If you have ever been to Egypt you would know Koshary and would know that this is a national dish, a fast-food formula mostly associated to the Egyptian working class. It’s common to find stalls selling it across cities.
Koshary is a festival of carbs, My parents always told me to never mix pasta with rice, or pasta and lentils or stuff like that. So the first time I got served koshary, my brain didn’t quite get the mix. Later on in my life, I found out that Dhal/rice/beans is again a mix of pulses and rice. So it was acceptable in many cultures to mix both…It’s a filling formula.
Koshary with sauces
Then our Egyptian neighbour in Qatar brought us a giant bowl of Koshary along with a homemade
Dukkah and a tomato sauce. Then suddenly things looked different and tasted better. And here I am making Koshary at home, on a Monday when I needed energy.
Koshary is a 100% vegetarian dish that is very self-sufficient, you basically need water and greens along with it and you are done and ready for a Marathon!
There are many ways of making Koshary, here is one that I was taught.
The secret to this recipe is to get organised so you can finish it in less than 1 hour, by cooking simultanously, having some ingredients already pre-soaked and above all: being very hungry!
Prep: 15 min – cooking: about 45 min.
1 large onion, cut thin in circles or lengthwise
Oil for frying
1 can of chopped tomato (about 500 g)
1 tbsp of tomato paste
1 tsp of sugar if tomatoes are sour
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 heaped tsp of ground cumin
1 tbsp of ground coriander powder
2 tbsp of olive oil mixed with vegetable oil
½ cup of brown lentils, pre-soaked
½ cup of canned chickpeas, wash and discard skin
For the rice and pasta
½ cup long grain rice, pre-soaked
½ cup of elbow pasta or macaroni
½ cup of angel hair pasta or broken vermicelli
Dukkah sauce (very basic)
2 tbsp of white vinegar
2 tbsp of olive oil and vegetable oil, mixed
½ cup of water
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 heaped tsp of cumin
1 tsp of ground coriander powder
1 tsp of cayenne or hot chilli flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
I used fresh tomatoes which I peeled but you may use canned ones.
To peel a batch of tomatoes, make a cross at the bottom of each tomato and immerse them in boiling water for a couple of minutes
In a saucepan, simmer the chopped tomatoes with tomato paste, paprika and sugar for about 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of water if needed. Stir occasionally. The sauce will start reducing.
In a skillet, make Tasha: fry crushed garlic in 2 tbsp of oil, cumin and coriander powder for about 1 min. Add this straight away to the tomato sauce and stir.
Cook the tomato sauce until reduced. Season to taste.
Onions cut finely and ready to fry
In a saucepan or skillet, deep-fry the onions over medium-high heat until slightly brown and deeply caramelized, looking slightly burned. Stir often in the last minutes drain and reserve the oil for the rest of the recipe. It will turn crispy if drained properly.
This step took me about 15 to 20 minutes. Simultaneously, you may cook the other things
Pulses, rice and pasta
In a saucepan, cook rice in boiling water until almost al-dente, set aside to drain.
In a large saucepan, put the pres-soaked lentils in water and bring it to a boil. I add a clove of garlic which I discard at the end of the cooking process. I also learned to season the pulses just about 10 min before they’re done so they cook through properly. This step took me about 30 min.
10 minutes before you finish cooking lentils, add the rice and carry on the cooking until all is cooked through and tender. Once done, fluff with a fork, and correct the seasoning with salt to taste.
In a separate saucepan, cook macaroni or elbow pasta in salted water until al-dente. Drain and set aside. This step takes about 15 min if water is already hot from a kettle.
In a skillet, heat oil and add uncooked vermicelli pasta, fry until golden brown. Set aside to drain.
This step takes about 3 to 4 minutes. Mix with the cooked elbow pasta or with the rice mixture. Both are valid.
Mixed macaroni with fried vermicelli. I mixed them just before draining pasta
In a skillet, heat the oil and fry in the crushed garlic, cumin, chilli or cayenne and coriander powder.
Frying garlic and spices
Give it a stir and cook the garlic until you see the colour changing, about 1 min. do not burn it thought!
Splash the vinegar and water and let simmer for a few minutes, set aside to cool down.
After the vinegar boils with garlic, add the tomato sauce and some salt and pepper to taste, then add the cumin. Bring the mix to boil on high heat, then lower heat after it boils.
Assembling and serving Koshary
To serve this dish, you can put it in layers or just all the pulses, pasta and rice together and top with tomato sauce. Sprinkle the caramelized onions, chickpeas and serve Dukkah and extra sauces (hot sauce, tomato sauce) on the side.
I also garnished my Koshary with chopped flat parsley leaves, totally optional.
Koshary can be eaten hot, warm or cold and it keeps well in the fridge for 2 good days.
The oil used to fry the onions does wonders in other recipes requesting oil. It has a very inviting onion taste..