Friday, October 12, 2012

On the Menu : Egyptian Food

The Unofficial Dish of Egypt :  Koshari

Every website I went to looking for recipes from Egypt had a variation of Koshari (many different spellings too), so I figured we had to make this dish, right?  But I wasn't very excited about it.  It basically sounded like a bunch of carbs with tomato sauce on top - how exciting could that be?  Turns out it tasted very different than I expected it to taste and I found it pretty yummy.  But more on that later, first a brief history of food in Egypt....

Since ancient times, the people of Egypt have eaten lots of fruits and vegetables, some grown in the fertile soil along the Nile River and some traded in the ports from vessels travelling the river.  They had dates, melons, and figs, wheat, barley and beans.   The wheat was made into breads and porridges but the barley was mostly for the favorite drink of the people - beer!  The Egyptians so loved their beer that they even had special beer jars that they put in the tombs of the dead so they could enjoy a pint or two in the afterlife! 
In later years, Turks and Arabs have both ruled Egypt for periods of time and the food of the land took on the flavors of the Middle East.  Many of the recipes are identical to those you'd find in many surrounding countries so it was hard to find one that screamed out Egypt.  However, one dish is supposedly loved throughout the country.  It's vegetarian, spicy, and has healthy onions, lentils, garlic and tomatoes - it's called Koshari and is served in the nicest restaurants and the lowliest food cart by the side of the road.  Now it is served in my house.


For the recipe you will need:
  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 large onion sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic- minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used pasta sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • crispy french-fried onions (not pictured)
1. Cook lentils according to directions.  Cook rice according to directions.  Cook pasta according to directions.  Easy but used all my pans - luckily my husband does the dishes :)
2.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and cook til carmelized.  Add garlic, tomatoes and pepper flakes. Simmer for 10-20 minutes.  I cooked the onions separately with half the garlic since I knew the hubby and kids wouldn't eat them.  I also didn't have any canned tomatoes so I used pasta sauce and left some not spicy for the kids.
3. To serve layer the pasta, rice and lentils in a dish.  Spoon on some of the tomato sauce.  Put some carmelized onions on top and sprinkle the crispy onions on top of that. 
I thought this was a pretty good dish.  The pepper flakes and garlic jazzed up the sauce and the onions and different textures made it really different.  My husband tried it and liked it (without the onions) and my kids ate it without any sauce, or onions, or lentils.  Basically, they had rice and pasta.