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.

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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….

Enjoy!

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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.

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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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Pots of rice…

So – I recently came to a conclusion about rice. It is all about your sense of confidence. Much like raising children, cooking rice requires that the rice realize that you are in charge. That means that you leave the rice to cook without panicking and opening the pot. It also means that if the rice is hard, you just add some water and keep cooking. If the rice is mushy – put the top back on and keep cooking. (seriously, weird, huh?) But I have found that rice will only listen to you if you insist that it is easy and it cannot go bad.

That being said – I have found that some pretty general rules apply to the rice that is sold here in Egypt.

So – if you are struggling with rice and you have Cairo supermarkets available to you…

Doha Short Grain Rice

This is like the regular Doha rice. It is what is used for ‘traditional Egyptian rice’ which had little vermicelli (shaareya) in it.

Things you will need:

1 shayata (a metal circle with a wooden handle that covers the flame to dissapate the heat)

1 slightly heavy bottomed pot with a lid and steam-hole (preferably a transparent lid so you aren’t tempted to take the lid off to see the rice and potentially ruin it)

Ingredients:

1 cup El-Doha white short-grain rice (the regular, everyday Egyptian rice)

2 handfuls vermicelli (shaareya)

2 tablespoons butter

a sprinkle of salt

2 cups water

Directions:

1. Put 1 tablespoon butter and two handfuls vermicelli into the pot and fry them until the vermicelli browns to your liking. It is advisable to move the vermicelli and butter around with a wooden spatula while it fries so that it colors itself evenly.

2. Once the vermicelli is ready, toss in the cup of rice and the other tablespoon of butter.

3. Sprinkle all with salt and stir about so that the vermicelli is mixed in with the rice and the butter is evenly distributed.

4. Pour in two cups water and allow them to heat up to almost a boil (still uncovered at this point).

5. Light up the smallest flame on your stove and set it to its lowest possible setting.

6. Cover the flame with the shayata.

7. Put the lid on the rice pot and move your pot to the lower flame, placing it on the shayata.

8. Set your timer for 30 minutes and walk away from the pot.

9. Come back and check the status of the rice by smelling the steam coming out of the steam-hole–but don’t take the lid off.

10. When 30 minutes are up, turn off the heat, take off the lid and taste the rice. If it’s still very hard, add another 1/4 cup of water and turn on the heat on low again. Leave for 10 minutes.

Nahrain Basmati Rice

Things you will need:

1 shayata

1 slightly heavy bottomed pot with a lid and a steam-hole

Ingredients:

1 cup Nahrain golden basmati rice

2 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon butter (optional)

1 cube chicken stock (optional) or a sprinkle of salt

Directions:

1. Pour 2 1/4 cups water into the pot and heat to a boil.

2. Add in whatever you have chosen from the optional items–salt, chicken stock, butter or oil–and make sure the chicken stock is no longer in cube form by crushing it with wooden spatula.

3. Add in 1 cup basmati rice (this combination works for Nahrain, but not for El-Doha basmati)

4. Allow water to boil again while you set up your smallest flame, on low, with the shayata on top.

5. Move the pot to the low flame and set the timer for 30 minutes.

6. Walk away from the rice and come back in 30 minutes to turn off the flame.

7. Open the pot, move the rice around with a fork to give it some air, and… enjoy!

Doha Basmati Rice

Follow the same directions as Nahrain Basmati  rice but to 1 cup of rice, boil 1 3/4 cups of water and cook it for 40 minutes!

ENJOY!! 😀

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Katsu discovery!

Best feeling ever… craving a Wagamama favorite and then buckling down and finding a good recipe for it. Already had panko breadcrumbs so that part was easy… as for the sauce – found a number of recipes with apples and carrots and bananas (?) and then found a recipe on http://www.pistonheads.com – in response to a wagamama recipe request and took it from there…

my version (which turned out shockingly like the restaurant version I love)

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, smushed
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons curry powder (half yellow, half mixed)
2 tablespoons flour
water to consistency

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
2. Add garlic till golden and add in ginger.
3. Add in curry, flour, paprika and stir to make a paste.
4. Add in water till a little soupy and leave to cook for 5 minutes.
5. Pour over your panko breadcrumb fried chicken breasts!

I made them with some reheated rice (in a pan with a little oil) and added some pine nuts and powdered mint to the rice. Very nice flavor mix!

*This recipe tastes different in one way – it’s much less spicy (which works for me) – if you want to spice it up, I would suggest 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder?

chicken katsu curry!

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Tiramisu Trials

I tried this out at my dinner gathering and although it was a little runny due to my inability to whip cream by hand, it was very yummy! I suggest laying your tiramisu in a glass casserole dish so people can marvel at the layers.

1 package ladyfingers (make sure they are kind of soft inside) opened up as if you were making a ladyfinger sandwich so they lie flat on the bottom of the dish

2 cups whipping cream

6 egg yolks

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup milk

250 grams mascarpone cheese (you can find this at Gourmet… also the ladyfingers)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup espresso

2 tablespoons Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur – optional)

cocoa powder for dusting

— the amounts of the ingredients will differ based on the size of your serving dish but these amounts served 10.

1. Start by making the yolk mixture – combine egg yolks and sugar over a low flame with a whisk and add in milk, stirring constantly until the mixture boils.

2. Allow to boil for 1 minute then remove from heat and cool.

3. Cover mixture tightly and refrigerate for one hour.

4. Beat whipping cream with vanilla extract until stiff peaks form (this is where I had trouble… good luck!)

5. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture (the one in the fridge) until smooth.

6. Combine espresso and Kahlua if you’re using it.

7. Arrange ladyfingers on the bottom of your serving dish and drizzle with espresso/Kahlua mixture.

8. Spread 1/3 of the yolk/mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers.

9. Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream over that.

10. Repeat – Ladyfingers, drizzle, yolk, cream, ladyfingers, drizzle, yolk, cream and then even out cream and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

11. Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

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I love…

Sharwood’s Tikka Masala! Just discovered it tonight with chicken for a fabulous dish. There is a resemblance to the tomato cream curry sauce I make with chicken but I just can’t get over the flavor and the wonderful lack of spice. I know there are not many of us but I’m one of the random people who love Indian food, despite it’s hot spiciness. To find a sauce with fabulous flavor and no sting… well – it’s making me very happy.

xx

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