Roast until golden in a flat baking sheet, about 15 minutes depending on your oven.
Clean garlic and remove the germ if necessary. Mince finely. Trim green onions, reserve the green part for garnish and finely chop the whites. De-seed the green chili and thinly slice into half-moons, taste it and use only as much as you can handle.
Put your almonds in a shallow baking sheet and toast in the oven just until golden. If you’re done with the carrots, reduce the heat to 160C so the almonds don’t burn. If not, just keep and eye out after 4 or 5 minutes.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, green onions, chili and a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until garlic starts to turn golden. Add the raisins and mix well, cook for a few minutes until you can smell their sweet aroma. Add the tomato paste, use the back of a wooden spoon to break it up in the pan and mix with everything else. Cook it out for a minute or two to reduce its unpleasant tang. Make sure to mix very frequently so nothing burns at the bottom of the pan. Give the capers a coarse chop and add them to the pan, mix well to combine.
Add the roasted carrots and the maftoul. Toast the maftoul for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to incorporate everything together well.
Using a slotted spoon, add the chickpeas and a ladleful of the stock to the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all those tasty bits into the stock. Stir gently and add more stock to completely cover the maftoul.
Bring to a boil and reduce the heat slightly, cook stirring frequently for about 5-7 minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning as needed (we season now as the capers are generally quite salty and we can discern their full impact at this point), and check the cook on the maftool. If undercooked, add a ladleful or two more stock and continue to cook until it reaches the desired consistency.
When the cook on the maftool is just right, turn off the heat. Roughly chop half of the toasted almonds and finely slice the reserved green onion tips. Mix the chopped almonds and most of the green onions into the maftool.
Serve immediately in a large platter or individual plates, garnished with the remaining toasted almonds and green onions. I add more raisins and some fennel fronds if available, but you do you.