First mentioned by one of the greatest travellers of all time, Ibn Battuta in his book A gift to those who contemplate the wonders of cities and the marvels of travelling, koshari is known today as the dish to eat when visiting Egypt. Egypt is dotted with various carts selling this carb-y meal. It is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word Khichdi meaning a dish with rice and legumes.
This is one of the most famous Egyptian dishes, made of pasta, rice and lentils, topped with fried onions and a spicy tomato sauce. This dish is often considered a poor man’s dish, as the ingredients are cheap and calorific, making it filling, but this does not diminish any of its deliciousness. A garlic and vinegar dressing is also drizzled on the dish, this addition is really important for the balance of flavours as it cuts through the richness of the carbs and tomato sauce.
All of the components are simple to make, basically requiring you to be able to boil things, but there is a trick to making the onions super crispy without burning them. I coat the onions with flour before frying them and this makes all the difference! Another key tip is to taste the sauce and dressing as you make it as everyone likes their sauce differently, some like it spicier than others or more acidic, so use the recipe as a guideline and make the sauce to taste.
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1-1/2 cup chickpeas (optional)
- 1 cup short grain rice, washed and soaked for an hour
- ½ cup vermicelli
- 250g elbow pasta
- 3 large onions, sliced
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 stock cube
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1kg tomatoes, blended with 1 tsp sugar
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- Cayenne powder to taste
- 1 bay leaf
Lemon garlic dressing (dukkah)
- 2 cups water
- 5 cloves garlic, made into a paste in a mortar and pestle
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp white vinegar (to taste)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
- Chilli paste (to taste)
1.Wash the lentils and fill a pot with water, add the lentils. Cook the lentils until soft. Add the chickpeas for 7-10 minutes to heat through. Drain, saving the water to cook the rice in.
2.Coat the onions in flour, shake off excess flour and fry in sunflower or vegetable oil. Fry until crispy. This will be the topping for your dish. Reserve oil.
3.In a large pot, take some of the onion oil and fry the vermicelli until golden brown. Add the rice and make sure it is coated with the oil. Use the reserved lentil water. You need two cups of liquid, so use as much lentil water as you have and then top up with water. Add the stock cube and salt to the rice water and stir. Lower the heat once the water boils and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed.
4.While the rice cooks, make the tomato sauce. Use some of the onion oil and sauté the garlic. Add all the spices and bay leave and cook for 2 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and cook the sauce until it reduces and thickens. Taste and adjust the spices to taste.
5.To make the dukkah, mix all the ingredients together in a small pot and bring to a boil to allow the flavours to combine. Leave to cool before serving.
6.To serve, you can either make a big platter or individual bowls. Either way, the steps are the same. Mix the rice with ½ the lentils, and put it on the plate first, add pasta, tomato sauce, fried onions, then the rest of the lentils and the chickpeas and drizzle with dukkah Enjoy!