Bazine, a traditional and delicious Libyan food, the recipe of which varies from region to region.
In my 42 years of relationship with both Libya and Libyans, I’ve been introduced to many methods for both the sauce and the actual Bazine dough.
My very dearest departed friend and sister in Islam, Mabrooka, Al Warfalii, thank you for your support and all of your kind gestures and great recipes.
Before anything, hard boil one egg per person expected to eat the meal (hard boil = cooking until center is hard) cool in cold water and peel, leave until the end.
There are basically two types of Bazine, one made with cracked skinned broad beans, the second with meat and potatoes, well generally anyway.
The sauces are cooked similarly, as most Libyan sauces begin with fried onion, followed by tomato puree, which is usually cooked well in the oil and onion until its smell changes slightly, add a teaspoon of ground coriander, cumin, black pepper and salt. This is where the taste changes from region to region, some people put in a quarter teaspoon of fenugreek seeds or even less, some are horrified at the very thought.
If cooking with broad beans, boil them for at least 30 minutes then add to the tomato puree and now spiced onion mixture, add water, at least three to four cups, leave to simmer for at least an hour, checking for water level.
If using meat and potatoes, the meat is placed at the time of the broad beans, typically the meat is large pieces of lamb, however, at times of wedding celebrations, it is often replaced with large chunks of camel meat, potatoes cut in half on the long side are added approximately 20 mins. before completion of meat cooking, along with fresh green or red, hot chillies.
The sauce should not be too watery, so keep an eye on the water level.
Now for the Bazine ‘ball’, as some may call it.
Again, two varying methods of cooking it, however both require a pot of boiling water and an amount of barley flour, this is judged by the amount of people expected to attend the meal.
Method one: This takes experience or guidance from someone who is expert in it if its being done for the first time, but no harm in trying, I advise a novice to stick with the second method.
One must have a large wooden paddle called a ‘mughrif’ ready, this cannot be replaced by a wooden spoon as the mixture is very tough. Sift the barley flour and if it is of good quality there should be some sheaf in the sieve, take a handful and put it back into the sieved flour for body and rustic effect.
Pour handfuls of flour into the boiling water and allow to sink until required amount is added, this is usually done by ‘eye’ measurement, placing the mughrif in the center standing, allow to cook slowly for at least 30 minutes on low heat uncovered.
Remove from the cooker and place on the floor wedged in a corner or against a wall and whilst sitting on the floor, place both feet at the pot with a cloth with protection placed around the Bazine pot. Then the work begins, take hold of the mughrif and begin to pull the dough from the center to the edge until any and all lumps are removed and the dough is not sticky or too dry.
Pull the Bazine dough into a large (I mean ‘large’) by European standards, like a not too deep mixing bowl. Then the Libyan expertise comes into play. Have at hand a small pot or bowl of cold water to dip your hand into. Knead the dough, although its still so hot, dip your hands into the cold water when it becomes unbearable, (and it will), and when you are satisfied that there are no lumps left, begin a rolling motion all around the outer side of the bowl until a volcano shape is achieved.
Second method, and the one I prefer for sure, although I’ve cooked with both, is simply, again boil the water, a relatively large one, mix your flour with water until it comes together and is neither too soft or too hard, this method excludes the possibility of lumps in the final dough. Then simply measure the amount of dough by taking a large handful, placing it in the top part of the palm and flattening it into a pitta bread shape approximately a half inch thick, this is practical as usually the Warfelli women measure one piece per person, with a couple extra for good measure for those with a good apatite.
The patties as we’ll call them are placed statically, overlapping in a fan shape and left to cook for anything from 30 to 45 minutes until cooked. Strain out the water, retaining approximately two cups full, some of this water may be added to the sauce to increase the overall amount, as the water will slightly thicken the sauce.
Follow the directions for stirring with mughrif as above, kneading well and shaping as aforementioned.
In both versions when the barley flour dough is placed in the serving dish, an indentation is made in the top of the ball onto which the chillies will be placed in a criss-cross fashion when serving meat and potato sauce, a boiled egg is placed at intervals around the bowl, pieces of meat also then the sauce is drizzled down the dough and all around the Bazine, when using the broad bean version, same just pour sauce, now thickened by the beans all over and around the dough in the serving dish.
Perhaps the best attribute to serving Bazine, is that no other side-dish is offered with it, other than some halved lemons and crunchy fresh hot chillies for the daring.
Now, enjoy as this is one of the most nutritious and healthy meals you will ever experience.