Recipe

Hilbeh

by Ed Smith

A Yemenite condiment, packed with the punch of fenugreek seeds

In the Yemen, fenugreek—the subject of my recent Spice series article—is known as hilbeh and is used to make a condiment of the same name, which works well on the side of flat breads and eggy dishes. There appear to be a number of different versions of hilbeh. Some are almost solely the paste of soaked fenugreek seeds; some are thinned with water; others involve cumin, coriander, tomatoes and chilli.

This recipe mixes recalls the flavour of a version I tried in a low-key Yemenite café in Tel Aviv—essentially the front room of an octogenarian lady, in which she served large, spongey pancake known as lachuchua, which resembled a pikelet or flat and floppy crumpet.

One breakfast/lunch option consisted lachuchua, fried with a layer of beaten egg on top and then folded over—effectively creating an omelette sandwich. Now, lachuchua are tricky to master and I’ve never seen them for sale in the UK. But I can heartily recommend sandwiching an omelette between warm flatbreads, and a hearty dollop of hilbeh to dip into. To cross cuisines, I suspect both the egg and hilbeh would work well as a filling for a breakfast taco using one of Cool Chile Co’s corn tacos.

Ingredients

2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
2 medium tomatoes
Big handful of coriander leaves
1 small hot chilli
⅓ garlic clove, peeled
Juice from ¼ lemon

Method

Put the fenugreek seeds in a small bowl and cover by 2-3cm with boiling water. Leave to soak for 8-12 hours. This helps to remove some of the bitterness, while also soaking and softening the seeds. The seeds will become slimy and there should be a little foam on the surface of the water.

Drain the seeds and place in a blender or food processor. Add 4 tbsp cold water and the remaining ingredients. Pulse and blitz until smooth. Check seasoning and add more lemon juice or salt to taste.

Recipe & images: Ed Smith