Flavours from Egypt
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Flavours from Egypt

Most of us find the preparation of home-made food satisfying and, in Egypt, I observed that many families find enjoyment in spending time together preparing abundant meals.

Egyptian cuisine is not as widespread as Lebanese, but offers great vegan and vegetarian dishes that are reliant on beans and pulses. Simple meals with earthy and intense flavours are prepared making use of fresh ingredients with the addition of spices such as coriander, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg.

I adapt my recipes to suit local eaters and a nation that is becoming very health conscious and aware of what they eat.

Ful Medames

Photos: George Aquilina and Stefan StafracePhotos: George Aquilina and Stefan Stafrace

You will need:
200g dried fava beans (or canned)
3 garlic cloves, crushed to make a paste
1 onion, ½ very finely chopped and the other half in thin slices
4 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek, soaked for half an hour
1 bay leaf
1/4 cumin seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Juice of ½ lemon
Grated rind of 1/4 lemon
5 tablespoons olive oil
A fist of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, with a few left aside to decorate
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: Serve with a Maltese soft ġbejna

Soak the beans overnight. Drain the water, rinse a few times, then place in a saucepan and immerse with water. Add the bay leaf.

Cook for about an hour until they soften. Remove from heat. Rinse and drain.

Fry the sliced onions in one tablespoon of olive oil. Remove from the pan and keep aside for garnish. Add the garlic paste and chopped onions and cook.

Roughly mash a quarter of the cooked beans and then mix them with the rest of the beans to have different textures.

Add the onions and garlic, paprika, cumin, fenugreek, lemon juice and stir gently over low heat.

Add the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Finish off by scattering the cooked sliced onions, chopped parsley, chopped hard boiled eggs and grated lemon zest. Add more olive oil if desired.

This dish is also delicious made with puy lentils instead of the fava beans. This is a gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian recipe.

Dukkah fortified with Aronia powder

You will need:
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
A pinch of black pepper
½ tablespoon aronia powder concentrate

Combine all the ingredients, except the aronia powder, in a bowl and mix with a large metal spoon. Dry roast the nuts, seeds and spices by placing them in an unoiled pan over high heat. Shake the pan and you will start to smell the aromatic fragrance of the spices as the natural nut oils activate and intensify the flavours. Do not allow the nuts to brown and remove from the pan after a few minutes. They will keep cooking if left in the hot pan.

Allow the mixture to cool, then add the aronia powder concentrate.

Place all the ingredients in a liquidiser or food processor and use the pulse button to grind the nuts, leaving the texture uneven. Some of the nuts will be finely ground and some others coarse. Do not over-mix. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Avoid cooking or heating aronia powder to preserve its nutritional value. This recipe is gluten-free, lactose-free, wheat-free, vegan and vegetarian.

Umm Ali with Maltese Bread

You will need:
1/2 Maltese small loaf
800ml milk
Half a cup chopped apricots
Half a cup chopped dates
Half a cup chopped almonds and pistachios, mixed
1/4 cup coconut
150g sugar or the equivalent in stevia (check the label for conversion)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
A few drops of vanilla essence
1/2 cup mascarpone mixed with 6 tbsp water
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cut the Maltese bread into small cubes and place in a large bowl. Add the nuts, dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and coconut.

Prepare an ovenproof dish with oven spray. Place the bread mix into the ovenproof dish.

Heat the milk and sugar (or stevia) and bring it to boil. Remove from the heat and pour the milk on top of the bread, nuts and dried fruit mix. Allow to rest for 15 minutes if you have time. Pour the mascarpone mixed with water and then sprinkle the icing sugar. Cook for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot or cold with vanilla ice cream or runny custard and scatter some flaked almonds. For a gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan recipe, replace Maltese bread with gluten-free bread and use coconut milk.

Lea’s Good Food Everyday is aired every Friday on TVM2 at 4.10pm and 9pm. You can follow Lea’s blog www.goodfoodeveryday.wordpress.com and find more of her recipes on www.timesofmalta.com.

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