January 25, 2014
I was married to an Egyptian when I was 25. It did not end well. But…I was able to travel to Alexandria as my marriage was ending. It was there that I was introduced to Koshary. I remember arriving in Alexandria after more than 20 or so hours of travel time and pulling up to the apartment house in my rag-tag-taggety taxi. The building was ancient, painted turquoise, crumbling. There was a huge atrium where everyone would gather outside of their apartments and socialize and watch the goings on. When I arrived, I would say it was a huge goings on. Tall, blonde and American, I was a site to behold for this congregation of elderly housewives. I was hushed into the apartment and I met my mother-in-law for the first time. Beautiful, jovial and not a word of English. We smiled and laughed and I used every one of my broken Arabic words to get myself settled in to this slice of life that was so very foreign to me.
Egypt has been in the news so very much lately, I think of her and wonder if she is still alive. We had three weeks together more than 25 years ago, and I still remember watching her prepare the meals. She had a simple way, not overly spicy, not fussy. I remember the morning she took me to the market to purchase cheese and fresh spices. It was this day that she prepared a simple Koshary for our luncheon.
There are many different ways to prepare this dish, some add pasta, chickpeas and hot chili sauce, but my mother-in-law made it this way and I make it just as she did all those years ago. I don’t have a recipe, she taught me to add handful of this and a pinch of that, never any measurements.
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1/4 cup red lentils
3 cups water
Squeeze of Fresh Lemon Juice
2 large onions
Canola Oil for Frying
1 Tbsp of Butter
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Salt
4 nice rounds of fresh ground pepper
In sauce pan, Add 1 Tbsp Butter and melt. Then add Cumin and Salt to the melted butter. Add 1 1/2 cups of rice to this butter mixture, turn the heat up and sauté the rice until it begins to brown and becomes fragrant. Add 3 cups of water to this pot after you have browned the rice and add the 1/4 cup of red lentils, at this time you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Boil this mixture with your lid 3/4 over the top and keep watching, it should take about 12 minutes to cook, add more water if necessary.
As you are waiting for the rice, slice the two onions and chop medium. Add the Canola oil to a separate fry pan, heat and add the onions. Saute the onions really until they are burnt, this is part of the charm of this dish. When the onions are quite browned to almost black, empty the pot of finished rice into the frying pan and sauté for an additional minute or two incorporating the onions into the rice and lentil mixture. Taste and add salt and pepper additional according to your taste. Serve at once.