Showing posts with label كشرى. Show all posts
Showing posts with label كشرى. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Koshary or كشرى

A traditional Egyptian dish, koshary is served not only for special occasions but for weekday dinners as well. With lentils, macaroni and spicy tomato sauce, seasoned with fried onions and garlic, koshary is a delicious vegetarian dish that can feed a crowd.

I was going to introduce this Egyptian favorite recipe by telling you about my first impressions of Cairo but I realized that I can’t really start with my arrival there last week. I can’t even start with the first time I tasted koshary, made by my dear friend Tahany. I have to start with Tahany herself because I must admit that this gentle, generous, giving friend colored my view of Cairo before I even knew we were moving there.

She is quiet and unassuming with a willingness to help anyone and everyone. Her genuine smile also shines in her eyes and her little giggle reveals a wicked (in the best way!) sense of humor. After being friends with Tahany for several years, I fully expected to like the people of Cairo and, fortunately, my expectations were met, nay, exceeded.

Everyone I've encountered, from the guys in the corner grocery store who gave me the gift of a banana when they heard I was newly arrived to the helpful and generous hotel staff to the kind landlady and her husband who insisted we must come sailing with them some day and chose us to live in their house to the gentle lady we hired to clean that house to the wonderful driver (and my new friend) who ferries me around and knows everything there is to know about Cairo – each one has been friendly and kind and welcoming.

So, first impressions of Cairo: full of great people; a city under construction – I have never been anywhere with so many new houses and buildings going up, literally one after the other, side by side; lots of sand and desert, yet plenty of green in certain areas with trees and lawns and shrubbery; malls to rival the best almost anywhere; crazy drivers and traffic that make me feel right at home; cool and dry winter days; fresh fruit and vegetables that would win prizes at the state fair - the broccoli heads are bigger than mine and you can barely get your arms around the cabbages; and that is just for starters. I am looking forward to exploring more!

And, finally, to Tahany’s recipe for koshary, with the addition of a little extra oil on my part and some supplementary instructions.

1 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed
3 cups or 710ml water
1 (16 ounce or 500g) package uncooked elbow macaroni
2 cup or 350g lentils, soaked in water (for 10 minutes)
4 tablespoons or 60ml vegetable oil, altogether
6 onions
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup or 118ml tomato paste (about 2/3 of the little 6 oz can)
3 teaspoons or 17g salt, altogether (and a little more for the macaroni pot)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, altogether
5 teaspoons ground cumin, altogether
1/4 teaspoon red pepper or cayenne

Soak lentils for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse; drain again.

Mince one onion. Thinly slice your remaining five onions.

Heat one tablespoon vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in minced onion; continue stirring until onion becomes gold. Add three cups water.

Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin. Bring to a boil. Add lentils, and reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are half cooked.

Pour the half-cooked lentils into the rice cooker. Add one cup washed rice and add enough water to cook. I usually figure that you need about 1/2 an inch or one centimeter of water more than the rice level. Leave to cook in the rice-cooker.

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in the macaroni, and return to a boil. Cook the macaroni uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Return macaroni to cooking pot, cover and keep warm. (I also drizzled it with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together but this is optional.)

Heat three tablespoons vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced onions in the oil, stirring often, until they begin to brown.

Meanwhile, mince your two garlic cloves and chop your tomatoes.

The frying onions should be a nice caramelized brown color and crispy by now. Tip your pan to one side and push the onions up the slope. Allow to drain and then remove the onions from the pan and drain them further on a paper towel-lined plate or bowl.

Heat this leftover oil, deliciously flavored with the fried onion, and add the minced garlic. Cook the garlic in the oil until it becomes gold and then add three tablespoons vinegar. Do not let the garlic burn!

Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 12-15 minutes, or until the ripe tomato pieces get mushy. I think I had my heat too high for simmer because I had to add some water to keep the sauce from drying out. Use your judgment here.

Serve by placing a spoonful of rice with lentils, and then macaroni, on serving plates. Sprinkle with some of the browned onions, then top with tomato sauce.

When Tahany brought the koshary to my going-away lunch, she had made it into a casserole. Much easier for bringing to share. Everyone loved it and many went back for second helpings. Including me. I made this for my daughters yesterday and they loved it too!

First lentils with rice.
Then macaroni and onions.
Finally the sauce.

If you are serving it as a casserole, make sure everyone dips down when serving to get a bit of each layer. You don't want to miss any part of this wonderful dish.