Koshari – My take on an Egyptian national dish

Koshari – Egyptian bliss

It is always fun to experiment with completely different flavours from what you usually eat. I used to make Koshari (an Egyptian vegan dish) years ago but forgot all about it until I stumbled upon an old recipe.  I’ve spun this so it is a little less traditional but should be delicious nonetheless. Traditional Koshari (aka Kushari, Koshary) is a combination of rice, lentils and macaroni topped with a spicy tomato-garlic-vinegar sauce and caramelised onions, with or without chickpeas.  Sounds odd I know, but trust me it is delicious and a  fun departure from flavours you may be used to.  In my recipe below, I’ve added persian feta  as well. Leave it  out if you want a more traditional vegan version of this meal.  Since we don’t have any macaroni I’ve used up some risoni I had leftover from another meal instead.

Koshari is a staple in Egypt – you can purchase it from vendors on the street who serve it from huge metal cauldrons, from restaurants, and it is eaten in homes around the country. The dish purportedly originated in the mid-1800s.  Some think that koshari originates from khichri – a rice and lentil mix.  The ingredients reflect its multi-cultural origins and it can be made a few different ways, so I feel free to take a few liberties and personalise it a bit.   Reportedly rice, lentils and macaroni were easily acquired and kept in bulk in most pantries around the country.  Mixing them together was a way to use up food.  The British troops occupying Egypt found that this was a budget friendly and safe option to consume and the locals took a strong liking to it.  Its popularity only grew and Egypt has never looked back.  It is also commonly consumed by Coptic Christians during lent and meat/dairy fasts.

This meal makes for good comfort food. It takes a few pots and pans on the go at once but I think it is worth it.  It is a weekend recipe because the onions take a long time to cook. I recommend using a nicer dicer or the like if you have one to make the slicing easier on the old eyes. I realised that I could have done so about 3/4 through chopping and face palmed it. Oh well – next time!  Despite the longer cooking time, it is quite simple to make and we had fun cooking something different.

Ingredients

  • Rice bran oil
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 can of brown lentils, drained
  • 1 cup small elbow macaroni (I used about half a cup of uncooked risoni as this was all we had)
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 415g can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped or minced (We like a lot so you could go down to 3, but it is a key ingredient so don’t go too light on it)
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2tsp brown or white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 1/2 tbs white vinegar
  • tsp or two of flour. I used wholemeal flour.
  • Persian feta (to taste)
  • 3 tsp Baharat.  We used this baharat recipe from The Daring Gourmet, one of my fave food blogs. It makes a fair amount so can be stored in an airtight container for use in other meals.  You can purchase this from some dellies or you make it yourself.
  • (OPTION) If baharat sounds too complicated for your liking, you can just use 1 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of paprika and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper and/or coriander seed instead for a simpler version.  Or just add one of the above. My original recipe was just cumin.
Our home made Baharat spice mix ready to store,
Looking forward to trying it in other things too!

 

Potential Spins

Substitute baharat for the above easier spice mix.  We ground up the spices, toasted them and stored them for later use which we were happy with – it is yummo – but we love a new challenge and always keep heaps of spices on hand.  Leave out the feta. Add roasted capsicums into the tomato mix for a sweeter edge to cut through the vinegar and chili. Add herbs eg parsley to the rice mixture.  Add coriander on top.  Add chickpeas.  Mix the onions through the sauce instead of through the rice mix.  Add lemon to the sauce for an even bigger kick.  Layer the pasta, rice, lentils rather than combining them.

Method

  1. Slice onions. I often wear sunglasses and chop near the extractor fan (on high) to reduce the tear factor.
    So many onions!
  2. Heat rice bran oil, add onion, allspice and ground coriander seed.  Cook until the onion softens.
    Spices applied…ready to stir and cook through
  3. Add sugar, stir and cook on medium, stirring occasionally for approximately 30 mins.
  4. Remove a portion of the onions. Add a bit of flour, then fry onions in a small pan until crispy. Remove from heat and allow to cool on a paper towel.
    Crunchy noms
  5. While the onions cook, make pasta and rice, drain each.
  6. Make tomato sauce: heat rice bran oil in a small saucepan. add garlic, then spice mix.  Cook until fragrant.
  7. Add tomatoes, vinegar. Boil uncovered for about 2 minutes to reduce, then keep on a low heat to stay warm until everything is ready.  It will smell too vinegary but I think it is just right when cooked through and served on the rice mix.
    Spicy tomato garlic vinegar sauce
  8. Combine rice, lentils, pasta and remaining onions.
    Onions, rice, lentils, risoni

     

    Finished mixture. Upon reflection, you could add some parsley through here is you liked.
  9. Layer the rice mix, then the sauce, then the onions.  Crumble persian feta on top. Serve! I enjoyed this with a nice glass of white wine.
  10. On night two you can give the leftover crunchy onions a dry flash fry on high heat for a few seconds to ensure they are crunchy. Here is our meal on night two with the persian feta crumbled through it.
    Nom

 

My Take Aways

The dragon said that he would happily have this again despite the lack of meat! This is a good sign. It is a hearty meal.  While making it vegetarian rather than vegan and certainly not being a traditional ingredient, we found that the persian feta added a lot to the flavour profile and is certainly worth including.  It is even better the 2nd night! To be honest I think the pasta is unnecessary but include it if you want to honour the roots of this dish.

What other traditional meals would you like to see spun here?

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