About Besma at Life Demiraged

Besma traveled the world then got married and gave birth twice, each time to a boy. She has now decided it was the right time to go public with her writing. Her next goal is to get published.

The Johnny: an Indian street food wrap

So I was watching a food show about Indian street food, which featured this very inspiring versatile chapati wrap.  What makes it unique is the beaten egg cooked with a chapati on top.  The result is a chapati with a velvety thin omelette stuck to one side.  The chapati is then filled egg side in with a cooked thick tomato, onion and cut up chicken mixture and rolled.  I asked an Indian friend about the wrap and she said that it was called a Johnny.  She didn’t know why.

And here’s my version. Continue reading

Food history: Kushari!

Who decided to add pasta to rice and lentils?

The origin of this Egyptian claimed dish has always intrigued me.  Even its name has no roots in the Arabic language.  The answer came to me while reading Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors (an excellent book by the way) about the history of Indian cuisine. The book mentions a simple classic Indian dish of rice and lentils topped with fried onions called Kitchari.  Kitchari? Kushari?  The names sound similar.  And the ingredients are similar.  This cannot be a coincidence.

Anyone that knows anything about Indian food knows that its influence impacts strongly wherever it hits.  So my guess was that the dish must have been introduced by Indian soldiers during the time at which Egypt was a British protectorate.   That was almost obvious.  Especially that the dish is eaten with a fiery sauce made with chilies and vinegar – think chutney.

But what about the pasta?  How did pasta find itself into the dish?

So after asking around, a friend sends me an article about the history and origin of Kushari.  Happens to be that the Italian community that lived in Egypt at that time adopted the dish and added their favorite food to it – pasta!

So there you have it.  A truly fusion dish.

Image via Miss Anthropists Kitchen – she also includes a great recipe for Kushari

Open-face Musakhan sandwich

You know when you try something for the first time and you are completely mesmerized by the new and wonderful flavors you are experiencing? That’s how it was for me the first time I had Musakhan. Prepared in the traditional way by a Palestinian woman, every Musakhan I had after that was just not the same. So over two decades after, I finally decided that I had to make it myself.

So I was watching the funny Bobby Chinn on his Middle Eastern food tour, and during his visit to Palestine, he visited a family that prepared him Musakhan. They had baked the special traditional bread, Taboon, for the dish. A quite thick and rustic unleavened bread that was baked directly on hot surface in an open flame oven. And this made perfect sense, this type of bread would soak up all the juicy liquids and still hold its form. So the bread was my first quest. In the old Jabriyah Co-op the traditional bakery sells Iranian bread that I guess would be somewhat similar to the Taboon bread I saw on TV. It’s thicker than the round Tanoor bread and oval in shape. So if you’re planning to make this dish head to the old Jabriyah Co-op and get two of those breads.Next was to find the recipe. Online I found Dima’s Kitchen. She has three versions of the dish, one of which was similar to the one I saw on TV – sandwich style with the chicken pulled. Of course I experimented and modified, so here it is.

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Old-fashioned Apple Pie

photo credit: Noaf Nackshabandi

If you like a no non-sense apple pie, then this is the recipe you want.  A thick flaky pastry encases a generous amount of apple filling that becomes slightly ‘jammy’ after baking.  We use a little bit of sugar here since we want a pie that is not overly sweet.  Besides, apples have enough natural sugars, which condense and give the pie a natural sweetness.  And, by no means waste time trying to make the top crust look perfect.  Unevenness and imperfections will give the pie a rustic look, which is very becoming of this old-fashioned dessert.  If you still feel you need to fuss about something, then go out and find yourself a presentable deep 9-inch pie pan. Continue reading

French onion soup

Ever since I was a little girl, French onion soup has been a favorite. So when I fell upon the treasure of a cookbook (my mother’s 70’s edition of the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook) when still young and learning to cook, naturally the first soup that I would attempt was the French onion soup. Simple and basic, it’s easy to make and tastes great. Of course, as I learned more about cuisine, I began to add French herbs, some wine (de-alcoholised in our case) and proper gruyere cheese. This weekend, I made it for my visiting sisters that have been craving it for a while. But this time, I added a new ingredient that I learned of from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. The addition of egg yolks gave the soup a new dimension and a subtle creaminess that we loved. Thank you Elizabeth! And now for the soup:

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Stuffed Prunes by Guest Blogger

I am taking a break and allowing my Guest Blogger (who also happens to be my sister) to take over today…

During Ramadan, one of the local TV channels presented a daily show on which celebrities were invited to cook a dish while being interviewed.  It was interesting observing people you would normally see performing their celebrity-yielding professions handling food.  But I could hardly claim any of the dishes that were presented during the month-long show as inspiring.  Only one dish intrigued me.  Stuffed prunes presented by Nabila Al-Anjari.  While watching the show, I wasn’t able to write down the recipe or take note of the cooking method.  Fortunately, a dear friend happens to know the celebrity guest and I asked her to kindly get the recipe.  The request was passed on, and I got a surprise call from Continue reading