Miriam Succar shares a traditional Good Friday soup recipe, brought to you all the way from a mountainous village in the north of Lebanon via a south-west Sydney kitchen.
I have a recipe with a story.
Not only is this dish delicious, but I’m also pretty sure it’s the only thing my grandmother has eaten on Good Friday for a solid 70-plus years (always after attending mid-morning Mass and fasting, of course).
It’s called Kibbet Raahib (Monk’s Soup is the common English translation, thanks Google) – a hearty, lemony bean soup, which has delicious burghul balls floating around in it, traditionally eaten on Good Friday. And it’s a soup with a throwback to the man of the hour himself: Jesus.
As my mother explained to me for many years, the lemony nature of the soup (brought on, in fact, by the abundance of sumac in the soup rather than actual lemon juice) is a tribute to the belief that when Jesus was hanging on that miserable cross and asked for a drink of water, he was instead given lemon juice.The soup is thus quite tangy but considerably less miserable.
Now, getting a recipe out of either my mother or grandmother is always a hilarious ordeal. Their system of measurement, never really having been written down, is fairly informal. The following recipe may, therefore, be a little imprecise but artistic license is granted to any of you game enough to try it. Get creative. Or maybe ask around. I am certain that there are at least 500 variations of this one dish alone because, well, it’s not like the Lebanese ever have trouble agreeing with each other.
2 cups red kidney beans
1 cup fine burghul (cracked wheat)
½ cup plain flour
Sumac, dried mint and ‘seven spices’, all to taste
3 large onions
Several cloves of garlic, crushed (the more garlic, the more authentic)
The Burghul Balls
You can make the little burghul balls a day in advance. To make them, soak the burghul in some water for about half an hour. Meanwhile, finely dice two of the onions and pan fry with some olive oil until just before they brown. Allow them to cool then add them to the drained burghul along with the flour, dried mint, sumac salt and spice. Knead into a doughy batter (adding some water if necessary) then roll the burghul mixture into little marble-sized balls.
Lay them on a flat surface and keep them covered so they don’t dry out while you’re working.
Soak the beans the night before so that they cook faster.
To prepare the soup, briefly fry one diced onion in some olive oil. Add the beans and about 5 litres of water before the onion browns. Boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer.
Once the beans are cooked, add the burghul balls followed by the crushed garlic. Allow the mixture to simmer for a further 15 minutes, until the balls are cooked. It should smell pretty good by now.
Best eaten with people with whom you can disagree.
By Miriam Succar
Miriam is a law student who enjoys reading, baking and heated political discussions – all to an unhealthy degree.