With the MENA cooking club giving a free reign to cook something traditional to any of the MENA countries, the ball was completely in our court this month! I kept mulling on it for a few days and then my husband decided to ask one of his Egyptian friend from office - he gave us a list of popular items that included Kousa mahshi, Cabbage mahshi, Koshari and Hamam Mahshi which were popular during Ramadan. The same friend had once suggested a restaurant to try out the Egyptian cuisine. We had feasted on Koshari, Fattayer and kebabs that day. So when this came about, we only thought it was fitting to try out Koshari - an Egyptian dish; as traditional as it can get!
Koshari is a popular Egyptian folk food and a look at the dish will definitely reveal the way it has come. Koshari comprises of lentils, rice, pasta, chickpea, crispy fried onions and a tomato based sauce. The influence of rice and lentils is believed to be from Indian cuisine. The pasta and the sauce reflect Italian influence as well.It was a popular food cart dish before it made its way into the restaurants. The dish is usually vegetarian but sometimes comes topped with chicken. This dish although comprises of various components is easy to make and assembled only while serving.
Here we go -
- Brown lentils - 1/2 cup
- Basmati rice - 1 cup
- Macaroni - 1 cup ( you could use any type of pasta)
- Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
- Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
- Chickpea - 1 cup boiled
- Onions - 2 thinly sliced
- Vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
For the sauce
- Garlic - 1 tbsp chopped
- Tomato sauce - 1 cup
- Onions - 2 tbsp fried
- Vinegar - 1 tsp
- Cumin powder - 1 tsp
- Sugar - 1/2 tsp
- Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
- Paprika - 1/2 tsp
- Soak the lentils in water for 2 hours and the rice for about 1/2 an hour. Rinse and clean until water runs clean.
- Take oil in a pan and once hot, add the finely sliced onions. Fry them until brown and crisp. Set aside on kitchen towel to drain excess oil.
- Into the same pan add the cinnamon and cumin powder. Add the rice along with lentils and let the rice crackle. Pour in 3 cups of hot water to this, add salt and let the rice cook covered.
- Cook the pasta separately until al-dente. Take off heat, drain the hot water and run it through cold water. Sprinkle salt , 1 tsp of oil and give it a good mix.
- For the sauce: Heat oil in a pan and add the garlic. Cook until the raw smell disappears. Add the onions, cumin powder, pepper powder and paprika, Stir for a minute before adding the tomato sauce along with vinegar. Finally add the sugar and bring it to a boil before turning it off.
- Serving - Layer the bottom of the plate with the rice and lentil mix. Top that with pasta. Drizzle the sauce over this. Top it with chickpea and finally the fried onions goes on top. End it with a cup of hot black tea!
You may also note -
- Make sure not to overcook the rice. Once the rice is done, transfer to an open plate and fluff using a fork help it release the heat, making sure that the heat does not cook it further,
- Coat the onions with a 1/2 a tsp of corn flour to help it get real crisp.