This week’s recipe comes from the blogger Yusra Ahmed. Born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, Yusra Ahmed is a finance graduate who realized her calling to cooking a little too late which she decided to respond to with a Diploma in Culinary Arts. With a passion for Cooking and a flair for creativity, she is now the proud owner of a brand new food blog Figsandlemon.com.
If you are at a point in time in your life where you are hating carbs (let’s face it, we’ve all been there!) then look away! This carb-loaded goodness is not for the Carb-averse. If you are looking for scrumptiously delicious comfort food, then you have come to the right place my friend!
Let me present to you – Koshari – an Egyptian rice dish with lentils and pasta, topped with a tangy tomato sauce, chickpeas and golden brown onions fried to perfection. If you have not tried Koshari yet and are hell-bent on not ever giving with weird looking rice and pasta mixture a chance, then let me tell you a story.
I used to work at a restaurant a couple of years ago here in Abu Dhabi. It was a fresh new joint owned by a friend, the concept of which was foods from around the world. Their menu offered a variety of foods from Chicken Pilaf to Chelo Kebab. One of the hidden gems in their menu was…of course… Koshari. My first day at work; I walk in on a slow and rather quiet morning. After being walked through everything I thought to myself: “This s not so bad- I like the pace…nothing too Hell’s Kitchen like. Until lunchtime rolled around and boy did I have my foot in my mouth. Phones ringing, people waiting, orders coming in left, right and center. It was around this time that I was introduced to Koshari – one of the most popular dishes at this place.
My first reaction when I saw Koshari was that of a 5-year old who’s just been presented with steamed broccoli.
*Pouty face* “Get away from me!” * Pouty face *
However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What seems like a bland and boring rice and pasta dish is in fact full of surprises with the fried onions and the tomato sauce being the heroes of this dish in my opinion.
- Rice 2 cups
- Lentils ½ cup
- Finely Sliced Onions 3 large sized
- Ditalini pasta 1 ½ cups
- Cumin seeds 1 tsp
- Cinnamon 2 inch stick
- Cloves 3-4
- Chicken stock 3 ½ cups
- Finely chopped onion ½
- Minced Garlic 2 cloves
- Chopped Tomatoes 3
- Cumin powder 1 tsp
- Vinegar ½ tsp
- Chili flakes ½ tsp
- Water ½ cup
- Chickpeas 1 can
- Olive oil for frying
- Salt to taste
- Start off by soaking the rice in plenty of cold water.
- Soak the lentils in a separate bowl for about 20 minutes after which drain the water, place lentils in a pan and cover with 1 ½ cups of water. Bring to a boil and then season with some salt, cover and let it cook for about 15 -20 minutes until the lentils are cooked through.
- In a frying pan pour a few good glugs of olive oil, enough to fry the onions in. Once the oil is roaring hot, gently add the onions to the pan and toss around to coat them in the oil. Then turn the heat down to medium-low and keep an eye on the onions making sure they don’t burn and that they’re caramelizing evenly.
- While the onions are frying and the lentil is cooking, get a pot full of water boiling for the pasta. Add the pasta along with some salt and olive oil and cook until the pasta is al dente – about 7-8 minutes.
- Once you have the pasta boiled, onions fried and lentils cooked you can start with the rice. In a fairly large pot with a tight fitting lid, pour about 3-4 tbsps of olive oil. Throw in the cumin seeds, cinnamon and cloves and sauté for about a minute before adding the rice (after the draining the water) and sauté for a few more minutes.
- From this point onwards you can make the rice in whichever way you prefer – in the oven or on the stovetop entirely. This is how to make the rice on the stove.
Add the chicken stock to the rice and bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down to a medium low and cover the pot with the lid. After about 5 minutes check to see if the rice has absorbed all the water floating on top. There should be no water above the rice. At this point you want to gently stir the rice, cover the pot with foil, firmly place the lid on top, and then move the pot to the smallest burner and turn the heat down to the lowest point. Let the rice cook for 5-10 minutes and then check to see if it’s done. If the rice still feels like it could be cooked for longer, leave it on the stove for 2 more minutes.
- For the sauce sauté half a finely chopped onion together with some minced garlic. Once the onion has turned pink, throw in the chopped tomatoes together with some vinegar, cumin powder and season with some salt. You can also add chili flakes if you want a spicier sauce. Saute for a few minutes and then add water and let it reduce to a desired consistency.
- Once you have all the components ready, gently fold in the lentils and the pasta into the rice and take out onto a platter. Pour the sauce over the rice, layer with washed and seasoned chickpeas and sprinkle a good handful of fried onions on top.