Jute MallowJute leaf is popular in the cuisines of West Asia, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. It can be cooked or eaten raw in salads, stews, or soup-like dishes.
The leaves are rich in calcium, potassium, sodium, and iron. Mature jute plant roots also produce a jelly-like substance which is used as a thickener in much the same way as okra — for example, to thicken soups and stews. The jelly is also called “moferef” (jute or Jew's mallow root) and is available commercially as a powder and as a paste that can be used like corn starch to thicken sauces.
Jute leaf is also known as Egyptian spinach, West African sorrel, okra leaf, or (ahem) Jew's mallow. It can be found in African markets in Western countries under the merchants' names for its jute/Jew's Mallow-leaves - fresh, frozen, or canned. It's classified at Sunnin as a “stew,” but, just as often, molokhia ends up in the “soup” section of a menu.
In the Western world, what little information has been published about jute/Jew's mallow leaf comes from those interested in Egyptian “Jew's Mallow” as a soup or as a source for mucilaginous jelly. In Egypt itself, it is simply one more leafy green that cooks just like spinach.
The dark green leaves are usually cooked before eating. The smell of jute leaf is mild becomes noticeably sulfurous during cooking. Jute leaf has a slippery texture that may be off-putting to some eaters, and the flavor can also be an acquired taste. However, it is often used in cooking because of its nutritive value. It is commonly available fresh in markets that carry Middle Eastern produce. The leaves are often chopped and frozen for later use. It can also be found canned or dried. Depending on the recipe, jute leaf may be discarded after cooking because of its slimy texture. A quick internet search for recipes will produce a wide variety of dishes using jute/Jew's mallow.
When cooked, the leaves are soft and mucilaginous (slimy). They smell faintly like raw potatoes and slime or, if overcooked, strongly of sulfur. They are used in lamb and okra stews in Egypt where the leaves are cooked with onions and chickpeas to create a thick soup/stew which is often topped with yogurt or different types of cheeses such as fetta cheese. Jute leaf is popular in the cuisines of West Asia, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. It can be cooked or eaten raw in salads, stews, or soup-like dishes.