Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Break and Ginger Cookies

I never knew that Santa rode camels... but apparently here in Cairo he does!  I guess a sled would be worthless in all this sand.
Today was the last day of school before our winter break.  I made cookies for the PreK class using a recipe my daughter brought home from her cookie baking class at school. They were delicious.

3/4 C butter
1 C sugar
1/4 C. molasses
1 egg
2 C. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. each cinnamon, cloves, and ginger

Mix butter and sugar together.  add Molasses.  Beat in egg.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Roll in small balls and bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes in a 375 degree oven. 

Check out the teacher's gifts I made on my Worth a Knit Blog.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rudolph the red nosed pizza,

Ready for the oven

Frosty the snow pizza


The kids decided to get in the Christmas spirit while making pizzas for dinner the other night.  Luci likes her pizza without sauce so she made a frosty the snowman pizza. and Mina made hers into Rudolph. A good friend introduced me to ready made pizza crusts here.  I know I could make my own crust, and sometimes I do, but on busy nights these are a quick fix.  They sell them in a three pack so it is perfect for the family.  I just need a small jars of sauce, some Panda cheese (I told the girls that it was made from real Panda milk... I don't think they believed me) and some chopped up veggies and black olives and wah la dinner is served.  Each girl can decorate a pizza and I can make one with anchovies on half and jalapenos for me and the husband.  It makes a quick, fun, and economical meal on nights when we are on the run.

The delivery pizza here is pretty bad.  There is a Dominoes  and a Papa John, and I think there is a Pizza Hut as well, but I didn't like their pizza in the States and I don't like them here in Egypt either.  Some of the pizza toppings are odd too.  They don't use pork products so they substitute smoked veal, chicken peperoni, and beef sausages.  My husband told me that when he lived here in the 80s there was a restaurant that they went to that served a pizza with potato chips on it and the everything pizza had a fried egg in the middle. I haven't seen anything that weird yet, but I have seen tuna pizzas and hot dog pizzas.  There is an Italian restaurant Paul and I went to on date night recently and their pizzas looked fantastic. 

I miss the pizza from Italian Garden in San Marcos and the hand crafted beers from Brewster's Pizza in Wimberly.  I wish I could click my heels together and find myself home, but until then pizza nights with the kids is a whole lot of fun.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Chicken Soup for that hole in my soul...

I haven't posted here in a LONG time... almost 9 months... Life has been keeping me busy and I have been concentrating on other things. I am writing another blog and trying to get my crochet pattern writing/ toy making business running, but I have been missing the creative aspect of this blog.  I have been missing writing about culture, food and festivities.  I considered just posting a weekly blurb about food on my worth a knit blog, but I've changed my mind. I need to start enjoying food again and writing about food and foodlore always sparks my imagination.

 I'm still living in Egypt and I have had loads of things happen that were worth a fig in my life. I need to start documenting them again.  I have found cooking in Cairo a challenge.  Finding the ingredients you need can be tricky and often the quality is lacking.  But I have created some fabulous foods here and I've even tried some new things.  Many of my posts might be about the foods I've tried, recipes I've made and fabulous trips I've taken during my 9 months of silence. I have a lot of cool things to share. I may not write on this blog as often as I did in the past, but I need to start this up again.  So here goes... a simple recipe to get things rolling again.

For dinner last night I made a wonderful chicken noodle soup.  This is a fun one to make and my older daughter loves it.  I just finished eating leftovers for lunch and I would recommend that you make plenty because it tastes great on the second day.

4 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1.5 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chile paste
8 cups chicken broth
12-16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut crosswise into thin strips
4 cups chopped vegetables(I used a mix of carrots, bell peppers and onions)
6 oz rice noodles, prepared according to packing directions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar, and chile paste in a small bowl.
Heat the broth in a medium saucepan. Add the soy sauce mixture, the chicken, and the vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add 1 more teaspoon of sesame oil if desired.
Pour over prepared Chinese noodles. Garnish with cilantro.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Egyptian Lentil Soup

Lentil soup can be found at many restaurants here in Egypt.  My daughters both love it and so I had to find out how to make it for myself.  I found several recipes online and played around with them based on what I had in the kitchen.  This is my third attempt... and my first with a blender.  The kids loved it and so I'm documenting it here. 
Lentil Soup

1 cup lentils
2 medium potatoes
Salt and pepper
2 cups broth
1 carrot
1 onion
2 tbsp butter
1 cup water
3 cloves garlic
1 T. cumin


Wash lentils well and drain. Chop veggies into small-shaped cubes.

Heat half the butter in a large saucepan then add the lentils and veggies mix. Sauté for 5 minutes.

Add broth and stir. Cover saucepan and cook until everything is tender.

When lentils cook, mix it in blender.  In the meantime add other half of butter and garlic to the pot.  Cook for a minute or so and then add the cumin.

Pour the lentil mixture back into the saucepan with the garlic and cumin and spice with salt and pepper.

Gradually add water until you get a desired consistency and bring to boil.

Serve in small bowls and you can sprinkle fresh herbs on top.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

International Festival

On March 17th the school hosted a fantastic international festival. There were booths set up around the sports field representing more than 25 countries.  The booths featured food, clothing, and crafts from the featured country. The kids also could take passports around and get them stamped for answering questions about the geography or history.  They also had games, crafts and other activities for the kids.  There was a stage that had dance and music performances as well.  I'm glad I came hungry because I was able to sample food from around the globe:  I had a delicious plate of Indian food, dim sum, a French baguettes with cheese, treats from various parts of Africa, pizza for the kids, and finally a cup of Turkish coffee and some baklava.  I left stuffed.

Here are just a few of the many photos I took that day.

And finally on the walk home we experienced some of the local culture. My youngest got to ride on a vegetable vendor's donkey.



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Egyptian Mother's Day. My older daughter surprised me with two lovely cards: One was a very glittery card that promised massages and house cleaning services and the other was written in Arabic (she wrote it herself in Arabic class). My husband bought me a lovely alabaster candle holder.  Then the whole family went out for Korean food at my favorite restaurant. It was a lovely evening.
This best part is that this year I get to celebrate my awesomeness as a mother twice!  Actually if I play my cards right and travel around a bit I could celebrate Mother's Day up to 31 days of the year. I guess my next stop is Slovenia which celebrates Mother's Day on March 25th.  You can find a calendar of Mother's Day celebrations on Wikipedia if like me you want to milk this holiday for all it is worth.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Indian Cooking Class in Cairo.

Last week I had the pleasure of taking an Indian food cooking class at the house of a new friend.  I met several nice women and we learned how to cook a total of 7 dishes in just a couple of hours.  We even got a goodie bag to take home with a copy of the recipes and some ingredients that can't be found at the local markets here in Cairo.

We started our class by making dahi raita.  This is a salad of yoghurt, cucumbers, carrots, and a selection of seasonings tempered in oil (this is called a tadka).  A version of this basic salad is served with almost every Indian meal.
Raita along with a\the special ladle used for the tadka

After that we made a tomato omelet.  This isn't an egg omelet, but a vegan dish made out of a lentil flour.  I use the same flour when I make vegetable koftas.  You mix the flour with water, onion, tomatoes, coriander leaves, and cumin. Then cook it in a non stick pan.

Next we moved on to raajma poori (kidney bean sauce with fried bread).  This was a quick dish that used a can of kidney beans to speed the process along.  The fried bread is  made by simply mixing wheat flour with water and frying it in oil.

We also roasted eggplant on the stove and made one of my favorite Indian dishes, baingan bharta.  Our teacher's version was made without cream, but with the option to add it at the table. 

And of course what Indian meal would be complete without a dal? The version we made for this class used a small yellow lentil called moong dal. We cooked it for just a couple of minutes in a pressure cooker.

Probably my favorite dish of the day was the potato parathas. This is a bread that is stuffed with potatoes and spices.   I really enjoyed the simplicity of it.

Potato Parathas

First you make a stuffing by mixing 3-4  boiled and mashed potatoes, 2 t. cumin powder,1-2 green chilies, 2 T. coriander leaves (cilantro), 2 t. minced garlic, 1 small minced onion, 1/4 t. turmeric, and salt.
 After that you make a simple dough with wheat flour and water.  You do this by adding water to the flour until it is soft but firm enough to handle.  I think that the bread started out with about 2 cups of flour and 1/2 C. water.  Our teacher mixed it in a blender and then just added water ( a small amount at a time) until it was the right consistency.  After that, form it into small balls, dip them in flour, and roll them into 5 inch circles.
You place two spoons of filling on the circle and then fold the bread around it... sealing it in. Dip it in the flour again and roll it out into a 7 inch circle.

Next you cook it on both sides in a non stick pan  until it is cooked through.

The first time I had this bread was when Verna (our teacher) invited me up to her apartment for an Indian breakfast.  She served it with Chai (tea) and a lovely yogurt dip.  It makes a fantastic breakfast or wonderful addition to any meal.
After class it was time for the part that everyone was waiting for...  LUNCH!  I had a lovely time cooking and eating with a wonderful group of ladies.  I hope to do again some time soon.


Monday, March 5, 2012

We went for the fledgling democracy, but stayed for the stuffed pigeon.

A couple of weeks ago we took the subway downtown in search of real Egyptian food. We went to a little place called  Felfela. It was a pretty cute place and the food was decent. I got meatballs and Koshari.  Koshari is an Egyptian dish of rice, lentils, garbanzo beans, and pasta. They pour a tomato and garlic sauce on it and top it with fried onions. It is common food in Egypt and you can find it just about anywhere.  It is nothing spectacular, but it is good stick to your ribs food. 

My food was alright, and the girls seemed happy with their choices.  My youngest loves the local preparation of lentil soup and my older daughter is always happy when she can have spaghetti with meat sauce. I wish that my husband could have said the same about his meal.  He had something more daring in mind.

Ever since we watched the Anthony Bourdain Egypt episode, he has been wanting to try stuffed pigeon, a local specialty. When his plate came to the table, he licked his lips in anticipation of what he expected to be a life changing meal.  His experience was nothing like the show, however. He dined on a tough, gamey bird stuffed with lord only knows what while the bird's friends and relatives watched from a nearby cage.

When my older daughter realized that my husband was dining on a "rat with wings" she was at first appalled and then she got the giggles.  She kept glancing at the cage nearby and laughing.  We were all cracking up by the end of the meal.  Even my husband laughed as he choked down bites of squab that seemed more of a burnt offering than a culinary one.

On our way out we stopped to watch the cook make falafel. Then the girls posed with this incredibly creepy statue of a man smoking shisha.   

With bellies full of rock dove and regret, we headed back to Ma'adi on the Metro.  We picked up the subway right next to a side of Tahir Square you don't see in the media... The side where they sell t-shirts emblazoned with images of Sponge Bob, Che Guevara, and the martyrs of the Egyptian Revolution without even a hint of irony.


Here are the Anthony Bourdain Egypt videos in case anyone is interested.  There is a segment about the pigeon near the end of the first video.. and he talks about Kusharie at the end of the first video and beginning of the second.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cross one off the Bucket List

I haven't been keeping up with this blog lately.  Things have been hectic and busy and I haven't know exactly where to start  I've done so many things that have been worthy of writing about, but I haven't taken the time to actually do it. I have pictures to share, recipes to write, and tales to tell.  Most of these will have to wait for another day, however, because on Wednesday I did something that I've dreamed about since the love of cooking entered my life.  Perhaps it was that first whiff of saffron that inspired me, or maybe it was when I cooked my first curry, I'm not really certain.  It might have even been this scene in the Indian Jones...
No I didn't face down a sword wielding assassin with my trusty side arm...  I went shopping in the biggest baddest bazaar of all time.  The measuring stick against which all other markets are judged.  I visited the Khan el-Khalili.

The first place our guide (Shaimaa) took us, was to a shop just outside the Khan.  When I told Shaimaa that I wanted to see the spice market she asked me if I wanted to look or if I wanted to buy.  I said both... so she took me to a little shop on the main road outside of the Khan first.   It was a crowded little store with cases full of  leaves and powders.  Many of them I recognized, but many of them I did not. It wasn't a beautiful place. It was dusty and busy... but it was full of things that I wanted for my kitchen.  Shaimaa explained that while the spice market in the Khan was beautiful it was for tourists.  Most Egyptians prefer to buy their spices in a place where the prices are fixed and fair.

I purchased some saffron and cardamom for a VERY fair price before we moved along to the market.  I could have stood there all day with my mouth open, staring at the spices, but it was time to move on.  We started out by exploring  the Souq al-Khiamiyya or the tent makers bazaar. 

Walking along the street leading into the covered area there were tons of stands selling goods for Egyptians rather than tourists:  Camel and donkey tack, cooking utensils, utilitarian baskets, plastic junk and dangerous looking street food. 

As you reach the covered bazaar, however, the stands get more colorful and salesmen more boisterous.  Motorcycles and bikes move past at great speeds even in the tight alley running between the shops  One motorcycle slid on some sand and skidded to a stop inches from me.   A man on a bicycle whizzed past with a load of bread balanced on his head.  I bought a miniature replica of a Bedouin tent and a small stuffed camel for my daughters.
We stopped for lunch at an Egyptian fast food place. I say fast food, but this certainly wasn't McDonalds. I had a lamb shawarma and a fava bean dish called foul (pronounced something like fool).  I also sampled a mixed vegetable pickle and some baba ganoush.  It was a filling and tasty lunch after a long day of sight seeing.

Finally after lunch we made it to the spice market.

After all I've read about it and all the pictures I've seen, I must say that I was a tad bit disappointed.  There were only a few shops and while they had some spices it was nothing compared to the shop our guide showed us at the beginning of our journey.  One thing I can say about it, however, is that it is extremely photogenic.  Perhaps that is why you always see it pictured in the guide books.  The baskets of spices and bags of mysterious  powders certainly look intriguing.

My trip to the market was the perfect ending to a day exploring Cairo with a  friend.  The Khan el-khalili was only a small part of the adventure. We hired a driver and tour guide and explored the Egyptian museum, Tahir square, the Citadel, several mosques, and a papyrus museum....

But these are tales for another day...



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