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


Lamb Biryani – southern style

My new role as unemployed is to be the house’s cook, and I am loving it!

Yesterday, I made lamb biryani, southern Indian style. The difference between this biryani and the Northern biryani, which is what we are usually accustomed to in Kuwait, is the use of shredded coconut in the base mixture.

The base for the biryani is super aromatic with lots of sautéed onions, chopped mint and parsley, a myriad of spices, yogurt and what sets this is apart from the other biryanis,  the shredded coconut.

Below is an image of the base slowly simmering, perfuming the entire kitchen.

To get this recipe, and if you’re a fan of Southern Indian cooking, I highly suggest you a get a copy of Savoring the Spice Coast of India by Maya Kaimal.