All posts tagged egyptian

  • karkady / egyptian hibiscus tea / كركديه

    karkady egyptian hibiscus tea karkade

    The first time I had karkady was in Cairo in 2006. Ramadan was in full swing and the October heat was relentless. My roommate and I were in a taxi on our way to al-Husayn Mosque, which we would visit a few times a week. She would go to the mosque to pray, then we’d hit up nearby Khan al-Khalili to shop for giant gaudy earrings and eat tameyya sandwiches. On the last stretch of the trip, the call to prayer rippled through the city. It was iftar — time to break the day’s fast. Drivers had a new sense of urgency, most pedestrians vanished from the street to fill their bellies, and our cab driver broke his fast with a cigarette.

    As our taxi inched forward in bumper to bumper traffic, I noticed a man going from car to car and handing people bags with some sort of deep red liquid. When he got to our taxi, he handed me a bag and said something I didn’t understand. I had just enough time to thank him, but not enough to ask him what it was before he went on his merry way. I asked the cab driver if he knew what the drink was and he said, “karkady”. Well, OK! I didn’t know what that was but when a jovial toothless man hands you mystery drink in a plastic bag, what do you do? My roommate wasn’t interested, so I drank it in the most graceful way one can drink from a plastic bag (which is not at all).

    As a fan of all things sour, it was love at first sip. Sweet but not overly so, with a tart flavor reminiscent of cranberry juice. After doing some investigating later on (aka googling), I learned karkady was made from made an infusion of hibiscus flowers. Serve it cold in the hot months and hot when fighting off those winter shivers. It wasn’t for another few years after leaving Egypt that I would revisit karkady, but now you’ll find a pitcher (or bottle) of it in my fridge about once a month.

    To make karkady, you need dried red hibiscus flowers, which can be found at Middle Eastern and Latin American groceries (look for Flor de Jamaica), tea shops, and the bustling spice markets of Cairo. If none are available in your neck of the woods, there’s always Amazon, the Wal*Mart of the internet.

    Unrelated, but here are some things I’ve been cooking lately:

    Pulled Pork – I made about 5 pounds of pulled pork for Father’s Day. It had been so long since I cooked several pounds of pork that and I overcooked it a little bit, sadly. Dad came down for a visit and we feasted on pulled pork sandwiches and potato salad. I sent dad home with a big container of meat, then Cory and I used the remaining pork for sandwiches and tacos.

    Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad – When we ran out of pulled pork, we still had several corn tortillas. I made a mango and black bean salad based off an apricot and black bean salad from the taste space. The recipe has been a regular in our kitchen for about 3 years now.

    Quick Pickled Onions – from the Kitchn. I’ve quick pickled (and consumed) 4 jars of carrots in the last month and now I’m onto onions for salads and sandwiches.

    Falafels – The last of my chickpeas are currently soaking as I type this. Falafels served over a bed of lettuce will be tomorrow’s dinner. Maybe I’ll buy more chickpeas before we move, but first I have to go through a pound of pinto beans, cranberry beans, and great northern beans. Anyone have any ideas what to do with those?

    Tahini – ok, I haven’t made this yet. But I’m making it tomorrow! Again, from The Kitchn. I’ve never made tahini from scratch before, but I have a lot of sesame seeds I’ve been meaning to use up. I’m knee deep in Operation: Clear Out the Pantry.

    Zucchini – zucchini everything. Chopped up raw and in salads, zucchini noodles, zucchini soups, and mastering mom’s zucchini bread.

    Corn – with everything. Mostly corn on the cob, sometimes soup, and I made a corn, basil, and pesto pizza on Friday.

    Popsicles – currently, mango lassi popsicles. But I’m really craving Vietnamese iced coffee and I think they’d make for some delicious popsicles.

    Now, on with the show.

    Karkady / Egyptian Hibiscus Drink

    3/4 cup hibiscus petals
    8 cups water
    sugar, to taste (I recommend starting with 1/4 cup and taste testing from there)

    dried orange peel
    grated ginger
    a few squeezes of lime or lemon
    a cinnamon stick

    In a large pot, add hibiscus petals and water (add orange peel, ginger, and/or cinnamon stick, if using) and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in sugar and give the drink a taste test and add more sugar, if necessary. You can skip this part, but I usually cover the pot and let it steep for another 1-3 hours. If adding lime or lemon, squeeze a bit of juice in and stir. Strain the mixture into a pitcher, discard the petals, and refrigerate the drink for several hours.

    Serves 8-10

  • recipe: ta’meyya (egyptian falafels)

    You’re probably with falafels made from chickpeas, but Egyptian falafels are made from fava beans. Fava beans are a staple of the Egyptian diet. So much so the Egyptian word for falafel, ta’meyya derives from the word “food”. I love the bitter and nutty taste of fava beans and prefer them over the more well known chickpea based falafel. Then again, I’m biased since I love all things Egyptian.

    Although a straight forward process, falafel making is a time consuming task. The only special equipment you need is a food processor or blender, to blend the beans into a paste. There’s no need to use a deep fryer to fry the falafels, a large pot and frying oil will do the trick just as well. My frying oil of choice is peanut oil, but in Egypt sunflower oil or vegetable oil are more commonly used in cooking. As for baking falafels, you can’t see me right now, but I’m frowning. Some of the best things in life are fried, you know.

    Just a heads up to anyone out there who is like me, the kind of person who doesn’t read recipes until I’m just about to start cooking – this recipe requires the beans to soak for 24-48 hours and there are a lot of time consuming steps involved. They’re definitely worth the effort, if you’re looking for a taste of Egypt… in fried form.

    (adapted from Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

    1 pound dried and skinless fava beans (broad beans), soaked for 24-48 hours
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    cayenne pepper or chili pepper (optional, to taste)
    salt & pepper
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup parsley
    1 cup cilantro
    2 leeks, white and green parts
    6 scallions, finely chopped
    6 garlic cloves, minced
    3/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
    frying oil (I used peanut oil)

    In a large pot, soak the beans in a generous amount of water for 24-48 hours. Change the water a couple times a day. After the beans have finished soaking, pour out the water into the sink and spread out the beans on a large towel on a hard surface. Let the beans dry for about an hour.

    After the beans have had time to dry a bit, put them in a food processor and pulse until the beans form a paste. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Add the spices and baking soda and pulse a few more times until the spices have mixed through, or until the paste is smooth. Let the mixture rest for a half hour.

    Meanwhile, wash and chop the parsley, cilantro, leeks, scallions, and mince the garlic. Add them all to a very large mixing bowl, along with the bean paste and knead with your hands until mixed through. Take small clumps of the mixture and patties that are 2 inches in diameter roughly 1/4 inch thick or into balls the size of golf balls. Optionally, dip the falafels into a bowl full of sesame seeds just before frying.

    Heat a large stock pot with at least 2 inches of frying oil. Working in batches, fry the falafels in batches until brown, turning over once. Transfer the falafels to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot.

    Serving variations:

    – With hummus or tahini
    – With pickled vegetables
    – In a wrap or pita bread with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tahini sauce or hummus
    – In a salad

    Serves 6

    Originally posted in February 2011

  • recipe: umm ali (egyptian bread pudding)

    This is the story of Umm Ali.

    We all know of the Queen of the Nile and her affairs with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius and of the boy king whose otherwise unremarkable life left behind a remarkable glimpse into the Egyptian afterlife. But do you know who the name of the last woman to rule Egypt? Cleopatra is not a bad guess, but it’s not correct. Her name was Shajar al-Dur (sometimes inaccurately called Shajarat al-Durr). She ascended the throne in 1250 and ruled for a total of 80 days. Although Shajar al-Dur is a well-known figure of Egyptian history and folklore, she is not very well-known outside of the Arabic-speaking world. I first discovered her name in a footnote in a reading I had for a class in college. I then spent the following couple of months learning everything I could about her. I’ve read and been told so many versions of her life, I’m not sure what’s fiction or folklore. When I visited Shajar al-Durr’s mausoleum during my last visit to Cairo in 2008, I was heartbroken to find it neglected and covered in garbage.

    Shajar al-Durr was originally slave girl of Turkic or Armenian origin. She was purchased by al-Salih Ayyub, who would later become the Sultan of Egypt. In 1250 CE, al-Salih Ayyub died suddenly of a fever at a turbulent time in Egypt’s history. It was the Seventh Crusade and Egypt under attack by King Louis IX’s army. Shajar concealed the fact that al-Salih Ayyub had died by telling people he was merely ill, making sure to have servants deliver food to his room so no one would suspect anything. She was then able to rule as the Sultana of Egypt. Friday prayers were read in her name and she even had coins minted with her name on them. During her short reign, King Louis IX was released from captivity after paying an enormous ransom and peace was temporarily made with the Franks as they recovered from their agonizing defeat.

    After 80 days of rule, she announced her husband’s death and relinquished power over to Turanshah, al-Salih Ayyub’s son from another wife. The army, however, trusted Shajar and had Turanshah killed. Despite her support from the army, the Caliph in Baghdad (who, by the way, was murdered two years later by the grandson of Genghis Khan when the Mongols sacked Baghdad) refused to recognize a woman on the throne. So he sent a trusted army commander to Egypt, to marry Shajar and rule as Sultan. Defeated and humiliated, Shajar surrendered the throne over to her new husband, Aybak.

    It is said Aybak and Shajar shared a great affection for each other, but she was clearly the one who dominated the relationship. Shajar was the jealous type. Before they married she had Aybak divorce his current wife Umm Ali, with whom he had a son. Shajar still continued to sign the Sultan’s decrees and made sure to have coins minted in both of their names. After seven years of marriage, Aybak wanted to take on another wife, the daughter of the amir of Mosul. Shajar felt betrayed and refused to share Aybak with anyone else, so… off with his head! She had Aybak murdered by servants while he was taking a bath. Now she could have Egypt for herself, or so she thought.

    In vain, Shajar hastily told people that Aybak died in his sleep. Aybak’s men were suspicious of Shajar, and her servants eventually confessed to the murder after being tortured. Shajar and the servants were arrested. The servants were eventually executed and Shajar was beaten to death with wooden clogs by slavegirls – and Aybak’s former wife, Umm Ali and their son al-Mansur Ali (who became Sultan after Aybak’s death). Her half-naked body was dragged around the city and thrown into a moat. After wild animals feasted on her body for three days, her remains were gathered in a basket and she was eventually laid to rest in a mausoleum she had built for herself.

    Umm Ali rejoiced at Shajar’s death and putting her son the throne and created this dessert to celebrate.

    Or so the story goes.

    A cab driver (yes, there was a time where I talked about Shajar al-Durr with just about anyone) once told me Umm Ali made rice pudding and not bread pudding to celebrate Shajar’s death. There are so many versions on how the dessert originated I prefer to pick and choose as I like. A popular theory is that an English nurse living in Egypt named O’Malley created the dessert. Hmph! Where’s the intrigue and scandal in that? Make this dessert and tell the story of Shajar al-Durr.

    When it comes to desserts, I gravitate toward the homely and easy to make. Give me rice pudding or bread pudding and I’m over the moon. Since there are so many different versions of how and where Umm Ali originated, I figured there’s no harm in deviating from the usual recipe. I strayed from the norm by using puff pastry (it puffs! It’s magical!) instead of filo dough, decreased the amount of milk and cream, and added more nuts. I found that with less milk and cream, the texture held up quite well for leftovers for several days. Umm Ali is a rich and heavenly dessert that would taste even better with a scoop of ice cream, if you’re feeling decadent.

    Umm Ali
    (adapted from Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

    1 17-oz package of puff pastry, thawed
    6 tablespoons better, melted
    2 cups heavy cream
    3 cups milk (I used whole)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts)
    1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
    1/2 cup golden raisins
    1 teaspoon cinnamon, for dusting

    Let the puff pastry thaw for at least a half hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll out the puff pastry, brush with the melted butter and transfer the puff pastry to the oven. Bake the puff pastry for 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

    In a medium-sized saucepan, heat milk, cream, and sugar together just until the sugar dissolves – do not boil. When the puff pastry is cool enough to handle, break it into bite-sized pieces and transfer to a large baking dish (I used an 8″ x 8″ baking dish, I’d recommend something a little larger). Toss in the nuts, raisins, and shredded coconut, making sure that everything is mixed evenly.

    Pour the milk/cream mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until slightly golden.

    Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

    Serves 10-12

    Originally posted in February 2011