Tag Archives: egypt

World Cooking – Egypt

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Egypt
Progress: 106/193

Following Qatar with Egypt is probably the shortest distance between consecutive countries that I have done so far whilst also changing continents. I was thinking, originally, of making something from Sudan so that I could have done both north and South. However, so many of the dishes that I liked the look of turned out to be mostly of Egyptian origins – which begged the question as to why I wasn’t just making food from Egypt.

Looking at a map of the countries that I have already cooked for, it looks like Egypt is really helping me almost complete the coastline of the Eastern Mediterranean. Interestingly Egypt is almost the breakwater between the very strong Levantine cuisine (e.g. Lebanon and Israel) in the East and the similarly strong Magrebi (e.g. Algeria and Libya) to the West. Instead, Egyptian cuisine is its own brand of Mediterranean whose history can be traced along the Nile and into ancient times.

Given where Egypt lays, you are of course going to see a lot of Mediterranean staples. This was the place where, as a nine year old, I first tried falafel and hummus. Had I been a more adventurous child, I may have ended up trying shakshouka or ful medames… but that wasn’t me. I distinctly remember having a pitta stuffed with french fries when were near one of the bazaars. Well I sure am making up for it now and am making something whose name I used to see every day on the commute to work.

Main: Koshari

Way back when, before moving offices and changing up my commuting route, I always used to pass a place called Koshari Street. I know that, before lockdown, it was still there serving up Egyptian cuisine – but for some reason I never went there. Maybe because it was £7 for an unknown dish when I could get a pork bun and a noodle pot from nearby Chinatown for less than £3. Passing this every day left the name koshari in my head, so when I settled on Egypt for today’s country it felt like the obvious choice.

Koshari is a street food which is an overload of carbohydrates. The main ingredients you have are rice, lentils and pasta – with a tangy tomato sauce, crispy onions and chickpeas going on top. Following the recipe from The Mediterranean Dish, it is easy to see how this would be something that could be simply served as street food. One you have all the carbs cooked, it is simply a matter of keeping it warm before serving it up in layers.

It is a lot of carbs to have on one plate, but it is all really held together by the tangy sauce and the difference in textures between the lentils, pasta and rice. Typically you are meant to have something closer to macaroni, but they ran out of that so I ended up going for spirali. May not be authentic, but I felt like it brought a bit of whimsy to the dish.

Dessert: Umm Ali

So often with foods, the tradition of a recipe isn’t that much older than the 1800s. I mean take a dish like pad thai where it is reportedly less than a century old and has become emblematic of Thai cuisine. Contrast this with Umm Ali which, by all accounts, has a history going back to the 13th century where some form of this dessert was prepared as a celebration in the royal household after a successful assassination.

Revenge, much like this dish, was super sweet and this decadent dessert must have made for a more than adequate way to celebrate. Granted the version I made, from My Big Fat Halal Blog, uses croissants which is not quite an Egyptian pastry from the 1200s – but the result is an absolute stunner that I have already been asked to make again as the ‘perfect dessert for when we have friends over’. Whenever that is. I hope that by the time this blog post is out I will have had the opportunity to do so.

This Um Ali follows a lot of the similar ideas as a bread and butter pudding, or any dessert that bakes a custard into some baked good. However, the cardamom in the milk base and the use of pistachios and coconut really set this apart. It is incredibly rich though, so it is hard to eat too much of it.

There was a reason I was holding out on Egypt for so long – I just knew it would be a brilliant country to cook for. Next week I am back in Europe with one of those countries I have wanted to do for a while, but had difficulties in finding recipes that didn’t rely on specialist meat or berries. But I got there eventually and hope it can hold a candle to this Egyptian feast.

Around The World In 100 Films – Egypt

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 48/100

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 801/1007Title: Bab el hadid (Cairo Station)
Director: Youssef Chahine
Year: 1958
Country: Egypt

And now time to re-visit the challenge that I only appear to do once a year. I swear, once I am done with the 1001 movies list, I will focus more on this and start watching my way through countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Chile. Still though, at least the 1001 could give me Egypt for now.

In this period of film history you had some interesting changes in the style of movie making. In Italy and France, you had the rise of neorealism and new wave cinema whereas the U.S. was coming out of its noir phase whilst clinging to something a bit more melodramatic. In Cairo Station, you can see a film that is a halfway house between realism and noir.

This makes for an unusual combination as you have something that is focussed on the poorer denizens of Cairo scraping a living whilst also having a noir atmosphere and a very dramatic climax on the rail lines of the titular station. Honestly, the ending scene is spectacular and whilst there are sections beforehand that caused me to lose some focus at times, the ending more than made up for it.

For me the most interesting thing to see in this film, other than how the film movements from other nations were interpreted, was how a different culture was represented on screen. Albeit one that has changed dramatically in the 60 years since the film was made. If you ignore the Arabic writing, you could be well excused that you were watching an Italian or Spanish film from this era – which took me a bit by surprise.

I expect that it will be another year or so before I get to the final new country from the 1001 list – Phillipines. That is unless I have the sudden urge to watch The Missing Picture. Possible, but quite unlikely. I’ll get around to it eventually though.

Walking Like An ‘Egyptian’

 Time to delve back into my childhood to tick another few items off. It was February 1998, B*Witched had yet to score the first of their four consecutive number one singles and I was on a trip to Egypt (Cairo to be more specific).egypt1As you can see, by 1998 the childhood obesity was settling in a lot more than during my trip to France in 1996.

Anyway, so on this 5-day trip to Egypt we stayed firmly in the Northern half staying in Cairo and having a regular cab driver ferrying us around and supplying us with citrus fruit (possibly clementines… but who knows). It was a world completely alien to me despite the unit of currency being the pound.

As with all things as an 8 year old some things are far more vivid than others. Seeing Tutankhamen’s death mask and the queue leading up to seeing it being one of them. I can only imagine how angry people are who have booked a trip to Egypt to see this marvel only to have their visit coincide with the mask being in another country as part of a touring exhibit. Luckily this did not happen to me.

Aside from a trip to Memphis, being petrified every time we had to cross the road, the constant advertisements for an ABBA boxset appearing on the television and me finding it hilarious that my dad came down with stomach issues with the food whilst my mum and myself got out unscathed there are two main memories that really link to this blog.

egypt2List Item: Visit the Great Pyramids
Progress: Completed

We were in Cairo so how could we not go to Giza and see the Great Pyramids? Well we did and we even had lunch there (at the local Pizza Hut with an amazing view over the complex). Back then I don’t think I was really old enough to appreciate the sheer scale of what I was seeing (although like many I did find the Sphinx to be smaller than expected) since it is truly hard to fathom just how old these things are. Similarly it is also hard to comprehend the work that went into constructing them. I hope to see them again through adult eyes so I can appreciate them more. However there is something I will not be doing again… camelrideList Item: Ride something unusual (elephant/giraffe/camel etc)
Progress: Completed

I had apparently blocked this morsel out of my head when making my list since when I came across this photo a few weeks ago the whole expereience came flooding back to me. Until you are up on one of these bad boys there is no way to appreciate how tall they are! It probably wouldn’t be as bad now that I am a fully grown 6’3” but still… I’ll happily not get up on a camel again.