music to read by :: Piya Re (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)
Many moons ago, we found our way to Egypt and spent some time hanging in Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, with a sail up the Nile, sleeping on a felucca, not to mention swimming. Yes, we swam in the Nile. Yes, it was February. Yes, it was cold. And yes, it was clean, as we were not swimming anywhere near a large urban center. And frankly, we stank.
We ate in fancy restaurants, hotel restaurants, were cooked for by the captain of the felucca, ate on a barge, and even ventured into a Kentucky Fried Chicken run by the blind. For the record, it was the best chicken I ever ate.
But my favourite meal was some type of ‘peasant’ food consisting of rice, lentils, beans (?), sauce, hot sauce, and who knows what else. We ate it most days in Cairo, tho getting it meant running across 8 lanes of Egyptian traffic, waiting in line with locals, and then pointing, as the workers didn’t speak english. Our hotel staff laughed at us as they could not believe we north americans would rather eat ‘peasant’ food instead of in one of the more trendy restaurants.
Sometimes, simple food is just better food.
Persian rice with lentils, and fried-up falafel
(ok, not what I was talking about, but if someone knows what I was eating in Egypt and knows how to make it, please, please, please drop me a comment!)
- Soak 1 cup dried chick peas in 6 cups water for about 24 hours
- Drain chickpeas, and add to food processor with 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt
- Blend until kinda like bulgar, remove to mixing bowl
- mix in 2 pressed garlic cloves, 1 small diced onion, fresh chopped parsley, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp lemon juice, dash of cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
Set aside until ready to cook
- Soak 1 cup rice in 6 cups water for about 3 hours, drain
- Bring 2 cups water, pinch of salt, and rice to a boil, then simmer until barely tender – 10-15 minutes
- remove from heat, drain, and set aside
- bring one cup of water and one cup of lentils to boil, cook on medium heat until tender – about 20 minutes – then remove from heat
- while all that boiling and simmering is happening, pan fry some chopped onions until golden, either in butter or oil – your choice – then set aside
- coat the bottom of a large pot with either butter or oil, and heat until hot, but not sizzling
- spoon in about 1/2 the rice, then layer on the lentils and remaining rice. So – rice/lentils/rice
- Cover and simmer until rice is almost done – about 20 minutes. Don’t worry about the rice crusting to the bottom – you want this to happen
- Now you decide if you are all fancy or not …. using a chop stick or the end of a wooden spoon, poke a bunch of holes in your layered food, but don’t stir. Pour in 1/3 cup your choice of 1) water, 2) melted butter, 3) saffron water – hot water/ pinch saffron +1/2 hour , or even 4) water + 1 tsp cumin. Last night I went with door number 4
- Simmer for another 10 minutes, but really – you’re done when all is absorbed and the rice is cooked – so, ya know, check
While your rice is in it’s final simmer, it’s a good time to fry up some falafel mix. You can do this as actual balls or patties, but I decided to do it as a mash.
- oil the pan – a few tablespoons if doing a mash, a really good deep frying dump if making patties
- shape falafel using wooden spoons. It will not shape the same as burgers and should just barely stay together
- if making patties, place in your oil and be prepared to just let them be. If you handle them too soon, they will just fall apart. Flip when they are almost cooked, then remove to a paper towel to drain excess oil
- if making mash, just drop your patties in and as they cook move them around
- regardless, they don’t take long and should be ready with your rice
When the rice is ready, turn out to a serving bowl/platter. Scrape crusties at bottom of pan onto the top of your rice. Sometimes, dipping your pan in cold water will help them come loose. Dress your rice with chopped pitted dates, raisins, and your fried onions. Add your falafel in what ever form you made. Serve with yoghurt if you have it. Watch your daughter eat 3 servings.
I did not cook up all my falafel mix – it will stay in the fridge for a day or two – so I am sensing falafel burgers for supper tonight!