This month MENA Cooking Club members were set the challenge to cook like an Egyptian!
Egyptian cuisine is largely vegetarian based as the country’s fertile nile valley and delta produce large quantities of high quality legumes and vegetable crops. Bread is also a big part of the cuisine much like it is in Algeria but instead of baguettes or kesra the local bread known as Eish Masri – a thick form of pita made from corn/maize is used like a utensil to scoop up dishes such as full medames – mashed fava beans.
I’ve always wanted to visit egypt and by exploring just a fraction of the cuisine this month as only increased that desire.
As you can see, I tried my hand at all dishes masha’Allah.
The messa’aa / moussaka dish I cooked was also a vegetarian dish without meat or bechamel sauce like the greek version although a lot of egyptian recipes call for those components, I wanted a different experience and it was a tasty one. Much like a veggie stew which i added a sliced green chilli to, for more heat! recipe i followed can be found here.
Quite surprisingly I’ve never eaten or baked any form of bread pudding before like British Bread & Butter Pudding not that i can recall. Oum ali is usually made in 1 big dish using puff pastry or croissants as the bread and also includes milk, butter, nuts, raisins and sometimes dessicated coconut and is topped with whipped cream that forms a skin not too dissimilar to creme brulee in looks not crunch. I adjusted this recipe slightly making mine into individual portions using ramekins plus half fill a bread tin and used lemon infused raisins and a sprinkle of cardamom on top of the nuts. It was both warm and comforting, an ideal pudding for these colder nights and days here in the UK but I wasn’t too fond of the raisins that had soaked up the milk, for me raisins should always be dry and chewy which is impossible in a dessert like this.
No guessing what my absolute favourite was? Yes the red lentil soup – it was spiced exactly to my liking with plenty of cumin and coriander. Pureeing the soup gave it a creamy texture as I’m not much of a fan of the texture of lentils in soup unless it’s Algerian lentil soup / shorba addass – yes this month you have discovered I am quite the picky eater.
The topping of crispy fried onions gave the soup that extra dimension both in terms of texture and flavour and it just goes to show fried onions aren’t only for Burgers or Biryani. I adore a bowl of heartwarming soup this one is my new go-to vegetarian soup and i encourage you to try it for yourself.
Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
- 2 onions
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
- 150 grams split red lentils
- 1 organic vegetable stock cube
- 4 cups / 1 litre boiled water
- lemon juice
- Chop one of the onions and slice the other. In a saucepan, fry the chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft and just beginning to colour. Stir in the garlic, cumin and coriander; when the aroma rises, add the chopped carrot, lentils, stock cube and water. Bring to the boil and remove any scum that appears on the surface. Simmer for 30–40 minutes, or until the lentils have disintegrated.
- Warm the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the sliced onion, cover and cook over a low heat for 15–20 minutes until soft. Take off the lid, turn up the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until dark, crisp and caramelised. Set aside.
- Puree soup using a stick blender or by pouring contents into a blender then Taste and season the soup. Add water if it needs thinning down – it should be the consistency of single cream. Garnish each bowl with some of the caramelised onions and serve with wedges of lemon for people to squeeze lemon juice into their own bowl if desired.
- measurement used – UK Cup = 250ml