Harak Osbao is a deliciously rich vegetarian or even vegan dish. It is traditionally made in Syria and Palestine where it is also called rashtaya. The translation burning fingers or he burnt his fingers, is in reference to its irresistibility. It’s so good you can’t resist grabbing it and burning your fingers.
This is one of my favourite dishes that our lady’s make. The dish is normally served as an appetiser at family gatherings.
At our October dinner I was trying my best to assist the ladies in the kitchen and was able to help them put it together. Of course, they had done most of the prep-work beforehand making my part in the preparation relative small. This dish is great for the winter, the texture and the combination of sweet sour tastes make for a truly irresistible dish.
Harak Osbao is normally served as an appetiser at family gatherings. However, I think it’s satisfying enough for a main dish as well, perfect as a vegetarian option.
2 cups of brown or green lentils
6 cups of water or stock
1 bound of coriander sliced thinly
5 pieces of garlic,
4 onions sliced in pieces
1 cup of tamarind juice Cumin powder
The dough - or “cheat” with a thicker pasta of your choice like Fettuccine
1 cup flour
1/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Topping - Decoration
1 piece Arabic bread, cut in small pieces and fried with oil
1 bound parsley or fresh coriander
Prepare the dough:
So depending on your how much time and or incentive you have you can make the pasta from scratch. It’s quite easy but it does add an extra step(s).
Mix the dry dough ingredients together.Slowing add the water to prevent clumping, kneading till the dough is hard. Cover the dough and let it rest for about 15 min. You can also do this earlier and refrigerate it. Separate the dough into 4 equal parts.
This next part could be a bit tricky. You want to roll the dough out so that you can make long ribbon like pieces. How you do this is, I think, for you to decide. I have seen it done by rolling the dough out flat and cutting strips or by rolling it into itself like a cinnamon bun and then cutting that into little pieces and either opening them up or leaving them as little buns.
How ever you do it... Think Fettuccine! Which you could also just substitute and save yourself this entire step. The rest of the good stuff. Cook your lentils in a saucepan with the water till they are almost done (about 15 min). You can use vegetable stock if you would like to have a bit more flavour.
When your lentils are nearly done, add your dough or pasta and cook it with the lentils, tamarind juice (tamarind juice can be made by mixing tamarind paste with warm water), cumin, salt and pepper. You can either do this in the saucepan on the stove or transfer it to your serving dish. The ladies pour the hot lentils with the extra water over the pasta in a casserole-style dish. Covering them and letting them continue to cook on the counter. Both ways work. You will want to make sure that the lentils really are done. Cooks new to working with lentils should maybe keep them on the stove, just in case they need to cook longer.
While the lentil pasta mix is cooking, fry your thinly sliced onions in a bit of oil a few minutes before adding the garlic and coriander to the pan. Cook until lightly brown and set aside.
Use the same pan and fry your Arabic bread till it’s nice and toasted.
By now your lentil pasta mix should be finished. It should have a bit of sauce and not be too dry. Add extra liquid, water or stock, as needed.
Putting it together:
If you haven’t already, transfer lentil pasta mix to a serving dish. Add the fried onions, garlic and coriander mix. Top with chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds and fried bread for decoration. The ladies always take the extra time to organise the toppings in rows. This makes the dish look very festive with bright red and green stripes. Enjoy!
Photographs by Ewa Podgórska