This week we visit one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world – Egypt. But what is Egyptian food like? Turns out that it’s got a lot in common with other Mediterranean cuisines, like that of more familiar Lebanon. However, in part due to the influence of the Coptic Christian community, there’s a higher proportion of vegetarian dishes.
The dish we picked is called Koshari. Alternately spelled Kushari or Koshary, it is essentially a vegan garbage plate. While there are many variations, the basic idea is a huge pile of rice, noodles, and legumes, topped with several kinds of sauce.
None of the individual elements here are hard – the hard part is getting them all done without running out of dishes!
So, let’s get the rice and chick peas going on the counter.
And the lentils, fried vermicelli, and boiled ditalini pasta going on the stove.
If we’ve fried spaghetti before, I don’t remember it. However, the end product turned out with the beautiful range of colors from light to dark that I remember from noodles served at Lebanese restaurants I’ve been to.
Only three more pots to go! There’s two different sauces – a tomato and vinegar sauce, (not pictured) and a cumin garlic sauce.
And if the phrase “cumin garlic sauce” doesn’t make you prick up your ears, then it should. We’ve mostly encountered cumin incorporated into dishes as a whole, rather than condiments, but it really works.
One last thing to go – our old nemesis, deep frying.
Experienced deep fryers will know that this is way too many onions for this much oil. (Or alternately too little oil for this many onions) So they didn’t actually get all that crisp. But we were too hungry to fry in small batches, and too out of oil to put any more in.
That accomplished, it’s time to gaze at our table of stuff, and begin the final assembly.
Egypt is majority Muslim, so the beer isn’t terribly authentic, but that’s OK, we didn’t pour it into the dish.
What we DID do, is pack our various element into bowls and then invert them. According to the photos with the recipe, you should get a lovely, layered dome of rice and pasta.
Joking aside, a healthy splash of the two sauces, and this was genuinely delicious. The lentils, in particular, had a fantastic flavor, even with relatively humble seasoning.
So what’s for dessert? Ali’s Mom, that’s what.
No seriously, the dish is called Om Ali, or “Ali’s Mother”. The legend behind the name dates to the 12th century Ayyubid dynasty, or, you know, the day before yesterday on the scale of Egypt’s ludicrously long past. The legend says after a caliph died, his second wife had his first wife, (Om Ali) murdered, and then commissioned a fantastic dessert to celebrate the occasion of the murder. Neat, huh? Yeesh.
At any rate, the dessert is basically a bread pudding. You puff up some puff pastry, then pour milk and walnuts over it and let it soak for a bit.
Once it’s soaked in, you top it with whipped cream, stick it under the broiler, and then DO NOT TRUST the cooking time in the recipe, or else you get this.
Fortunately, it was equivalent to burned marshmallow – you pick the black bits off, and the rest is sweet and gooey and delicious:
You know I HAVE to say it, right? There is literally no way I’m NOT going to say it.
Ali’s mom has got it going on.
Well – Egypt was tasty, and as our second vegan main dish, something to remember for future guests! Next week, the first cuisine for a bit where we’ve been to the restaurants, and know exactly what we’re making – El Salvador!