As I put Micah to bed, Colin was downstairs baking a second malawa. The smell of freshly baked bread while holding a sleeping baby had me feeling all the feels. In this season of Thanksgiving, I was feeling a great deal of gratitude. I am so darn grateful for the life that I get to live, for my boys, and for the chance to make food from all over the world.

This week we are in Yemen. Yemen shares a border with Saudi Arabia and sits at the end of the Arabian peninsula. Yemen has been in a state of political crisis since 2011. Eight long years of protests and unrest has led to significant struggles for the Yemeni people. They are in the midst of a famine and almost 17 million people no longer have access to safe drinking water. When you learn about countries that have so little, it is harder to live guilt-free in a land of abundance. This past week I sat down to a table overflowing with food for a Thanksgiving feast. I think this year I’ll be a little more aware of eating all the leftovers, even when I’ve had mashed potatoes for five straight days. What a difference it might make if we didn’t throw so much food away here in the United States. Or better yet, what if we didn’t buy and make more than we needed in the first place? Maybe someday we will live in a world with a more equal distribution of nourishment and have a world without hunger…maybe.  

I decided to make Shafoot–a sourdough bread covered in a spicy yogurt sauce and Malawa–a sort of flatbread that is loosely reminiscent of a croissant in that it is flakey and buttery. I’m guessing Yemeni people don’t often eat these together, but they both seemed interesting and I couldn’t pick between the two so I just made both. Our initial impression was that this meal would be sub-par. When I think about things that get soggy they are some of my least favorite things…the end of a cereal bowl or a sandwich with tomatoes that has been sitting too long. I’ve not met many people who would seek these mushy things out. With this recipe we intentionally left it to get mushy and soggy. We were very skeptical about this meal and it completely surprised us. We both had seconds and were excited to have leftovers for lunch. My favorite part about this little cooking adventure is finding new recipes and flavors that I never would have ever tried without this experience.

Shafoot with yahoo sourdough bread

The Malawa dough came together really nicely. Sometimes when I make bread I question whether it is wet enough or dry enough, but this recipe from ShebaYemeni didn’t leave room for questions. It was perfect. I did the first step in my KitchenAid mixer and a shiny, firm-but-pliable dough came together. I let it rest as she describes. I was skeptical that I would be able to stretch it into a tissue paper thin rectangle like she demonstrates in her video. I figured her fingers were doing some magical dance on the dough that I couldn’t see and wouldn’t be able to replicate. But she wasn’t joking, the dough is very easy to work with. Once it was stretched out I rubbed butter all over it, flipped it over and rubbed some more. Then we folded it into a line and tied it in two knots, tucking in the ends before letting it rest. While it rested, I heated our pizza stone to 500 degrees.  

Baking the Malawa was fairly straight forward just like the rest of the recipe. Colin slid it off the pizza peel and onto the baking stone. If you don’t have a pizza peel, I think a cutting board would work fine, you might just need help holding it while sliding it into the oven. (It is important to put a lot of cornmeal on the pizza peel before setting the dough on so that it will slide off without too much sticking.) They only took about 5 minutes to turn golden brown and delightfully crispy. They are sure to make your whole house smell amazing.

Malawa flatbread from Yemen

I’ve made Shafoot twice now. The first time, in the hubbub of evenings with a toddler, we forgot to take pictures, and what fun is it to tell you all about a meal and not be able to show you what it looked like? The first time I made it, I bought a loaf of sourdough bread from Aldi and I really enjoyed the meal. The second time we made it we got a little more authentic and made Lahoo sourdough. It takes more planning to let a starter ferment a few days before you make it, but it made for an interesting flatbread and it felt a bit more in line with what it might be like to eat a meal in Yemen. I could go either way. If you go the store-bought loaf route this whole meal really comes together very quickly. Sometimes a quick and easy meal is exactly what we need. But making the Lahoo was fun and different and certainly something I’d encourage all of you to try.

Lahoo sourdough bread from Yemen

Colin blended the peppers with the cilantro and cumin while I mixed the yogurt and milk for the Shafoot. I pulled out our bowl plates. We love our bowl plates. They are perfect for when you just aren’t sure if a meal belongs on a plate or in a bowl. I put a piece of sourdough bread in each bowl plate and then poured the green yogurt mixture over the top. Colin looked at it and said something to the effect of, “I can’t say I’m really excited about this one.” And I agreed. Soggy yogurt bread did not look appetizing. The recipe called for letting the bread absorb the yogurt, so I baked the Malawa while the sourdough got all soggified.

Shafoot with yahoo sourdough bread

We sat down to eat and the first bite of Shafoot was a pleasant surprise. The soggy bread was light and a little creamy with a bit of spice. I’d almost go so far as to call it refreshing. We felt like it needed a little something more so we diced up a tomato to put on top. We also read about other toppings and had some with mint, lemon and pomegranate seeds too. This was a carb heavy meal but the Shafoot was so fresh tasting with the yogurt and the peppers that it didn’t feel too overwhelming in the bread department. The Malawa was buttery and flakey, and turned out just as I imagined ShebaYemeni’s would taste. It was a surprisingly easy flatbread that offers something entirely different from other flatbreads I’ve made. Enjoy! 

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