Posted by: edibleplanet | December 10, 2009

A lesson in Egyptian Cooking

The other week we had a fabulous time with our friend Fiby teaching us some Egyptian recipes and sharing stories of Egypt. Fiby is a fantastic cook and had already taught us pita bread, though ours are never quite as even or puff up so perfectly as hers. More practice for us I think.
This time she taught us some vegetarian recipes. Her family used to do a lot of work with the poor in Egypt and vegetarian recipes are cheap and fill up the family. We started talking about balanced diets of proteins and carbohydrates and she quickly pointed out; “It fills the belly.” That is all that matters when you have nothing.
First we made two dishes using eggplants – perfect for this time of year with them so cheap. They involved the same ingredients just one way we boiled the eggplant and put on the mix raw and the other way we fried chunks of eggplant and then fried the mix of garlic, then cumin, coriander, lemon juice, vinegar and chilli and poured it over the top of the eggplant. This was my favourite of the two ways and I think my favourite recipe of the night. I also like how she peeled her eggplant in stripes so some of the skin remained and she said not to ask why but it was how her mother always did it. Now I do it like that too.
We also made a potato dish that was a great basic that can be added to. It used potato slices, a lot of tomato puree, salt, onions and stock or water.
Of course we finished with a sweet dish – Basbousa – a semolina cake with a sweet syrup poured over it after it was cooked. We flavoured our syrup with some orange flower water. It was delicious and we had so much fun we are going to do it again for some meat recipes.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was Fiby’s stories about Egypt. Sometimes I find these days we can get enthused about a particular ingredient and it seems almost forget the culture and people that created the recipes using it. Sometimes I see a recipe and get a bit cross if it is trying to pass itself off as some “ethnic” dish but the people from that place would not cook it like that. It feels arrogant. That is why I love learning from locals who can show you the everyday versions – usually easy to make and very tasty.

– Fiona

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