Chicken Curry Better Than My Mama’s

Yum in My Tum

Yum in My Tum

It has happened. I finally made something better than my mama makes it! I honestly rarely rarely cook Egyptian/Arab food because it never turns out as delicious as my mom’s versions, for 2 reasons 1) mom likes to add things in secret and 2) I try to make things healthier and then people comment about how my mom’s is better :(.

Today, however, I had a can of coconut milk on hand, because I’m planning on making oven-baked coconut crusted chicken strips (another recipe, for another day) and this in itself inspired a different take on chicken curry than my mama’s. You see, mama doesn’t use coconut milk, but rather boils some shredded coconut and then uses that milky-water in her recipe.

Mom’s version is simply sauteing garlic, onion and ginger in oil, adding curry powder and frying it as well, then adding water/stock + coconut watery-milk and letting it simmer away for a bit until the onion is completely dissolved. At this point, she adds either raw chicken cubes or chicken that she’s browned already (she alternates methods), cooks for a bit, then adds cashews and raisins, simmers some more till the raisins are plump and adds some fresh coriander and lime juice as a finishing touch.

Now for my version,

Better Than Mama’s Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • Chicken breasts, 4 or 5 cut into bite size cubes
  • Oil, enough to coat the bottom of your pot
  • Curry powder, about 6 tablespoons
  • Onion, one small, diced
  • Garlic, 3 cloves, diced
  • Ginger*, fresh, a knob about the size of your thumb, grated     *top tip, when you buy ginger use whatever you want then freeze the rest, it stores very well
  • Hot pepper, as much as you like, diced
  • Chilli powder, to taste (I recommend being liberal, Indian food is supposed to be spicy!)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Paprika, I just sprinkled some in
  • Garam Masala, maybe about a teaspoon
  • Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon (I just sprinkled some in…twice)
  • Water
  • Coconut Milk, 3/4 cup
  • Yogurt, one small container, or about 1/2 cup
  • Cashews, as much as you like (I added a large handful) – optional
  • Raisins, as much as you like (I added a large handful) – optional
  • Lime, juice of 1/2
  • Coriander, fresh & chopped as a garnish

Method: Saute the onion & ginger in the oil till the onions are translucent, then add the garlic & hot pepper and continue to saute a few minutes. Add half of the curry powder, and rest of your spices and saute an additional few minutes. Add some water, enough to cover the bottom of the pot, about an inch and half, and simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes, until the onions have pretty much dissolved. Add coconut milk, yogurt and chicken, and continue to simmer on med-low heat. In a separate dry pan, heat up the rest of the curry powder, stirring constantly, until it starts to smoke a bit, then add it to the simmering chicken. Once the chicken is cooked and tender, add the cashews and raisins and continue to cook for 5 minutes. If at any point, you need to add some water, do so, to reach the sauce consistency that you like. Once you turn off the heat, add lime juice and taste to adjust chili/salt/pepper as need. Garnish with coriander and serve with basmati rice and yogurt salad.

Note: My mom also always adds cubed up potatoes to her curry, but I thought the dish had enough carbs. They weren’t missed.

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Bean Salad and Turning into My Mother

I used to measure things, I really did. I used to be precise and freak out when my mom would just add things like salt, willy nilly, to recipes. But then, magically, something happened. I suppose that something was learning how to cook, lol. And tasting as you go, that’s a wonderful thing too.

In honour of my becoming my mama transformation, a bean salad kinda recipe. It has fast become a staple in my 4 month old household (my marriage is getting all grown up and everything!) and so I’m sharing it with you, in case you were desperately looking for a non-recipe, recipe. But in all honesty, it’s actually delicious and cuts the craving for Zehr’s (Canadian Supermarket) Deli bean salad, which I miss so very, very much.

 

The…Recipe?

  • 1 can of red kidney beans (mostly because I can’t find dry kidney beans in Egypt)
  • 1.5 cups* dried hummus/chickpeas (or another can), soaked overnight    *not gonna lie, I just poured half the bag into a bowl, guessing 1 cup
  • 1.5 cups dried white beans (or another can), soaked overnight
  • Honey, just pour some in and taste to get desired sweetness level
  • Vinegar (I used standard white, but apple cider would be delicious too), about 1/3 cup…add more if you like more acidity
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup..to start…you see a pattern here, don’t you?
  • A stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, 1/4 cup or so – optional
  • Dried Basil, 1 teaspoon (or more, or less….) – optional
  • Salt, to taste, about 1-2 teaspoons
  • Pepper, to taste

So basically, you boil the beans which had been soaked overnight until tender (or just use canned), and then throw everything in the recipe in a big bowl, and taste till you’re satisfied (but keep in mind that the flavors will be a bit dull because they haven’t marinated yet). Let marinate in a fridge overnight, or at least 4 hours, for the beans to soak up all the flavor. When you’re ready to eat, have a little taste again and adjust seasoning as needed.

Here’s a picture of the leftovers in a jar. I have quickly learned that being a two-person household means containers of any kind are the most prized items in your kitchen. The hubs had the leftovers for breakfast the next day (and we had the actual salad for lunch a few hours after it was made).

photo (2)

So there you go, you’re welcome, or sorry, based on your attitude towards non-recipe recipes. I promise I’ll put an effort into being more precise in the future.

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Guest Post: Chicken & Rice Casserole

My dearest friend Salma whatsapped me a message of her delicious looking lunch while I sat starving at my office desk this afternoon. As a result, I convinced her (didn’t take much, she’s a foodie too :D), to contribute to this blog. Yay me! Yay you! Yay Salma! Lol. Without further ado, her guest post. Though I guess it isn’t much of a guest post because she’s an official author here now too. Hmmm. Anyhow, you know what I mean.

*Over to Salma*

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Honey Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

mmmmm, cookies

Mmmmm, cookies

My job can be pretty random, from planning weddings, to wondering how to package honey from our farm. No matter the work pressures, however, I always de-stress by baking.

Considering we had a batch of our honey from our own bees just delivered at home, my dad gave me the task of using up our old ‘inferior’ honey. And it really is inferior, especially considering most store bought honey isn’t even honey at all – but that’s a story for another day.

Also on hand were four canisters of oats, back from when my brother was on a new found health kick. And so this recipe, which is a combination of google searches, as well as my staple oatmeal cookie recipe- healthified- was born. It’s not chocolate chip cookie divine, but it’s a cross between an oatmeal cookie and a granola bar, with just the right touch of sweetness.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons room temperature butter*
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanillla
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup wholewheat or all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or any other nut (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

*Feel free to substitute half or all the butter with applesauce or greek yogurt, but, as a nutritionist, I have firm opinions that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little bit of butter in your life. Butter is natural and fat is a necessary component in your diet.

Recipe

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2) Using a mixer (or, if you’re up for the workout, a spoon), thoroughly mix together the honey, sugar, egg, vanilla and butter.

3) Sift the dry ingredients (save for the nuts and raisins) together in a bowl and then mix by hand into the honey/egg mixture, until well blended.

4) Add in the nuts and raisins

5) Drop tablespoon fulls of the batter (it will be more batter like than dough) onto a cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly browned. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy :).

Note: If you find the batter is too loose, you can place it in the fridge for half an hour or so to firm up slightly, but do realize this is a looser dough than what you may be used to from traditional cookies. Also, keep in mind that when cookies cool, they firm up slightly. It is better to underbake a cookie and realize after cooling that it is not firm enough, then rebake for a few minutes, than to overbake from the get go.

 

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The Secret to Mama’s Koussa Bechamel (Zucchini Bechamel)

For some reason, my husband doesn’t like zucchini in any form, but that isn’t really saying much, since he’s probably the only person alive who doesn’t like burgers. Burgers! Big, juicy, smothered in cheese burgers! So. Weird (but I love him to bits!).  Anyway, back to zucchini, which I’m cool with, especially in its scrumptious bechamel form. Knowing my husband’s disdain for the vegetable, and knowing he’s away for two weeks, my mom made me koussa bechamel yesterday. Lucky you, and thinking of my promise to actually post on this blog, I actually paid attention!

Now, I know for most Egyptian families this is a standard recipe, but you see, my mama has a few secrets up her sleeve. Without further ado (mostly because I’m tired and have work tomorrow), here’s the recipe-ish. Ish because, like every good Egyptian mama, my mom doesn’t do standard recipes. Or measuring. And she likes to add things when I’m not looking (really).

Ingredients:

  • Cooked ground beef (maybe a 1/4 Kg? Cooked with onions, buharat (arabic spice mix), salt & pepper). Whatever your standard recipe is, really.
  • Oil – enough to generously coat the bottom of your pot
  • 2 grains of Mastic (aka Arabic Gum). Mama added this when I left the kitchen momentarily, but lucky you, I smelled it!
  • 1 Kg Zucchini
  • A cancer cube aka stock cube, or real stock if you have it
  • Water
  • Salt and Pepper- to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • Hot water (just boil a kettle and leave it on standby)

For the Bechamel

  • 3-4 tabelspoons-ish oil
  • 3 heaping tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups-ish milk
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • reserved Zucchini juice (see recipe)

And now the non-recipe recipe. First of all wash your zucchini well, then wash it again – those suckers tend to just love sand. Then, for some reason (which my mom has never explained), you take a serrated knife and scrape off most of the skin.

Scored Zucchini

Scored Zucchini

Cut the zucchini on the diagonal into disks because mama says it makes it pretty (but really it kinda disintegrates, so this is a lie, but you don’t argue with the mama!).

On high heat, coat your pan with oil and add your mastic grains. Fry up your zucchini till it’s fork tender (it’ll release a lot of juices). Partway through add your salt, pepper and mint.

Still Waiting for it to Get Fork Tender

Still Waiting for it to Get Fork Tender

When it has achieved the desired tenderness, which really is an individual thing, add boiling water to cover the zucchini by an inch or so, along with the maggie cube. Cover and lower the heat, letting it boil away. When the pot is almost dry, with maybe 1/4 -1/2 cup of liquid left, you’e done.

Now, using a slotted spoon, take half of the zucchini out of the pot and layer it in a casserole dish, being sure to drain it quite well. Layer the ground meat on top then add the rest of the zucchini on top of that. You should be left with some reserved green liquid in the pot. This is where the secret is, zucchini goodness in condensed form, to go into the bechamel. If you’re my mom and you hate doing extra dishes, you pour that liquid into the lid of the pot you’re currently using.

Secret Liquid

Secret Liquid

It’s becahmel time. Add the 3-4 tablespoons of oil to the pot, and add the flour to make a roux. Stir it around a few minutes to cook out that raw flour taste. Next, add your salt, pepper, reserved zucchini juice & milk (gradually) and whisk like hell. Keep whisking until it starts to bubble, then you’re done.

Ladle 80% off this precious bechamel onto the surface of your zucchini. Crack the egg into the remaining 20%, and whisk it in, before topping your casserole off with this good-browning insurance layer.

Bake at 350 degrees F until it’s nicely browned on top. Let it cool slightly before delving in. Best served with rice and some salad.

I really wanted to take a picture of the final product, but my bro kind of ate half of it before I got the chance. This will probably be a recurring theme on this blog. Ah well, it’s not really a pretty dish anyway, but it’s yummy in your tummy.

 

 

 

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A Revival of the Blog

In recent months I keep getting notifications for comments on old posts of this blog and I’m not sure why!

Just as a back story, I created these series of blog posts for a project in one of my classes while I was studying Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph. That was back in 2011 – I have since graduated, moved to Egypt and gotten married!

The recent comments and followers have inspired me to start making new posts. I’ll keep the name, though I likely won’t stick to breakfast foods. I imagine sharing the recipes I test and create for myself and my husband :). They may not all be Egyptian or Middle Eastern inspired, but it’s a way for me to chronicle my adventures in the kitchen.

 

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Fool

No, I’m not calling you names. Fool is probably the  national dish of Egypt. It’s a spiced fava bean mash that is extremely filling, dirt cheap and enjoyed by all strata of society.

Fool Cart

It’s also the ultimate street food, easily found served up by a fool cart vendor all-throughout Egypt. This is a breakfast food that I still eat about 5 days a week simply because it is so easy to prepare and so filling; not surprising because of the its high fibre content.

The dish can be traced back to the Pharaonic period, with beans being found in tombs as far back as the 12th dynasty. In fact, Ramses the 2nd is said to have made a large offering of fava beans to the God of the Nile.

I’ve heard it being referred to as a “bean dip” by visitors to Egypt, so I suppose one could eat it in that sense, but the only thing I can think of dipping into it is pita bread. Sometimes I use my bread as a scoop to eat the beans, and sometimes I just stuff a pita (mainly when I’m on the go). My Canadian sister-in-law on the other hand likes to eat it with a side of maple syrup, baked bean style.

One thing is for sure, whether it’s ladled from in a tin canister in Egypt, or made in a jiffy at home, fool is one dish that I can’t live without.

A bowl of foul

Although you can make it from the dried beans, my family has not done that in years as it’s simply more convenient to make it from canned beans. The best brand I have found so far in Canada is the Walmart brand sold in Walmart superstores. You’ll find it in the canned beans section. There’s endless ways to change up a bowl of foul, so here’s a basic recipe which you can play around with:

  • 1 can of Fava Beans (Walmart brand is best)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt (to taste)
Simply empty the can into a small pot, liquid and all, on a medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mash the beans with a fork or potatoe-masher until you reach the consistency desired; some people prefer a chunkier foul, I like mine nice and smooth.  Heat through and serve with pita.
Change It Up: Stir in some Tahini, saute some onions before adding the beans, add some chopped tomatoes or some parsley, mash a boiled egg into the foul (or poach an egg on the mash). There are endless ways to eat foul!
Did You Know: Cumin relieves gas and bloating and so, aside from the smokey flavour it provides, the spice is often used in Middle-Eastern cooking to fend off any adverse affects of consuming a little too much fibre at once :). It’s also used when making stuffed cabbage for the very same reason. Smart!

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