Saturday, February 19, 2011

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Libya

As I was perusing the meat section at my local Whole Foods, I came across an ingredient that I had never seen before ... lamb hearts.  I was curious about what dishes I could make with this ingredient, so I searched the Internet for recipes that used lamb hearts.  I came across a couple recipes, but only one truly caught my attention.  It was Khalyat Alkadba wal Galoob, or Fried Liver and Heart.  The recipe originates from Libya and it incorporates two interesting spice mixes, Bzaar and Hararat (also known as Libyan five-spice).  With my interest piqued, I decided that I would cobble together a last minute challenge that would take me around the world to Libya.

Khalyat Alkadba wal Galoob is prepared using both lamb hearts and lamb livers.  Lamb is the principal form of meat used in Libyan cooking.  The cuisine of Libya reflects a mixture of North African and Mediterranean cuisines and ingredients.  Part of the North African influence is Moroccan couscous, which is a common dish in Libya.  These two  ingredients, lamb and couscous, are the base of the dish that will be my challenge. 


Khalyat Alkadba wal Galoob represents a first for me ... cooking with offal.  The term offal is used to describe the innards of an animal, such as the liver, heart and brains.  I don't know why I have not cooked with offal before, especially given that these ingredients are packed with vitamins.  For example, liver contians Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Vitamin C and Vitamin D, along with the good fatty acids.  Heart contains iron, niacin, riboflavin and zinc.  (For more on the nutritional benefits of offal, check out this website.)  In addition, I am a big fan of Andrew Zimmern and his show, Bizarre Foods. I have spent many hours watching Andrew eat all sorts of animal innards made in many different ways.  Yet, I've never used these ingredients in my cooking.  Still, I am open to trying new ingredients; and with this challenge, it was my chance to be like Andrew.

One last note.  I was proceeding with the proverbial blindfolds.  I could not find any pictures of Khalyat Alkadba wal Galoob and I am not sure what exactly the dish should look like when it is finished.  I was also someone hindered by the fact that the recipes for the spice mixes use whole spices and, while I thought I had all of the whole spices in my kitchen, I was missing a couple of them.  So, I tried to modify the recipes to use ground spices.  This may have thrown off the measurements a little.  But still, I was ready to proceed with the challenge and I have set forth all of the recipes below.

Recipe adapted from Celtnet Recipes
Serves 2-3

2/3 pound of lamb liver
2 lamb hearts
3 tablespoons of butter
8 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 teapsoon of bzaar (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon of hararat (recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon of hot chili powder 

1.  Prepare the offal.  Slice the liver into thin strips.  Open the hearts and remove the valves.  Cut the heart into thin strips.

2.  Saute the offal.  Add the liver and the heart to a pan on medium to low heat, with no oil.  Cook the liver and heart gently, on medium to low heat until the meat almost is dry.  This may take fifteen minutes or more.

3.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Add the butter, oil, tomato puree and spices. (I actually added more than what was called for in the recipe, because I love spices.)  Bring the ingredients to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook at medium to medium low heat for about twenty minutes, until the meat is tender and cooked through.

4.  Plate the dish.  Serve over rice or couscous.


The main dish requires two spice mixes.  The first spice mix is bzaar, which is a spice blend used in Libya and throughout North Africa.  The cinnamon and cloves are very predominant in this spice mix, although the chiles are also present.  The original recipe called for the use of whole spices but, as I mentioned above, I used ground spices.  As a result, my measurements may be a little off, particularly because I was trying to make half of the original recipe.  If you want to use whole spices, you can check the original recipe using the link provided below.

BZAAR (North African Spice Mix)
Adapted from Celtnet Recipes

3 teaspoons of cinnamon powder
3 teaspoons of chile powder (I used Aleppo peppers)
1 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 teaspoon of tumeric
1 teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of cumin powder

Mix all of the ingredients together.


The second spice mix is hararat, also referred to as Libyan five spice. Hararat is a traditional spice blend that is primarily used in soups, but, in the case of Khalyat Alkadba wal Galoob, the spices find their way into the sauce in which the liver and heart simmers for about twenty minutes. This is also a very fragrant spice mix, primarily because of the allspice, cinnmon and cumin. As with the bzaar recipe, I used ground spices instead of whole spices. Thus, the measurements might be a little off. If you want to use whole spices (which I will probably do the next time I make this mix), check out the original recipe using the link provided below.

HARARAT (Libyan Five Spice)
Adapted from Celtnet Recipes

3 tablespoons of cinnamon powder
2 tablespoons of cumin powder
2 teaspoons of coriander powder
1 teaspoon of chili powder (I used Aleppo peppers)
1/2 teaspoon of allspice

Mix all of the ingredients together.

*     *     *

While I cannot truly say whether this challenge was a "success," I have to say that I find lamb liver and lamb heart to be very delicious, especially with the use of the bzaar and hararat.  When I added the spice mixes, the kitchen fills with really nice aromas that can make someone forget that he or she is cooking with animal organs.  The only thing keeping me from having this dish again is whether or not I will ever come across lamb hearts or lamb livers again.  Regardless, I will definitely experiment with these spice mixes with other meats.  Until next time ...


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