Category Archives: Simply Food

Enjoying Egyptian Food

 

Read Cairo Visit Part 1 Here

Enjoying BBQ at River Nile

Egypt has an ample variety of food and there are a lot of street restaurants to enjoy from.

Frying Fish:

Excellent Fish Restaurant

I was strolling through the streets of Cairo downtown looking for a local food shop to have lunch. There were plenty of them but I was looking for a bit traditional one. Walking down the street I eventually settled on one. It was good. I finished the food and walked away (only after paying of course!). Same old scenario repeated itself. You search for long for something good, you make a choice and then the very moment something better appears, only to leave you regretting, damn why didn’t I wait a bit more. Walked just few steps down the road & I smelled fish roasting nearby. There was a fresh fish shop where they were BBQing the fish. You choose the raw piece and they will grill it then & there.

Al Tahrir Kushari:

Enjoying Kushari at "Kushari al Tahrir" with friends

My Egyptian friend invited me to try the traditional Egyptian food Kushaari at the most famous shop “Kushari al Tahrir”. This food is made of pasta, noodles, beans, lentils, rice &roasted onions.  All mixed in a bowl & boiling spicy tomato sauce poured on top. There were two bottles on the table, one with vinegar and the other one with a mixture of chillies, oil and spices. Resting on table the bottle contents will settle into layers, I counted five. You are supposed to put your thumb on the open bottle head and shake it before use. My friend poured a lot of both into my plate, “you are Pakistani, you can manage”. Only I, internal organs & Allah knows how I managed. But it was delicious! We cooled ourselves with kheer (rice & milk pudding). Middle East has only few vegetarian dishes to offer, and this is one of them. I went back to the same shop again but without him, I was scared of chillies!

Beans & Lentils by Pharoahs and Meat by Muslims:

Egyptians diet contains a lot meat and beans (soya, lentil, chickpeas, etc). In fact there are many beans dishes. Egyptians used beans for 1000’s of years as their main source of protein, until Muslims introduced them to meat! Now my Egyptian friend was complaining why we Pakistani don’t eat more meat even though it quite cheap in Pakistan (compared to Egypt).

Shawarma:

I found the Egyptian Doner Kebab (Shawrma) the best ever, especially the beef one. Usually shawarma is made with minced meat. But Egyptians make it with layers of meat, similar to chicken shawarma. The meat is thinly sliced from the cone as it cooks, then slow cooked in the tray with juices and raw tomatoes. It is then stuffed in a pitta or soft bun and served with turshi (vinegar pickle). I have never tasted better shawarma than this.

Turshi is commonly eaten in Middle East. This is more so for Jordanians and Egyptians. It basically is a pickle of carrots, mooli, cucumber and chillies in vinegar; quite tasty & sour.  Men eating so much of sour food was a bit of strange for me as it is associated with women in subcontinent culture!

Fresh Jiuce:

Juice Corner - A Common Sight

There were shops of fresh juice of carrot, orange and sugar cane on every street & and every corner. The juice was cheap & refreshing in hot weather. I enjoyed my favourite carrot & orange mix.

Ta’amiyya is the Eqyptian version of Falafel, but made with fava beans. It is ground fava beans mixed with spices and then fried. It is then put into a pita with some salad and tahina sauce. Sometimes potato chips are thrown in to. It is quire heavy food.

Foul is the cheapest of cheap foods. It comes in different forms, but it is essentially beans cooked, then mashed up into a paste and mixed with various oils and spices, then put into a pita.

 Eeish Baladi:

Eeish Baladi on Sale

This delicious round Roti/chapatti bread ‘Eeish Baladi’ is sold everywhere in Cairo.  You will see sellers sitting on floor with breads spread on a low cart.

Sweets:

Hot Eeish Bread, Baklawa & Tea - Too Delicious!

Three types of milk pudding are commonly served after food, flour& rice (kheer), and bread (Umm Ali). All were tasty but less sweet compared to Turkish ones. Baklawa was also available but less frequently.

Qahva, Chai & Sheesha:

Qahva House

Needles to say that Egyptians love qahva, chai (tea) and sheesha.

Read My Visit to Cairo in Ramadhan Here

The End.

Our Garden (August 2010)

Welcome to the Growing & Glowing “Great Finniston Farm”

Lettuce, Tomato & Potato plants are clearly visible (from left to right)

Great Finniston Flowers, Fruit & Vegetable Farm

Lovely & Juicy Home Grown Tomatoes – Superior in taste

Sweet Juicy Tomatoes nearly ready

Our Potato Crop

Our Potatoes & Garden Peas

Talking about potatoes, my favourite, it is interesting to know that Potatoes are:

  • The most important crop in world after staple foods (wheat, rice & corn).
  • The most nutritious & easy to grow crop, this is why the most common also
  • Grown since 7000 years ago in Andes Mountains of South America
  • Potato is called “Apple of the Earth” in Persian & French. Similar name is used in Chinese.
  • It is the first vegetable to go & grow in space in 1995
  • They were first introduced to Europeans in the late 1500s as poor people’s food. It still is; my salute to Potato, it feeds billions cheaply.
  • They weren’t an immediate hit in Europe, many people blamed them for diseases & rallied against them because they weren’t mentioned in the Bible.
  • Only slowly it became the most eaten food, upon which people rely to survive.
  • Irish were the first ones to adopt it. So much so that a disease destroyed the potato crop in 1840. As a result Ireland lost half of its population, 1 million died of hunger & many millions left the country.

 

Now some Flowers, we start with the Queen, “Red Rose”

Bunch of Red Roses

Small Yellow Flower

Small Yellow Flowers

White Rose

White Rose

Beautiful Vermillion Coloured Flower. Don’t know what Vermillion colour is? I didn’t either, until I saw this beauty?

Vermillion Beauty

Garden Pea’s Flower – yet another stunning beauty from Heavens.

Garden Pea Flower

Food Fun in USA (Jul 2010)

The highlight of my visit to USA would be my food adventures. It started the very next I arrived in USA. One of my colleagues there in USA is a real food-lover, never tired of eating out and trying new foods. I have passion for food too but he is way ahead. Anyway, we decided to carry out a restaurant-yatra while I was there in Boston so we went to a different restaurant every day. This food spree included but not limited to Wendy’s (American fast food), Subway (Sandwiches), Cheese Cake Factory (American food), Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Chinese (twice, best Chinese ever outside china), Bangladeshi, Afghani (just in & out, it wasn’t Halal), Pizza (run by Greeks), Ice Cream factory, Mexican, and of course StarBucks coffee.

 

Cambodian Restaurant
Cambodian Restaurant

We started with a Cambodian restaurant Tepthida Khmer. It tasted a bit different but was nice. Service was really good. We started with a papaya salad followed by fish with coconut milk curry in banana leaf and a fried vegetables dish with rice.

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

 

Jasmine, Thai Restaurant
Jasmine, Thai Restaurant

Next was a Thai restaurant called Thai Jasmine. Here we experienced their dishes chilli with sprout & shrimps, and tofu vegetable curry with rice.

 

 

 

  

  

  

 

 

 

szechuan Chinese
szechuan Chinese

 

We visited a Chinese Sichuan restaurant next. This was the best Chinese food I have eaten outside china. We started with a kind of fried pancake stuffed with vegetables. Main course had two curry dishes, fish chilli and egg plant with vegetables accompanied by boiled with rice and Chinese tea. The chilli curry was real hot as it should be, Sichuan is famous for very hot food. It was not as hot though as I once tried in Shanghai (will tell you the story later in my China visit).

 

 

 

On Friday whole of our team went to lunch at Vietnamese restaurant. I limited myself to salad only, I didn’t wanted to have a heavy lunch & then doze at my desk.

 

 

Bangladeshi Cuisine
Bangladeshi Cuisine

On the weekend we went to a Bangladeshi restaurant in Cambridge. It was Halal, out of excitement we ordered a channa (chickpeas) chat as starter, a traditional fish dish, lamb biryani and chicken curry. It turned out to be worst Bangladeshi food I ever had, and it was the most expensive restaurant of my entire US visit. I would give it 0 out of 10. Disappointed, we went to Bangladeshi shop nearby to have Kulfi dessert to compensate but disappointment continued..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kabab Factory Indian
Kabab Factory Indian
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Indian restaurant called Kabab Factory. Our starter was spicy potato soup. Main course had vegetable (gobhi etc mixed) sabzi and Lamb chops (very expensive 4 chops for $22) but it was good. I got a bit carried away, indulged into gulab jaman dessert & masala chai (Indian tea) to complement a complete Indian evening. Verdict: OK

 

 

szechuan Chinese  Food
Szechuan Chinese Food

 

Disappointed, I insisted to go back to Chinese again! It was just so excellent. This Szechuan restaurant has quite a few Indian fans as food resembles to Indian (at least from chillies aspect). I tried egg soup as starter (just average). Main course was green beans with chillies, and fried fish with chilli & pepper. It was just so delicious, though hot – chilli chilli every dish.

   

My Attempt
My Attempt

By now my inner-chef had aroused. So I cooked one dish (rice, vegetable curry, salad and yogurt raita). You can’t taste but the picture speaks…

 

 

 

One day before leaving, our manager (American) & few others (from India) decided to try another Indian at lunch called Pongal (it is the name of a festival similar to vaisaakhi). Lunch was buffet with mix dishes. We went a bit late, we knew no one will be able to work afterwards. The restaurant was quite good, better than the Kabab Factory. Stuffed myself with delicious Indian food, I finished with mango ice cream – good shot.

 

 

 

South indian BanglorianThe story doesn’t end here. Next I went to Washington DC to visit my friend. New food adventures were waiting ahead as the party season was in full swing. I reached his house about 3pm. As soon as I freshened up (10 mins max) we left to his friend’s house for lunch. It was a full south Indian Hyderababadi buffet fetched from a local famous restaurant Swadis. I was spoiled with the choice of dishes. As you know Hyderababdi cuisine is quite hot & spicy. I did the happy ending with bread pudding, very very similar to my favourite Middle Eastern cutie “Ume-Ali” (name of the dish!).

 

Few hours later we were heading to a birthday dinner party. There were a variety of dishes, mainly Indian. My favourite was the chicken tikka masala and the birthday cake!

 

Next morning I was treated Bangalori breakfast (at home, my friend’s wife, our bhabi cooks great. I broke my own record of eating parathas on that day, a huge total of 5.5 in one single day! 2.5 at breakfast, 1 at lunch & 2 at dinner. Don’t jump, South Indian prartha is quite thin & small, just the size of a hand of a (small) lady.

 

For dinner, we were invited at a friend’s house. He is Banglorian, south Indian. I was especially treated to small parathas. Other dishes included dossa (similar to puri, I just had one, not included in paratha total). Round white things are called idli, these are made with rice, urd dall and methi seeds mixed & then steamed. It is eaten with different curries and chutneys. Talking about chutney, there was green raita, mint chutney, mango achaar (pickle), aaloo bhujia (similar to what we stuff in samosa). It was just so delicious!

 

Sadly I had to leave next morning, so the food party ended!

Read my Washington DC visit here: http://kashif-ali.com/2010/08/washington-dc-jul-2010/

Our Garden (Summer 2010)

Welcome to Our Garden!

Months of efforts & tons of cash paid off.  All of us, that is my whole family including little Sarah, worked hard and reward is blossoming now. Don’t believe me? Just have look:

I start with this one, you know what it is and there are a lot of these. Sadly there is no smell in it. Most rose plants grown in UK are smell-free, nevertheless Rose is a Rose….

 rose

 

Sun Flower just grows & grows. It has same qualities as our politicians. Like, it always faces the rising sun, Kids love it when they see it turning to sun though! If not checked (controlled), it grows and grows eventually taking over other plants. So I had trim it a bit:

 sun flower

 

 I don’t know the name of this one but a flower is a flower…..

 flower 1

 

This is another interesting plant. We grew it in a big wooden pot. It flourished with unlimited number of flowers, though they face downward.

flower 2

 

This is my favourite plant, it is called Bleeding Heart. Photo explains it all, its flowers appear as a heart is broken and it is dripping! A true wonder by the greatest artist called God..

bleeding heart

 

Now we come to my Fruit & Vegetables patch. There are a lot of these packed in a small patch namely potatoes, tomatoes, lattice, carrots, coriander & mint. We have already started using mint, corriander and lettice, & waiting for others to ripe.

Garden

 

We are also enjoying fresh home grown juicy strawberries.

Straberry 1 

And there are many new ones growing everyday thanks to nice hot weather.

 strawberry 2

 

See More Here

We are having BBQ picnic using our own wood.  Come join before we munch up all the sausages!!!

bbq

Pulao Rice

Here is a no nonsense Pulao Rice recipe.
 
INGREDIENTS:

1. Basmati Rice: 1 Cup per 2/3 persons
2. Ginger Chopped Half TSP (Tea Spoon) per Cup (of Rice)
3. Onion Sliced Half per 1 Cup
4. Garlic Chopped 1 Clove per Cup
5. Tomato Half per Cup
6. Salt Half TSP per Cup
7. Cumin Seed Half TSP per Cup
8. Add any of these you like & have, and adjust the quantity to your taste: Black Pepper, Cloves, Black Cardamom, Cinnamon stick, Coriander, 
Green Chilies & Red Powder Chilies (Optional)

9. Cooking Oil 1 Cooking Spoon per Cup

10. Vegetables any you like ((optional e.g. pea, potatoes, beans)

11. Chicken or other meat (Optional)

   

Rice Ingredients
Rice Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COOKING:

 1.Wash the rice and soak in cold water

2.Put the pan on fire and add onion & oil. Fry till golden brown

3. Add garic & ginger and saute for one minute

4. Add a bit of water and eveything Except Rice and cook for 5 minutes

5. Add water (1 and a half times the amount of rice), Let it come to boil

6. If you added lamb or beef, boil for 5 or 10 minutes till meat is soft. Add some extra water to compensate

7. Add rice (without water) and cook covered.

   

 Ready to Steam
 

  8.  When water almost disappears, reduce the heat to lowest possible, cover the rice with damp cloth (optional) and put an air tight lid on it. Let it steam for 15 minutes.

 

 Steaming

 

 9.  Remove from heat and very gently stir the rice. If rice are still not cooked, splash a bit of warm water and put back on heat for another 5 or 10 minutes. 

 Enjoy!

 

Rice Ready

Pulao goes well with raita (plain youghart or mixed with a bit of salt & peper), and green salad (onion, cucumber & tomatoes).

 

TIPS:

 l         You can vary the amount of spices and skip the one you don’t have or  don’t like.

l         Take exact measures of the rice & water to avoid over-cooked sticky rice.

l         Each variety of rice needs varying amount of water and cooking time.   Try to buy the same brand of rice so you know how much time and water it takes to cook nice rice.

l         Stir very gently and only very few times to avoid breaking the rice.

l         Cook in a big pot that doesn’t fill more than 60% with all ingredients in it.