Friday, May 11, 2012

Cook Like an Egyptian

One recurring theme with this site is how little I know about ethnic cooking. It's really quite shameful how little I've picked up over the years. Maybe it's my own laziness. Maybe it's that I live in America. Or maybe it is my culinary school's insistence that the French invented cooking sometime in the late 1800's and since the 1950's there have been no new developments in the area of gastronomy. I open all of their letters with great anticipation, hoping to find information on developing cooking trends but sadly it just contains return envelopes for me to send them donations.

The chances of them ever getting another dime from me are about as likely as them acknowledging that there are 195 more countries on the planet that also know something about cooking.

Egyptian Chopped Salad


For a first course I made this salad with chopped lettuce, avocado, olive, onion, garlic, a chickpeas. I drizzled with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and finished it with a little fresh squeezed lemon and a little cilantro. I don't really know if this is something they would do in Egypt. Probably not. However, these are some ingredients you may (or may not) be able to find in Egypt so it's probably extremely authentic.

Egyptian Cous Cous


I may never have been to Egypt and I may know nothing about Egypt bu I have seen every episode of No Reservations so I fancy myself something of an expert. I figure that the Egyptians must eat a lot of couscous. So I made this couscous with some chicken stock, chopped onion, dried fig, sun-dried tomato, pistachio, chicken breast, and fresh cilantro.

It was pretty good, though not as good as the couscous that Jen makes. It was also probably not as good as the couscous that Egyptians make. Assuming that they actually make couscous.

Dogfish Head Ta Henket


For beer it was a pretty easy choice this evening. I chose this Ta Henket from Dogfish Head. This is a part of their Ancient Ales series where they get some archaeologist to decipher beer recipes from old tombs then brew beers inspired by them. This particular beer was brewed with spices and fruit from Egypt as well as wild yeast that they pulled out of the air. This was shown in their show Brew Masters as they crouched in the shadows of pyramids trapping the yeast for fermentation. It doesn't seem like this should have worked but apparently it did.

I was a little afraid of this beer after watching this review where it is said that the beer tastes of pea soup. And you know what? It did taste a bit like pea soup. As off-putting as that sounds it wasn't all that bad. If I were building a pyramid I would gladly accept this beer as payment.

Egyptian Basbousa


For dessert I made this Egyptian specialty called basbousa. I'd never made this before and, in fact, I hadn't even heard of it until a few hours ago. It's a very simple cake made out of semolina flour, milk, and sugar. I used butter in place of oil in this recipe, cut it into pieces, topped it with blanched almonds then finished it in the oven. When it cam eout I topped it with a thickened syrup made of sugar, water, lemon zest and juice, and honey and let it cool.

Yogi Egyptian Licorice Tea


I finished it off with a little Egyptian Licorice Tea. This is a bit of a cop out since I actually have this tea every single night but I've never actually mentioned it on the blog before. Tonight seemed like a good opportunity to bring it up.

What have I learned about Egyptian cooking after fumbling around in the kitchen and pretending to know about it and doing no research? Quite a lot, actually. I figure that Egyptian food must have a lot in common with Turkish and Greek cooking. Not so much due to its geographic location so much as its occupation by those countries in the past.

Through my "research" I didn't find as much Italian or British influence in its cuisine.

Now that I know everything about Egyptian cooking it's time to move on to new and unexplored land and butcher their cuisine.

I think Moldova would be just perfect this time of year.

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