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).
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.