egyptian koshari – lentils, rice and pasta

you know how carbs are currently seen as the reincarnation of everything evil? and do we partake in that bullshit? we most certainly don’t.  yeah! revolution! carb eaters unite! hands up in the air! well, a good thing you’re joining in, too, because this (!) is really something… listen closely. 
my egyptian friend heidi, who lives in dubai, came to visit in december, and since she’s a foodie like me, we were mostly touring zurich for good food (from sprüngli to dolder tea time and back) and, while we were enjoying the food, were discussing what other food we liked. heidi mentioned a dish from her childhood, called koshari, an egyptian lentil, rice and pasta bowl with a spicy, garlicky tomato sauce, chickpeas and fried onions. and strangely, i do remember it from my own childhood! my mom used to make it for us. i remember how soothing and warming and simple and good it was.

with food it’s always like a mental to do list for me. i add things to my ‘must cook soon’ list and when the right occasion arises, i know exactly what’s on the menu. so, as soon as i had two sweet girlfriends over for dinner just shortly after christmas, i knew i was going to make koshari. because there is no better way to celebrate winter time, than with carbs. the real deal.

egyptian koshari – lentils, rice and pasta
thanks to detailed instructions from my friend heidi

for the base:
1 cup rice
1 cup lentils
1 cup pasta (i used orzo – rice shaped pasta – but broken spaghetti work just as well)
1 cup canned chickpeas
vegetable broth

for the spicy tomato sauce:
1 can tomato passata
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 knife’s point harissa (more to taste or to serve on the side)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. fleur de sel

for the fried onions:
6 onions, finely sliced
3 tbsp. ghee

for an additional, individual spice punch:
2 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar

for optional, individual garnish:
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped, optional

start by cooking the carbs (hehehe): you can cook the rice and lentils together, with the double amount of water, but don’t add any salt until tender, or the lentils won’t turn soft. shortly before they’re done, stir in some vegetable broth. put aside. cook the pasta in salted water, drain, set aside. drain the chickpeas. set everything aside, but keep warm.

in the meantime, make the tomato sauce: mince the garlic cloves and finely chop the onion. heat the olive oil in a saucepan, fry the onion for a while, then add the garlic, cumin and coriander and sweat for a minute or so. add the tomato sauce and the bay leaf. bring to a boil. season with salt, sugar, harissa and vinegar. keep warm.

for the fried onions, heat the ghee in a large frying pan and fry, on medium heat, for a long while, i guess, maybe 20 minutes? until the onions are crispy and golden brown to dark brown. remove from the pan and distribute on a kitchen paper to cool and dry and get rid of the excessive grease. the should crisp up.

for the spice punch, dry toast (meaning without any oil) the cumin, coriander and chili flakes in a frying pan until fragrant. add the garlic and fry for a minute. remove from heat, pour in a bowl and mix with the vinegar. this is to individually sprinkle over the koshari.

to assemble, start by ladling some rice and lentils into a bowl, then layer some pasta on top. add a generous spoonful of the pasta sauce, then scatter a handful of chickpeas on top. sprinkle with fried onions. serve with the spice punch for individual spice and coriander on the side, for those who want.

note on enjoying koshari: heidi told me to explicitly make it clear that it needs to be layered first. you know, how everyone always keeps the best part on a plate for last? yeah, you can’t with koshari. first, because you need to mingle everything to have a bit of everything with every bite. and secondly, because everything is good on its own.

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