Egypt- An ancient bread, kofta and pistachio dukkah

EGYPT –

Aish Baladi, Lamb Kofta and Pistachio Dukkah.

Ah Egypt! Who has not heard of this most fabled land? – cradle of civilization and still a place of mystery and wonder.  A tourist destination for centuries, even the ancient Greeks and imperial Romans marveled at its monuments and it has lost none of its amazing allure today.

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Ras Mohammed N.Park

From the seething ancient/modern cities of Cairo and Alexandria, the famed Great Pyramids of Giza and  the Valley of Kings, the magnificent ruins of Karnak, Abydos and Luxor. The Suez canal, the medieval Ottoman  town of Al-Qasr, cruising the picturesque Nile itself, palm fringed oasis where you can bathe in natural hot springs in Cleopatra’s Bath  and the stark beauty of the White Desert National Park, Sahra al-Beida….the Aladdin’s Cave of Cairo’s teeming markets, and everywhere you go in Egypt is stepping back in time into myth and legend.

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Dunes in Western Egypt

 

The Food

How extraordinary to make food that was eaten by ancient Egyptian workers building the pyramids! In fact the pyramid builders were paid with bread and onions!

Making any kind of bread I always think is a very atavistic process, there is something so elemental and satisfying about making bread, especially yeast risen breads,  which is a little bit of alchemy – a mysterious magic trick. The food of Egypt is based around breads, most commonly the pita bread aish baladi, whose very name means life or sustenance. Made from emmer wheat (hulled, as is the now popular spelt wheat )  it’s baked at very high temperatures so the bread puffs up to form a pocket, which is then used as a utensil to scoop up dips and vegetables and wrap around chunks of food like  kebab, dolma and falafel.

spices

Egyptian Spices & Dry Goods

The other great staple of the Egyptian diet is beans and lentils, in particular ful (fava beans or broad beans)  and brown lentils, these are some of the oldest known foods and have been found in Egyptian tombs. Still popular after centuries are such vegetables as eggplant, onions and garlic(used extensively) celery and squashes and leafy greens like lettuces, mallow and jute. A wide range of grains are the starchy staples, millet which is easily grown in dry conditions, barley also used to make the ubiquitous beer which together with bread and spring onions (scallions)  formed the basic diet.

Traditionally beef, lamb and goat was supplied from domestic animals along with game such as pigeon, duck and rabbit. Especially prized is brains and liver. Fish both fresh water and ocean and a wide range of seafood is very popular. The culinary heritage has been influenced by the robust Moroccan cuisine and of course the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. Most noticeable in desserts which are very sweet and feature nuts, fruits like figs, dates, and melons, with honey, filo pastry and spices such as cinnamon.

Ancient Foods

Serving food on Temple 

Recently dukkah has been very popular (here in Aussie at least) and has found its way onto many trendy menus, especially on eggs, vegetable salads, and flat breads and in many different varieties including hazelnut and pistachio as well as the more common almond. My favourite brunch dish at the moment is a poached egg on sour-dough toast with avocado, diced tomato, showered with my own spicy dukkah. I really recommend this delicious condiment and it’s super easy to make with a spice grinder or food processor, if you try it, you’ll fall in love with it too!

The Recipes

Egyptian Flatbread – Aish Baladi

This recipe was taken from http://www.saveur.com and changed a little to suit home cooking better.When I made it, for some reason I cooked it in a fry pan on the stove top – which didn’t work very well! I suggest you follow the recipe and bake it in a very hot oven on a hot oven tray.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    1¼ cups warm water
    2½ cups wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting, or can use wheat germ/bran
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
Method
  1. Dissolve sugar in water, in bowl of mixer if you have one. Mix in yeast and let stand until foamy, 10 minutes.
  2. Add rest of ingredients and mix with dough hook or by hand, knead 10 minutes, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Let stand until doubled in size, about 1 12 hours.
  4. Place a baking stone on a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500° for 30 minutes, or use a heavy oven tray and heat 15 minutes. Meanwhile, punch the dough down and divide into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten/roll into a 5-inch circle. Lightly sprinkle the bran or more flour and loosely cover with a kitchen towel.
  6. Let stand until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes
  7. Working in batches, place the dough circles on the hot baking stone, spaced 2 inches apart, and bake until puffed and lightly charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool before serving.
Our Egyptian Meal

Egyptian Meal

Lamb Kefta

Ingredients
  •  500 gm lamb mince
  • 1/2 bunch finely chopped parsley
  • 1 finely chopped small onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tb chopped oregano
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Mix the onion and garlic with the spices and let it stand for 15 minutes
  2. Add the meat and rest of ingredients to the onion and mix well.  Shape the meat into kofta shapes.(long oval fingers)
  3. Lightly oil large heavy fry pan, heat the pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the koftas and pan fry on all sides.
  4.  Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes.  Then uncover the pan and let any liquid evaporate.

These kefteh need some sort of sauce to go with them, some hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, bean dip, a spicy tomato sauce or even greek  yogurt will all work and add moisture to an otherwise dry dish.

dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Ingredients

  • 40g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
  • 75g (1/2 cup) pistachio kernels, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small dry pan, stirring until golden. Put aside to cool

  2. Toast pistachios for 1 minutes. Put aside in another bowl, then toast coriander, cumin and pepper for 1 minute or until aromatic. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool. Grind to fine powder

  3. Process nuts until very finely chopped. Mix in nuts and sesame seeds and mix well

  4. Store dukkah in an airtight container or jar, in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

This is a delicious sprinkle to add a flavourful punch to lots of things from steamed or roasted vegetables, poached eggs, grilled chicken, fish or dips like hummus. If you try nothing else – do try this – it’ll become your latest favourite thing!

Tasting notes: this meal was very similar to meals we often eat , the bread was a bit heavy – sadly I wasn’t able top get it to puff up to form a proper pocket. The kefteh were ok, we have had better – these were rather plain for our tastes…….but we loved the dukkah which lifted them into something quite special.

Overall Score: 7/10 for the whole meal,  9/10 for the dukkah on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Congolese Peanut soup with African Spiced Flat bread

WEEK 14 – Democratic Republic of the Congo

So this week I got Congo out of the box and decided I really wanted to make something a bit different – what about a soup? I’ll give it a try!

About Congo:

Formerly known as Zaire, Congo is the 11th largest country in the world and the 2nd largest country in Africa.

Its capital city, Kinshasa, was originally called Léopoldville in honour of King Leopold II of Belgium who controlled the Congo in the 1800’s, is the second largest French speaking city (after Paris) in the world. All schools, newspapers, government, television, magazines and street signs are in French. The city is located on the southern side of the Congo river directly opposite to the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. It is the only place in the world, where two countries capital cities, face each other and can see one another on opposite sides of a river.

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Satellite view of Malebo Pool of the Congo River with Kinshasa in the south and Brazzaville to the north

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Garamba National Park

 

The Congo has five World Heritage Sites within its borders, four being National Parks and the other a Wildlife Reserve. Stretching over most of the country is a tropical rainforest known as the Congo Rainforest, it is the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon.

Congolese Cuisine:

The Congolese cuisine heavily reflects the indigenous people of the country. Cassava is the staple food often cooked and eaten with other side dishes. . Meals typically consist of a starchy ingredient; cassava, sweet potato, taro, maize and plantain and rice, along with vegetables and meat in the form of a stew. Chicken with a Moambe sauce is considered the national dish of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With less than 2% of the land able to be used for faming, Congo does not produce very much food on its home turf but imports quite a lot. The two most important crops for export are coffee and palm oil.

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What I Made:

Having a look through some different recipes from the Congo I noticed we weren’t going to be able to get a lot of the ingredients needed to make some of the most commonly eaten dishes out so I looked further and found a recipe that sounded quite nice. Congolese Peanut Soup. At first I was going to serve it with the traditional bread staple Fu-Fu but decided to serve it with a nice dry-fried flat bread which Mimsey made. Recipe was sourced here: www.congocookbook.com

Recipe: Peanut Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups  chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 small green pepper/capsicum, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • salt, black pepper & cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 hot chilli, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped or  1 canned tomatoes
  • ¼ to ½ cup peanut butter (depends on how peanutty you want your soup)

Method:

  1. Fry onion and garlic in oil on a medium heat for a few minutes until soft and fragrant, then add chilli cook for another few minutes.
  2. Add capsicum and carrot, cook with lid on for 5 minutes until carrot is soft.
  3. Add tomatoes, seasoning and stock and stir to combine, cook with lid off for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in peanut butter, at this point my soup was quite thick so I added another cup of chicken stock and stirred to combine.
  5. Place ¾ of soup in blender and blend until smooth, add to the rest of the soup, stir and serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Recipe: Spiced Wholemeal Flat Bread                                 Makes 8 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt + ½ tsp extra
  • 1 tb ghee/butter
  • ⅔ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, freshly crushed in mortar if possible, or ground
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tb oil warmed up with 1 clove garlic, crushed

Method:

  1. Place flours and salt in a food processor or mixer with a dough hook attached, and process 10 seconds to mix.
  2. While processing, add butter/ghee and process 10 seconds to mix, then pour water in slowly and mix until forms a ball, about a minute.
  3. Let rest covered for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Divide into 8 portions, roll each portion out on a floured bench into a 20cm/8″ circle. Cover to keep from drying out.
  5. Lightly grease a large, heavy frypan, heat on medium, fry chapati on one side, brushing the top with the garlic oil and sprinkling with extra salt & the spices before flipping to cook other side.
  6. Gently pat chapati around with an oily paper towel to encourage it to puff up, press high bubbles down gently.
  7. Keep warm while making rest. Serve warm and fresh.

This is a classic chapati recipe based on one from food.com/recipe/chapati-east-african-bread

Chapatis made fresh, as they always were, are so delicious! Particularly loved the thick Millet Chapatis we ate smeared with honey in a village out in the Thar Desert. Namaste!

The soup was interesting it had a tomatoey, peanutty flavour and was really nice with the flat bread. It scored a 6/10 from the family.