Osmanly’s baklava

Recently headed to the Garden City Kempinski (Cairo, Egypt) to help review their Turkish restaurant, Osmanly, with my fabulous friend Amany. It was my first time officially eating Turkish food – many Egyptian foods are of Turkish descent but there are surprisingly few Turkish restaurants in Cairo. After delicious cold moussaka and fabulous cous cous… mmm…. we ended the night with the most scrumptious baklava I have EVER HAD. Seriously. Soft pastry… very little sugar… flavorful pistachio paste in generous quantities. It was… amazing. So – if you need a killer baklava, Osmanly’s at the Kempinski is 50 LE.

Read more about the fab dinner: Reviewer’s pick: Kempinski’s Osmanly restaurant

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My five-year-old made me dinner.

Lara made me a burger in cooking class!


I never realized that Lara would only be 5 1/2 when she’d make me dinner instead of the other way around… but it seems I was one smart mom for investing in her cooking classes at Character Stations in Maadi! Sharon Chu – fabulous chef and teacher of 5-7 year old chefs-in-training has been working with the children on everything from crackers with peanut butter to egg salad.

That being said, I must admit that I only occasionally try the food Lara brings home and rarely finish it. Today is different – after an extensive description of the “fun/gross” process of mixing raw meat with onions by hand, Lara presented me with two burgers.

At this point in the evening I have eaten one (YUM. Seriously. Sharon/Lara… fabulous job!!!) and I am very deliberately staying out of the kitchen to keep myself form eating the other. (I promised to save it for my husband.)

When Lara’s cooking folder comes home, I will share Sharon’s recipe with you…

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Granola mornings

At some point in my life, a life riddled with food obsessions that come and go, there was a period of time in which I simply craved granola. I wasn’t pregnant – I simply think my body needed something out of the mix of nuttiness and the comfort of yoghurt. I would order it daily at Cafe Greco in Maadi – sometimes even twice. I bought boxes of nutty granola from supermarkets around town, looking for something to quench my thirst.

One afternoon, when the craving hit a little harder than usual and I had dismissed two boxes of below standard granola, I decided to turn granola into a project and make it with my 5-year-old. I looked up a number of granola recipes and gathered together what I had in my house and what was available in the Egyptian market (by delivery from my phone). The result was so yummy, I presented my concoction in recipe form at the Egypt Independent for our Daily Ramadan Recipe series.

The obsession faded but recently, it has returned. Friends have inquired about the absence of the granola and my craving for the cinnamon-y maple-y nutty taste has slowly crept back, making my taste buds itch! The most recent granola production was a few days ago and I ran things a little differently from before so I thought I would post a more intricate version of the granola recipe! Happy baking to all…

Directions and Ingredients mixed together:

This list is fluid and ever changing… occasionally I have walnuts at home, sometimes cashews… my last granola batch was blessed with an overload of pre-shelled pistachios. Think about the nuts you love…

The base is 5 cups of oats.

Then you will need two cups of nuts – they can be 2/3 cashew, 2/3 walnut, 2/3 almond or the surprisingly flavorful 1 cup pistachios, 1/3 cashew, 2/3 almonds that I tossed together last time. In any case, chop the nuts up in a mini blender (or by hand) and mix nuts with oats. Look at your bowl and decide if you feel the nut to oats ratio of the granola is to your liking. Then add nuts accordingly.

Sunflower seeds in their shelled form are hard to find in Cairo – the first time I made the granola I shelled them myself. This time I had no sunflower seeds to shell and substituted with 1/3 cup of pine nuts. It was very delish.

You mix all of the above in a bowl.

In a stove top pot you should mix the other ingredients:

½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
½ cup honey
⅔ cup sunflower oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

I use partial maple syrup (pancake syrup) since pure maple syrup is not available here – and the honey is always an estimate since it is hard to move honey to a measuring cup and then to the pot with out losing copious amounts on the way.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (probably the lowest setting on your oven).

Cover two baking sheets with foil.

Boil the ingredients above on the stove until the brown sugar melts and the whole thing is one consistent liquid.

Pour the mixture over your oat/nut/seed mixture with a wooden spoon and coat the oats and nuts completely.

Spoon it all onto the foil covered baking sheets and spread it evenly.

Place baking sheets into the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the baking sheets (this is very important) and try your best to flip the granola about, bringing the granola on the sides to the middle and the granola in the middle to the sides.

Put the baking sheets back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Remove the baking sheets and leave the granola to cool.

Break up the granola (it will be like a sheet) and make sure the foil does not stick to your pieces. My friend Rana suggested using wax coated baking paper instead – I have yet to try this.

Put the granola into an airtight glass (stop using plastic to store!!!) jar.

The granola will last your two weeks! Best eaten with yoghurt. It’s pretty sweet so you may not need honey…


To all who have had my granola and enjoyed it – your comments are always little rays of sunshine for me – and inspire me to make more!

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The Shandong Mystery

For some years now, I have loved Peking’s Shandong Salad. Not much of a salad – it consists of deep fried zucchini placed on a completely negligible pile of shredded lettuce. I remember it was hard to convince me to try this dish in the beginning because I severely dislike zucchini. This tastes nothing like zucchini – it tastes like fabulous crunchy garlic and fabulousness. I’m sorry if I’m not more eloquent in my ingredient tasting expressiveness but well… I stopped in to Peking one evening and decided to ask them what was in the shandong salad.

The waiter told me:

The zucchini is coated in egg and flour and fried in oil.

Then the zucchini is fried again in a mixture of vinegar, garlic and chili.

The next step:

To try to make it! Will keep you posted…

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Valentine cupcakes

Valentine cupcakes

K3 Bakers cupcakes decorated by the kids in KGS CAC

For Valentine’s, my daughter’s kindergarten class made cards, played games and got to decorate fabulous cupcakes by K3 Bakers. Needless to say, the kids were thrilled and the conversation hearts and confetti were in abundance. I took this shot just before they were given the ok to devour them. The cupcake devouring process took about 10 seconds. YAY KAREN 😀

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March 7, 2012 · 5:09 pm

A new obsession – vermicelli (sha3reya) with dried apricots and prunes

My friend Reham is an excellent cook. Above and beyond being a talented painter and an excellent mother, she can cook up fantasy dishes of fatta, experimental pumpkin pies and most recently, orange teriyaki steaks with apricot prune vermicelli. While I have yet to try making the steaks, tonight marked the third in a series of vermicelli filled nights of vigorous vermicelli stirring, scrumptious aromas and me with a cooking pot and a fork in my lap, scraping the last of the little vermicellis from the sides of the pot.

The mix of tastes – of sweet and salty – makes for a comforting and delicious treat.


1/2 bag of Regina vermicelli – approximately 1/2 cup I think?

4 dried apricot’s, chopped

4 prunes, chopped

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 cube of low salt/low fat chicken bullion

1/2 – 1 cup of water


1. Put vermicelli, apricots, prunes and bullion cube (crushed) into a pot.

2. Add oil and light the flame.

3. Stir vermicelli with apricots, prunes and bullion cube constantly – vermicelli should turn golden but should not burn.

4. Add in 1/2 cup water and mix. Cover the pot and wait for the water to absorb.

5. Taste the vermicelli and see if it is cooked enough – add water if it is still too al dente.

6. Eat and ENJOY!

By the way – I was partially inspired to do make and re-make this dish because while 1/2 cup of fresh fruits or veg is a serving, 1/4 cup of dried fruits is a serving. Feed it to your kids guilt free.


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Just 30 minutes left for sexual harassment…

30 minutes left on the ‘blogging to fight sexual harassment’ day deadline…

At the beginning of this month, I decided to finally pick up on the idea of looking into sexual harassment in Egypt through my work at almasryalyoum.com/en. I wanted to figure out what was going on with sexual harassment – what was the root, where did the disrespect come from and what was the anger and viciousness behind the vulgarity and aggression. And as the weeks continue, we explore it more – with articles like The Sexual Harassment File: Bringing up the obvious?and The Sexual Harassment File: Can’t you girls take a little flirting?, I tried to poke a little at what was going on behind the rampant disrespect.

Since then we’ve looked into some of the upbringing issues with Ali Abdel Mohsen’s Sexual harassment starts at home and have talked about the cultural background surrounding this kind of behavior in Steven Viney’s Can culture be blamed? We plan to continue this week with talking to some of the men about what they hope to gain from harassing women and the legal framework for bringing in a harasser.

And as soon as I started seeing the enthusiasm in the office about tackling the issue and the enthusiasm in the responses I was getting about the series, I thought I had started getting things under control. I thought that I would know exactly what to do when the next harasser reared his ugly head to spew venomous garbage at me in the middle of a Cairo street. I walked a walk that wasn’t angry but ready for discovery and confrontation. I looked potential harassers in the eye rather than looking markedly ahead of me and pretending to be a horse in traffic, protected merely by peripheral vision blinders. Days passed – on one I was out photographing in the streets of Cairo for an upcoming exhibition and I used the long sturdy lens of my camera as a weapon against the “welcome to egypt” that’s just dripping with “come do me, baby”, snapping shots of harassers and turning ego-maniacal and invasive stares into discomfort.

Most of the time I spent cooped up in my car, blasting music loud enough to distract me from any of the creepy stares from the younger generation and the disgusted “let me cleanse my eyes of your prostitute-like presence” from the older and more “religious” set.

You know, in all my writing, I know I’m being harassed on a daily basis but it all merges into one constant feeling of panic with only the very extreme cases standing out. I think women’s ability to withstand and forget the pain of childbirth applies with their ability to withstand and forget the pain of the daily psychological sanding they take from looks, comments, gestures in the streets of Cairo. Because men who deny the existence of harassment have to understand that the problem goes beyond an actual grab in the street… a man standing at a kiosk will size you up and smirk at what he can imagine himself doing with you and while that can neither be quantified nor sued for or tried against, it is can be the most heart wrenching and respect destroying moment of your day. Not that that one situation is enough to break a woman, that that one situation is yet another reminder of how women are regarded and treated on the street. ONE MORE REMINDER OF WHAT YOU ARE WORTH.

So, this afternoon, I’m driving to the gym. I’m in my car, I’m in Maadi, I’m in a bit of a rush. A motorcycle with three guys on it buzz around me like a bee and the guy on the back turns to me with a wolf like hunger in his eyes and puts his fingers together and kisses them and pulls them way. He bites his lower lip “seductively” as they buzz around for another look in the car. I resist the urge to hit the motorcycle with my car but I won’t. As they buzz away, he laughs. And once again I’ve lost. I’m furious and traumatized and angry and disgusted and fuming and miserable. I want them to get trampled by an army of stampeding women. I want them to get slapped by their mothers when they get home for such lewd behavior. I want to call for sentences of vasectomies for sexual harassers, some sort of guarantee that they won’t have some poor little toddler looking up to them for guidance and learning that women are stupid, useless pieces of trash that can just as easily be raped as they can be disregarded. 

I want flyers plastered on every street in Cairo – a decree –


And in the end, women should not thank you. Women should not feel lucky to be with a guy who doesn’t push them around or touch them without their consent. Women should not thank people for allowing them to run for parliament or president or anything because it’s not the ‘men’s’ decision. It is our right as human beings to be respected. If they will not give it to us, we will have to take it ourselves.


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Cooking for the revolution

Well… I’m not sure if it’s a good excuse – but I have been negligent in my blogging efforts due to a little teeny tiny revolution in Egypt that seems to have shaken if not only the Middle East but also the world! (Or so we would like to believe here :D) The few days we were trapped in our homes due to 3pm curfews and a fear for our selves and our loved ones were very surreal days. The TV was on 24 hours a day with numerous updates, shots of Tahrir Square filled with a constantly moving swarm of people, insane programming on local TV (like national songs and talk shows about the lack of pizza delivery in the market due to the ‘thugs’ in Tahrir) and 2am speeches by delusional dictators.

We were a small group gathered together during those days – we would separate for a few hours midday – to feed cats or pick up groceries or take a trip through the army tank ridden streets – and then regroup in the early evening for dinner and to settle in for another night of anticipation.

Needless to say – dinner meant cooking and when the fabulous Fatma (the cook who works with my parents) couldn’t pop by to make breaded chicken by the kilo for our little camp, I cooked!

We had pasta with tomato basil cream sauce one night and threw together beef with broccoli another night. We had tikka masala chicken at one point and munched on crackers and cheese when none of the random ingredients available in the supermarket seemed throw-together-able.  We sipped wine and beer on the balcony and when things got really rough, threw bourbon and scotch in a glass for a tougher punch.

In any case, as the millions of people and pieces of the revolution start to regather and we rebuild our beautiful country, there’s always a need for delicious food!

So let the cooking begin!

xx Nina

PS – if this is any tribute… let this little post be dedicated to Rahmy, Clare, Yasmine and Lily – to Lara and Sophie the alarm clock and of course to Sennoo the chopper (with a samurai sword)

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A call for more cooking…

After a very complimentary mention by the Cairo360.com team and a link featured on La Bodega’s blog, I am humbled and wracked with guilt at my inability to update! While my cooking has also had a drop in its energy level… things have happened and the cook-in-me is making a comeback. Most recently, I mixed a tangy sun dried tomato pesto with some cream and finely grated Parmesan to glam up my daughter’s request for macaroni and cheese but in a more creative attempt last week, I created (with what was available in my fridge/freezer) some very yummy shrimp/salmon cakes…. so here you go!

Shrimp salmon bites

Inspired by the random discovery of ‘Old Bay’ at a local supermarket – which reminded me of some killer crab cakes I ate in Baltimore – I did some research and picked out my favorite ingredients (and those available in Cairo) to make a little snack for myself and the family about a week ago.


3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 salmon steaks (gourmet) skin removed and chopped in little pieces

250g shrimp, chopped up in little pieces (tails chopped off too)

soft breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons of dijon mustard

1 tablespoon regular mustard

2 teaspoons of Old Bay spice

salt and pepper


1. Mix all these ingredients together – leaving out the breadcrumbs in the beginning.

2. Add in breadcrumbs bit by bit and mix with your hands till the mixture sticks together but is not too goopy.

3. Leave the mixture to sit for a few hours – you don’t have to do this but it will help the flavors really take hold of the salmon and shrimp.

4. Heat up sunflower oil and wait till it bubbles a little at the bottom.

5. Fry little patties of the mixture to make small shrimp/salmon cakes and turn them over so they are golden on each side. They should cook for a few minutes on each side since both shrimp and salmon cook quickly.

6. Leave them to cool on paper towels (yes, try to get rid of a little of that oil).

7. Serve them with: soya sauce, dill cream sauce, tartar sauce….



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Ooh! Fatta with Hommus!

Ok – just tried this out last night (but didn’t take a picture, will take one tomorrow when I make it again) and it is SO yummy and very very easy if you have access to the ingredients. Otherwise, it’s only kind of easy. I’m not sure how ‘authentic’ it is as a fattet hommus with yoghurt but all I can say is that two casserole dishes of it were inhaled by 7 of my favorite people.


3 loaves of baladi bread (Egyptian pita bread… )

2 tablespoons of butter

Sunflower oil

4 cloves of garlic, smushed or chopped super fine

4 yoghurt pots (the little ones – or one very large one)

1 can of chickpeas (whole)

1/2 can of hommus (smushed chickpeas with some tahina)

1/2 cup of pine nuts (optional)


1. Prepare the ingredients – smush all the garlic and put it in a little container so you can use it throughout the recipe. Empty the yoghurt pots in a bowl if they are not in one big container, etc. Do not empty the whole chickpeas from the can yet.

2. Rip up the bread with your hands and fry it in a mixture of butter and oil with a sprinkling of smushed garlic. Remove when slightly crunchy and browned.

3. Mix yoghurt with 1/2 can of hummos (the smushed chickpeas with tahina) and the remaining garlic.

4. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan with the pine nuts.

5. Layer – Take a casserole dish and spread the fried bread across the bottom. Cover the bread in the liquid from the can of whole chickpeas – just enough to coat the bread. Pour the yoghurt/hummos/garlic mixture over the bread. Pour the entire can of chickpeas over the yoghurt (you may have a little liquid left in the can after you pour some onto the bread – drain it, you don’t need that liquid on top of the yogurt). Pour the melted butter and pine nuts over the top.

6. Eat! (Or serve, if you are so generous.)

*** Pictures (of every step) to come!

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