A Taste of Cairo
All our plans for 2020 have been put on hold, so how about a breakfast you can very easily put together (even if you have zero cooking skills). Not just any breakfast but one that will take you to a balcony in downtown Cairo overlooking a busy square with street peddlers selling fresh produce calling out their prices, motorcycles and cars revving by, and a man on a bicycle carrying a board of freshly-ironed clothes with one arm above his head.
The most traditional (and cheap) Egyptian breakfast is Foul Madammas (stewed fava beans) and Tamiya (which is falafel made of fava beans instead of the typical hummus ones you get in the U.S.), but, today, we are going for something that requires much less time and skill. A meal you can put together in minutes with easy to find ingredients, think of it as the Egyptian equivalent to scrambled eggs or peanut butter toast.
HONEY & FRESH CREAM
What you’ll need:
Honey (You can use any type you like, but I would recommend wildflower or orange blossom honey, which are the types most widely found in Egypt.)
Fresh cream (You can use the store brought one labeled “breakfast cream spread” or you can even make your own.)
To make this you just fill a small bowl with honey and add a thin layer of fresh cream. If you are interested in making your own fresh cream, it’s quite simple. You put a cup of whole fat milk in a small pot and bring it to a boil (which also works to pasteurize raw milk), you then need to leave it in the fridge to cool down before you can remove a layer of fresh cream which you will find floating on top. Making fresh cream at home works much better with raw milk but you can use store-bought too.
MOLASSES & TAHINI
What you’ll need:
Molasses (Make sure it’s the classic, made purely from refined sugarcane, and not carob or pomegranate molasses as they are very different in taste.)
Tahini (raw tahini and not the ready-mixed dip)
It’s a sweet treat; yes, I know it sounds strange as we all know tahini as a savory dip that accompanies Mediterranean food. It’s actually known jokingly as the Egyptian Nutella so think of it as your organic alternative. It’s as easy as the honey & fresh cream where you just mix the two ingredients, the only trick is finding the balance you prefer. I like to think of it in chocolate preferences, so if you are a dark chocolate type of person I would advise a 3:1 ratio of tahini to molasses, a milk chocolate person might prefer a 50/50 mix, and a white chocolate person’s best guess would be a 3:1 molasses to tahini. If you are unsure which combination you would prefer I suggest adding the least amount of tahini to start and just tasting and adjusting from there.
FETA & TOMATO
What you’ll need:
Dried mint (optional)
Again, just a mixing game, this time with just a little cutting added. First, you will need to dice your tomatoes, then cut up your feta into cubes or just use crumbled feta. You then just place your feta and tomatoes in a bowl, mix them together, and add a drizzle of corn oil; no, not olive oil. This is the traditional Egyptian way, trust me. You can then add a sprinkle of dried mint if you have any on hand.
BASTURMA SCRAMBLED EGGS
What you’ll need:
Basturma/Pastrami (You should preferably use basturma, which is air-dried cured beef heavily seasoned with fenugreek and cumin, but you can substitute it with pastrami as it’s easier to find and also saves you from smelling like fenugreek for days. If you really want to use basturma it can be easily found in Mediterranean specialty stores.)
Butter/Ghee (preferably not salted if you decide to use basturma as it’s very salty)
So for this, you will actually have to turn the stove on. To start, heat up a pan on high heat with a good amount of ghee/butter (and I mean good; like a full tablespoon or two), add basturma/pastrami strips and fry until its delicious aromatic smell starts to fill the air and it starts to crisp. You then add your beaten eggs, season to taste, and scramble until the eggs are fully cooked.
You should eat all this with Arabian/Lebanese pita bread (not the thick Greek one but the thinner one you can open in two). I would advise tearing a three-finger sized piece of pita, making it into a shovel shape (what we call “Wedn el Ota,” which translates to “cat’s ear” in English) and alternately scooping up all the goodies like this.
With all this, you would traditionally drink a cup of heavily sweetened black tea in a glass cup/mug. There are two ways to make this, the easy way and the traditional way, so here are both.
SWEETENED BLACK TEA
The easy way:
Simply place a tea bag (I prefer Ahmad tea for its stronger taste) in a glass cup/mug, boil water and pour over, let it rest for 30 seconds to a minute, and remove the tea bag. Add sugar to taste, I would recommend adding two teaspoons.
The traditional way:
For this, you will need a stovetop teapot and loosely ground black tea. You will need to add your water to the teapot and then, for every cup, you will add one teaspoon of tea and two teaspoons of sugar. Bring them to a boil and let them boil for three minutes, then pour into glass mugs and enjoy!
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