Egypt has been on my mind these past couple of weeks. I remember it with such fondness, from our trip a few years ago. Misr, as the natives call Egypt, is very similar to my native India, in the sense they both have a similar vibe. One astonishing thing about our experience was how much love there was for Indians. Egyptians love Bollywood movies and therefore have a special place in their hearts for Indians. Everywhere we went little kids would come up to us and with a reverential smile ask about their favorite Indian movie stars. Shop keepers would yell “Indians, Indians come come” and many have even asked us, tongue in cheek, if Amitabh Bachchan [one of the most popular Bollywood actor] was our friend!! 
 
 We had a marvelous time in Egypt, the pyramids, temples and the Nile, evocative of its storied past did not disappoint. I pray that the monuments and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities would come to no harm during the current unrest. Today, Febuary 11th, is another historic day in the life and times of this fascinating country and I wish the best for Egypt.                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                  Koshary is a very popular street food in Egypt. It was also one of the dishes I taught in my early teaching days at Kitchen Affairs, a quaint little gourmet kitchen store in Indiana. Since then, I got to have the real deal on a train while travelling from Alexandria to Cairo. Koshary is a layered dish of rice, lentil and vermicelli, topped with caramelized onions and served with a hot and spicy, vinegary tomato sauce. Here is my interpretation of what I had on that train sans the vermicelli.
 
Koshary
 

For the rice and lentil layers

1 cup basmati

3/4 cups of green lentils

For the sauce

3 cloves garlic

2 red serrano peppers [deseeded] I prefer to leave them on as I like it hot!

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 and 1/4 cups of whole peeled tomatos and juice [from a can]

1 tablespoon light olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

1 teaspoon cumin powder

For the topping of fried onions

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups of very thinly sliced onions

Salt to taste and some parsley or cilantro for garnish.

Preparation

Rice

Rinse the rice and soak in warm water for at least half an hour. This ensures long elegant grains. Cook the rice with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt according to package directions. Once cooked fluff the rice and spread it on a serving dish. This is the first layer.

Lentils

Next cook the lentils according to package directions with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Make sure it is cooked al dente.

The Sauce

Puree the garlic, serrano and vinegar in a blender. Set aside. Next add the tomatoes and the juice to the blender, puree and set aside.

Warm a tablespoon of oil and saute the diced onions for a couple of minutes. Then add the cumin powder and stir for a couple of seconds. Then add the garlic, serrano sauce, let it come to a boil and cook off some of the vinegar. Then add the pureed tomatoes, salt to taste and let the sauce cook for a couple of minutes more.

Caramelized Onions

Warm the butter in a broad shallow pan. Wait till the butter turns slightly brown, add the sliced onions, stir to coat all the onions and spread it on the pan. Continue cooking the onions while stirring occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly and doesn’t stick to the bottom. The onions will be brown all over and a little soft in about 15 minutes. Now stir the onions less often to allow it to crisp at the bottom but be careful not to let it burn. Watch the onions carefully till they get uniformly crispy. Set aside. You can sprinkle some salt if you want. 

Next sssemble

Spread a layer rice. Pour some sauce over it. Layer the lentils over the sauce. Spread the caramelized onions all over the dish.  Garnish with herbs as you are layering and serve with remaining sauce.

Raising a toast to the people Egypt with my Koshary! May your dreams for your country be realized.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

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