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!


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