How to Make Dolma During Quarantine

Happy quarantine, habibis. I hope you, your family, and friends are staying safe, healthy, and most importantly sane during these strange times. The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused lots of pain, stress, and uncertainty about our future.

However, from living through wars, economic sanctions and displacement, I learned from a very young age that the best way to move forward in life is to remain positive and hopeful. It might sound cheesy, but it works.

So, instead of focusing on something we have no control over, I thought that maybe we could all participate in a project right from the comfort of our homes: how to make dolma during quarantine?

Due to a high demand from habibis across the world, here’s my easy dolma recipe in the hopes that it will cheer you up and make your stomachs a little happier during these times.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of ground beef/lamb (the fattier the better.) I went with 85%.
  • 1 jar of grape leaves (you could get them at Whole Foods, or any Middle Eastern market.)
  • 1 container of chicken broth.
  • 1 cup of rice.
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley.
  • Juice of 1 lemon.
  • 2 medium-size onions. Chop one of them, slice the other.
  • 6 chopped cloves of garlic.
  • 1 tbsp allspice.
  • 1 tbsp curry powder.
  • 1 tbsp salt.
  • 1 tbsp black pepper.
  • 1 tsp cumin.
  • 1 tsp paprika.

Directions:

Step 1

  • Sautee the meat until brown.
  • Soak the rice in cold water for 20 minutes.

Step 2

  • In a large bowl, mix the meat, rice, parsley, chopped onion, garlic, and all the spices. Make sure everything is evenly mixed.
  • Take one grape leaf, spread it on a flat surface, and add some of the stuffing. don’t add a lot because it will break if you try to roll it.
  • Roll: it’s hard to describe how to roll a grape leaf, so please watch this easy tutorial. This is a great activity to do if you’re quarantining with someone.

Step 3

  • Add some olive oil in a large pot and sautee the sliced onions.
  • Gently place the rolled grape leaves at the bottom. Make sure they’re nice and organized.
  • Pour the chicken broth over everything. You need just enough to cover the grape leaves. Finally, add the lemon juice.
  • Add a small plate (upside down) over the grape leaves. This will very important because the plate will hold the grape leaves down as they cook.
  • Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Once it gets there, reduce to low heat and let it simmer for about half an hour.
  • Taste one of the leaves. If the rice needs to be cooked more, cook them for a few more minutes.

Step 4

Eat and never stop eating.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you don’t already, please follow We the Habibis on Instagram!

Iraqi breakfast: Makhlama

Makhlama is one of Iraq’s most popular breakfast dishes. It’s super simple but incredibly delicious.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken sausage. Feel free to substitute with any protein of your choice.
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced.
  • 6 eggs.
  • Pinch of Salt, pepper, curry powder, and red chili flakes.

Directions:

  • Sauté the chicken sausage until golden brown. Remove from stove.
  • In the same pan, sauté tomatoes.
  • Add all spices.
  • Add chicken sausage back in.
  • Beat the eggs and pour over the sausage and tomatoes.
  • Scramble everything.

Enjoy!

Mama’s Kababs

Those are the kababs my mom used to make me when I was a child in Iraq.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped cup parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs black pepper
  • 1/2 tbs curry powder
  • 1/2 tbs red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup flour

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients together and mix them up well.
  • Form patties
  • Fry each until golden brown

Serve with a side of roasted potatoes and salad.

In Memory of Dad

Today marks the 13th anniversary of dad’s disappearance. However, in this post, I wanted to celebrate my father’s life and honor his legacy by telling the world a little bit about who he was.

His name was Suhail Jany Alnashi, and he was born on November 12, 1944, in the Province of Maysan in southern Iraq. In the late 40s, dad and his family relocated to Baghdad, where they lived in the western shore of the Tigris river, also known as Al-Karkh.

Dad grew up in a big household. He was one of eight children, and he was the second youngest in the family. Dad was in the first cohort of students to attend the University of Technology in Baghdad, where he studied electrical engineering. Right after graduation, he got his first job as an electrical engineer at General Company for Mechanical Industries in 1973, in Al-Eskandaria city.

My dad stayed at that company for the rest of his life. To put it simply, dad loved his job. He was promoted several times, and for a while he was the Director of the Electrical Division at his company. In early 2000s he was awarded the title of an “Expert in Electrical Engineering” which to be honest I’m a little bit jealous of.

Suhail Jany, Baghdad, Iraq

My dad was recognized nationally and abroad for leading several projects to design several agricultural tools and machinery. He led many delegations to train engineers in England, Switzerland, Germany, and India. So yeah, he was a pretty big deal.

Work aside, dad was a very sociable Habibi. I always remember him being surrounded by friends and relatives. His smile was infectious, had the best dad jokes, and absolutely loved helping others. He was motivated by the act to helping people live a better life. This reminds me of a quote by Will Smith in which he says “If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.” Dad fully believed in that and made it his mission in life to make a difference in the lives of those around him.

Dad and Mom, in Baghdad, Iraq.

His number one priority, however, was us: his family. The love that he showed us was unparalleled. Well, maybe he loved my sister a little more and maybe my brothers and I were a little salty about it. Above everything, he loved my mother. Their relationship was something I will forever look up to. The level of support for one another, and passion to nurture their household, is something I truly have never seen in my life.

Dad was a pretty handsome fellow, elegant, smart, always well-dressed, calm, funny, kind, loyal, and trust-worthy. He loved listening to classical music and Um-Kulthum, a legendary Egyptian singer. He was also a great cook, and loved to eat. I guess I got that from him.

So to sum it up, my dad dedicated his life to his family, his community, and his country. Your memory is a blessing to so many around the world. We love you, dad and we miss you.

Let’s Shawarma and Chill

Chicken shawarma

I was rewatching The Avengers for the 5th time the other night and I realized that probably my favorite scene of the entire movie is the post-credit clip of all the heroes eating shawarma. Think about it: THE AVENGERS are habibis!

But you know, not all heroes wear capes. Some wear aprons. Yes, I convinced myself I was a hero by not only wearing an apron, but also making chicken shawarma. Take that Iron Man!

Best part about this meal is that it is super easy and quick to make. Yalla habibis:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 -2 lbs chicken tenders
  • Naan bread. Pita is okay, but naan is better for this
  • Hummus
  • Tahini
  • Mayo
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 6 freshly grated garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Mix all spices in a bowl. Add your olive oil and squeeze half of the lemon in. Then add the chicken in and make sure it is coated evenly. Set aside.
  2. Thinly slice your cucumber, tomato, and onion. Set that aside.
  3. Now heat up some vegetable oil in a frying pan. Let the oil come up to temperature. You will know it’s ready when you see a little bit of smoke.
  4. Add the chicken in and let it sear. Avoid flipping the chicken often. You want to get a nice sear on each side. It usually takes 5-7 minutes per side. Once one side is nice and brown, flip the chicken. Chicken tenders are thin and cook quickly, so keep an eye on them.
  5. Once chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Slice the chicken evenly.
  6. Grab your naan bread. Spread a teaspoon of mayo and a spoonful of hummus. You can adjust these portions as you like.
  7. Add some chicken, then toss in some cucumbers, a few slices of tomatoes, and some onions.
  8. Final touch: drizzle some tahini and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice.

And by now you should have a shawarma sandwich that is to die for.

Enjoy