Friday, 15 May 2015

Koshari, Fruit Cocktails and Cake

Dee – Tonight’s menu represented the culmination of a number of ideas that we had for cooking and baking over the course of last week but, for one reason or another, didn’t get round to making.  We took a look at what we’d intended to make and decided that they had the makings of a great Friday night tea.

The recipes for the food are from Amy Riolo’s ‘Nile Style’, which is our go-to book for Egyptian cuisine.  I wrote a review of it a few months ago (click here for details) and used recipes from it in a recipe challenge organised by one of our fellow bloggers (click here for details).  The fruit cocktail drink is also Amy’s but is a more recent addition, taken from the recently published Mediterranean Diabetes cookbook.

I’ve wanted to cook Koshari ever since I first found out about it a couple of years ago.  Basically it’s a giant carb-fest of lentils, rice and pasta, topped with a piquant tomato sauce and garnished with fried onions and chickpeas.  It seems to have originated in the 19th Century and quickly became  popular both in restaurants and as street food.
The recipe is fairly simple to follow, but separate pans are required in order to cook the various ingredients that make up the dish.  There is also a degree of co-ordination required as everything needs to be kept warm before serving.
As this was my first time cooking the dish, I went for a fairly mild tomato sauce, using the specified quarter-teaspoon of chilli powder.  This made for a tasty and only slightly sharp tasting sauce that still kept its flavour even when we stirred it in with the rice, pasta and lentils. 
The fried onions and chickpeas made for a lovely garnish and introduced a sweetness and softness from the onions that married well with the tomato sauce.  I might try spicing up the chickpeas next time I make the dish, but that’s just my personal taste: They still tasted fine as they were.

The Koshari was served with a simple Arugula (Rocket) salad called Salata bil Gargeer in the book, which provided a fresh and flavoursome side dish.  The pepperiness of the leaves and citrus-kick from the lemon juice ensured that the salad wasn’t overpowered by the carbs in the main dish.

The fruit cocktail drink is called Assir Fawakha Taza, and consists of pureed strawberries, sugar orange juice, pomegranate syrup and pomegranate seeds.  Initially we followed the recipe instructions and added each ingredient to the glass one by one.  This produced a very photogenic looking drink, but we quickly discovered that stirring everything together delivered a very pleasing fruity, almost sherberty taste.  Jay loved it and was happy with the amount of sugar that went into it, but I think I might try it again with a bit less, or even without sugar at all, to see how that tastes.

For the dessert, I chose the Egyptian Pound Cake, called a Torta in the book.  This was an interesting one as it looked remarkably similar to an English style sponge cake with yoghurt added to the batter.  I’m not sure how it found its way into the Egyptian kitchen, but the commentary accompanying the recipe describes it as being very popular, especially for breakfast.  Jay had the cake as it was but I had mine accompanied by yoghurt, as recommended in the recipe.  I was very pleased with how the cake turned out.

For a menu that came together as a backing up of several separate projects, I was very happy with tonight’s meal.  I would happily make all of the courses again, and it’s great to know that there is still plenty of Koshari and cake left over.  Whether or not the cake makes it past breakfast tomorrow morning though, remains to be seen…

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