When I was in the Peace Corps I worked out of an office in Kairouan, Tunisia. One morning a counterpart invited me over to this small eating joint, next to the office. He wanted me to try leblebi. Let me tell you, the stuff looked awful. A thin broth containing chickpeas, spooned over hunks of dry bread. The cook asked me how much harissa and if I wanted an egg on it. I told him “zeed” (give me more) a couple times for more harissa, and said yes to the egg. I thought, what the heck, a raw egg can’t hurt the dish any… My counterpart and I sat down and he showed me how to stir the mass into a big glob of gook, and we dug in. As unappetizing as the dish looked, it sure was tasty. The garlic, cumin and harissa made a nice spicy broth. The bread mixed with the water created a heavy oatmeal like texture, and the chickpeas were delicious. I ended up eating leblebi just about every morning, until one day the cook told me, “no more.” I asked him, “When will you have some?” He replied, “Next year, leblebi is a Winter food.” I was crushed, no more belly warming, stick to the ribs breakfast, for a year? I survived, but barely. Here’s my recipe.
- 2 cups dry chickpeas
- 8 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon oil (canola or other vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- Day old french bread, torn or cut into bite sized chunks
- Olive oil
- Raw egg
If using dry chick peas, soak overnight and drain. Heat pot over medium heat, add tablespoon of oil, heat cumin and garlic to release flavors (a minute or less). Bring water, salt and chickpeas to a simmer. Cook until chickpeas are tender. Serve in bowls over day old bread. The garnishes are optional, but a splash of olive oil, raw egg and more harissa to taste is nice. Mix this all into a mush with your spoon and enjoy.