Bon Appetit! – Egypt

Egypt: Koushari

First, a note about the post headings. I found this great website that gives translations of Bon Appetit in different languages, so I’ve been using that as a resource:

http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/bonappetit.htm

The official language of Egypt is Egyptian Arabic, and this site doesn’t have the translation, so we’ll just go with Bon Appetit. Also, this week I discovered a great website that has recipes as well as information about various countries’ cuisines. I used that for information on Egyptian cuisine, and I’ll be using it the future, I really like the details it gives. Here’s the link:

http://www.foodbycountry.com/

Anyway, this week I made Egyptian food to celebrate the nonviolent revolution in Egypt. It was exciting to observe such a historic event (though from a distance, thanks CNN).

Koushari (which has various spelling variations) is one of the most popular dishes in Egypt. It’s a vegetarian dish, as much of Egyptian cuisine is vegetarian. I admit that I was skeptical because it seemed an odd combination: rice, lentils, chick peas, MACARONI (that’s the part I thought seemed odd), tomato-based sauce, and fried onions. However, we all loved it! Somehow the macaroni worked! This site has the recipe for Koushari, as well as Gebna Makleyah and Shai, which I’ll describe later.

http://www.foodbycountry.com/Algeria-to-France/Egypt.html

Here are the ingredients for the Koushari, Gebna Makleyah and Shai:

I didn’t take pictures of the cooking process because my camera batteries were dying, so here’s the assembled Koushari…it’s common to layer the dish, so that’s what I did:

Although I used the recipe I linked to as the primary recipe, I made some adjustments after reading multiple other recipes. I doubled the recipe and added a splash of white vinegar, about one teaspoon of cumin, and about 1 teaspoon of baharat spice mix (see Iraq meal for details on that spice mix). I also added some red pepper flakes. We all really enjoyed it.

I also made Gebna Makleyah, which is oven fried cheese. I used feta cheese, and these were delicious:

Justin and Emily brought some yummy savory pastries, which unfortunately I don’t have a picture of. For dessert we had shai (which is mint tea sweetened with sugar) and baklava. Baklava is a common dessert in Egypt, and I was happy to learn that because I love baklava! I think it’s neat how different countries share common items, as baklava is common in other countries as well. I made homemade baklava, and it was a bit of a process, but SO worth it! Here are the ingredients:

Do you notice anything? Like the pistachios are not shelled? I knew my friend Rae was coming to dinner, and she is allergic to walnuts. Often, baklava is made with a mixture of walnuts and pistachios, but I decided to make it with just pistachios so Rae could enjoy it too. Well, when I bought the ingredients it did not even cross my mind that I would have to shell the nuts, and that might take awhile! It wasn’t until I had the ingredients laid out and was about to start baking that I realized, oh, this is going to be a process!


Fortunately Giada was on the Food Network, my favorite FN show, so I watched her and shelled away. Here they are all shelled (or unshelled, hmmm, not sure which is right!).

The food processor worked great for chopping them.

Assembling the baklava is similar to assembling lasagna: lots of layers.

I was intrigued by the filo dough, I really wonder how it is made. It’s quite amazing. Here it is ready to go in the oven:

While it was baking, I made the syrup, which simmered on the stove while the baklava was baking. The buttery nutty baklava baking and the lemony vanilla honey-ey syrup all getting toasty warm at the same time made my apartment smell AMAZING. The most fun part of the process is as soon as you take the baklava out of the oven, you pour the syrup over it and it bubbles and steams. I found it extremely amusing and even giggled.

I tried to get a picture of the bubbles but they didn’t turn out well. But I’m going to post one anyway because the intensity of the bubbling and how delicious the steam smelled was so fun that I want to remember it.

Up close view of the baklava pieces:


The baklava was delicious. I have to admit, I was proud of myself. Justin said it was “bakery quality” and that I could quote him on that 🙂 Here’s the recipe:

http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/easy-baklava/Detail.aspx

Here are the lovely friends I shared the meal with:

L to R: Rae, Lisa, Angela, Justin, Emily

We had such a FUN  evening, eating and talking and laughing.

Notes for next time:

I would make the baklava and oven fried cheese exactly the same – I LOVED them both. We all also really enjoyed the koushari. I think it would have been bland if I hadn’t adapted the recipe I linked to, but with the additional spices that other recipes for Koushari had, it was quite tasty. I would make more fried onions next time, they really added a lot of flavor. Also, there was a lot of leftovers of the other ingredients, but not the sauce, so I would make additional sauce.

About couchcuisine

I like traveling, cooking and eating...especially with friends.
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