Thursday, June 11, 2015

Middle Eastern Cooking

It's been a strange season for us, post-earthquake, but we've tried to get back to some routines and things that feel "normal" for us.  So, a lower maintenance stop on our food tour for the Middle East, and without a lot of flowery writing, here are our food adventures from the Middle East.
I didn't get a ton of kid action shots this time, and honestly for some of it, they weren't interested in the cooking, so they just did the eating. :)

The one food I have always remembered from a trip to Egypt many years ago and that I used to cook with some frequency is koshary.
 There are a bunch of recipes out there with slight varieties, and given that it is a basic and simple street food, any of them would probably work.
This recipe from is easy to follow.  I actually modified one from Extending the Table, which is a great cookbook.  It actually wasn't in my updated version of the book.
Basically, for the sauce, I combined a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and about a cup of fresh cooked tomatoes I had pureed, about a teaspoon of sugar, cumin, and salt each.

For dessert, we made basbousa.  I had never had it before, but it turned out quite nicely.  I just used all-purpose flour instead of semolina since that is what we had, and it worked fine.  Also, I clearly let my simple syrup simmer too long, and once it cooled, it turned completely solid.  But, I just added a bit more water and remelted it, and it was fine.

Qatar is kind of a big deal in this part of the world, as it is a center for a lot of heartbreaking issues that affect Nepalis very dearly.  It is hard for me to celebrate it, but I know there are good people and good things there as well.  We did pray a lot, though, for justice to break through in this place.
We ended up not getting things together to pull off the food tour stop here, but here are a few links I had that we were going to try.
This link has a list of some key foods that you "must try" in Qatari cuisine, and here is a recipe for balaleet, an intriguing sounding breakfast in Qatar.

You have to get around to some good pita bread for this region.
While this isn't the most traditional version, we really like this recipe for flat bread.  It is a bit more Greek in style, I suppose, but we've made it a few times and know it comes out well.  I have always doubled the recipes, which makes for some time rolling and cooking, but then we have one batch to set aside for later or even freeze.
We also made Palestinian kufta (or kofta, I've seen it spelled either way).  We didn't have fresh mint, so we made it without, and it was still really flavorful.  For getting ground meat, it is not always easy to find mutton, so I made these with half beef and half pork, which is a bit laughable since it is probably the one meat you would see LEAST--if at all--in most of the Middle East, given that it is neither Kosher nor Halal!  But, the beef here isn't the best quality, and the pork mix makes it more palatable.  I would definitely recommend going another route for the sake of authenticity, if you have access to other meat options!  :)

And, topping it off, we made sufganyot!  This was definitely the favorite, and the boys got really into helping make these!  

It would seem that they are mainly a Hanukkah treat, but people, they are DONUTS!  How can you pass up the excuse to make donuts?!  All in the name of culture. :)
They didn't actually seal very well on many of them, so if we try these again, I'd look for tips for getting them to seal around the edge better to keep them more like a ball and keep the jam inside.