Tuesday, 1 March 2011

fusion cuisine

Having watched coverage of the Middle East protests continuously, my mother was curious about the mention of an Egyptian national dish: spaghetti-rice as it was called from time to time. I thought it was quite interesting to pick up some cultural tidbits on the side, especial considering the open pledge drive for pizzas for the workers’ sit-in in Wisconsin in the States. Benefactors from Egypt donated $1000 worth of it to feed the movement. After a little research, we found the simple dish was kushari and a real staple of day-to-day life. I experimented and improvised a bit. The presentation is aesthetically not too pleasing but it was easy to make and boasts a lot of potential.
The ingredients that I chose were based on cooking time (the particular kind of pasta and rice could be set to boil and be done in the same time) but I am sure a lot of other variations, depending also on what is at hand, would be equally as good.

1 cup (about 100 grams) of Basmati Rice
1 ⅓ cup Penne Pasta
1 cup diced tomatoes (I tried Rotel)
1 ⅓ cup lentil soup (drained)
Hot Madras Curry Power
Ground Cumin
Garlic (clove)
I started the rice first, which required about twelve minutes on low boil, but started the pasta, with a bit of salt and olive oil at the same time. Then, removing the extra liquid from the tomatoes and lentils—dried lentils surely would have been better but take an hour to prepare and the bits of onion and peppers in the soup gave the dish some added texture, and as I vegetarian, I was sure to get lentils without Bauchspeck (pork belly) which is a challenge to find but I am sure kushari is great with lamb or chicken (schawarma it’s called, like Dรถner meat) as well—I added the spices, generously, and chopped garlic with the mix in a sauce pan, letting that simmer throughout. Everything was pretty much ready at once. Gently, I mixed together the rice and the pasta and then smothered it with the tomato and lentil sauce. It turned out to be really delicious, and I think it might come out better with the crunch of some caramelized onions or those crunchy, French-fried onions that have their only foothold in green-bean casserole, and also topped with garbanzo beans (chickpeas). One is meant I think, however, to go with whichever of the stock items one has in his pantry. This was a good meal for two, and though so much of my cooking is a one-off affair, I think I might try making this again.