Food is a major characteristic of Egyptian culture. Cooking and serving a delicious meal is a source of pride, a sign of generosity and even a status symbol. Every celebration in Egypt revolves around the dinner table and every occasion is marked by special recipes and traditions. The good thing is that many of these recipes are simple and convenient. So you can easily recreate these authentic recipes and experience Egyptian food at home – a perfect activity for a family staycation!
Aish El Saraya
The name of this recipe “Aish El Saraya” translates into Palace Bread. The word “Saraya” is actually Turkish in origin which confirms theories that this dish dates back to Ottoman times. That would also explain why there are similar dishes in other countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire such as Lebanon and Syria. Many thanks to my lovely friend Heba El Bannan from Bannan’s Cooking for sharing this amazing recipe.
- Vanilla extract
- Rose water
- Edible roses
- Spread the toast evenly on an oven tray and toast it in the oven until golden.
- Prepare the caramel: heat a pan, add 1 and a half cups of sugar and 1 cup of water and stir well until it is golden brown. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 50g of butter and stir continuously. Add 1/2 cup of cream until the mixture comes together.
- Prepare the “muhalabeya”: in a pot, add 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 cup of cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of rose water. Stir well on low heat until the mixture thickens.
- Pour the caramel onto the toast until it is all covered.
- Add the “muhalabeya” on top and chill in the fridge for at least two hours, or until the “muhalabeya” firms.
- Take the dish out from the fridge and add two cans of cream on top.
- Garnish with ground pistachios and edible rose petals.
More Egyptian desserts inspiration from Bannan’s Cooking
Egyptians are massive tea drinkers and as you would expect, they love dunking their biscuits. Thanks to Sarah Botros from Cakelicious for sharing this “yansoon” or aniseed biscuit recipe with us. Sarah bakes the most delicious cakes, biscuits and bread. I had the pleasure of trying out her “kahk” – another traditional biscuit associated with festivals – when I lived in the UK.
- Caster sugar
- Vegetable oil
- Self raising flour
- Baking powder
- Mix the dry ingredients: mix 150g of caster sugar, 320g of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of turmeric, 2 tablespoons of aniseed and a pinch of salt together. Beat them for 3 minutes.
- Mix the wet ingredients: in another bowl mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 200 ml of vegetable oil and 4 eggs. Beat them for 5 minutes.
- Combine all the ingredients together and beat the mixture for 10 minutes.
- Pour the batter into a baking dish and bake in the oven at 180 degrees until it cooks through.
- Get it out of the oven and leave it to cool before cutting into rectangular pieces.
- Return it to the oven for a few minutes to get a crunchier bite.
Feast your eyes on more baked goodies
Negresco Chicken Pasta Bake
Soha Darwish, Food Writer & Culinary Consultant, shares with us her recipe for Negresco, a delicious pasta bake, and her favourite childhood comfort food. When she started her career in the culinary field, she soon realised that unlike most pasta dishes, this recipe is not actually Italian. It is not even international, but rather Egyptian! After some online research, she believes that it has roots in Alexandria and is influenced by the Italian and Greek communities that lived there. This was definitely news to me and I have Soha to thank for that revelation!
- Bay leaves
- Cardamom pods
- Cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or gruyere)
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Boil a whole chicken: add an onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 cardamom pods, salt and pepper to the water in a large saucepan.
- Prepare the pasta: meanwhile, boil 1 packet of spaghetti or tagliatelle pasta.
- When the chicken is cooked, strain it and cut it into strips. Keep the chicken broth aside to make a thin béchamel sauce.
- Add milk, cream and flour to the chicken broth. Whisk it while cold until the flour dissolves.
- Season with salt and pepper, heat it up and simmer until it thickens. You can also add a handful of grated Parmesan cheese if you like.
- Lay half the pasta in a baking dish, then cover with the chicken and cheese and 3-4 ladles of the béchamel sauce.
- Lay the other half of the pasta and top with more cheese and pour over the remaining béchamel sauce.
- Bake in the oven until it is golden.
Check out more of Soha’s favourite childhood recipes
Sea Bass and Potatoes
For millennia, Egyptians have lived along the banks of the Nile River and the coastlines of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. So it is no surprise that seafood is a popular part of Egyptian cuisine. Tilapia is a much-loved freshwater fish, and we also enjoy saltwater fish such as sole and mullet. This mouthwatering seafood dish uses another saltwater fish – sea bass. I owe a big thank you to Sara Afifi from Mazaq, for sharing this recipe. She is a caterer based in the UK who specialises in French, British and Middle-Eastern fusion recipes.
- Sea bass fish
- Spring onions
- Lemon juice
- Prepare the potatoes: peel, wash and cut 4 large potatoes into thin slices and lay them in a baking tray.
- Prepare the sauce: chop a medium sized onion and saute it in a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup of cream and 2/3 cup of milk and wait for it to simmer. Add 1 cup of boiling water and salt and pepper to taste and stir.
- Pour the sauce over the potatoes and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees.
- Lay 3 medium sized sea bass fish over the potatoes and cut slices along the length of the fish.
- Drizzle the sauce with a spoon over and inside the sliced fish.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper onto the fish and bake in the oven for another 20-30 minutes.
- When the fish is cooked, garnish the dish with chopped spring onions, parsley and lemon juice.
Follow Mazaq for more authentic Egyptian recipes
Fattah with Lamb
My mummy taught me this “fattah” recipe before I moved abroad for a few years, knowing that I would like to cook Egyptian food at home for my family. It is a tradition to cook it on religious festivals such as Christmas Eve, Easter Day and on the first day of Eid El Adha. Although the different components of the recipe are fairly simple to make, it might be a bit overwhelming when it is time to assemble the dish. I still find myself ringing up my mum to make sure I get it right!
- Bay leaves
- Cardamom pods
- Short grain rice
- Pita bread
- Tomato sauce (optional)
- Cook the lamb: cut the lamb into cubes and add to a saucepan of water. Add an onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 cardamom pods, salt and pepper. Boil until the meat goes tender. Sieve the meat and set the broth aside.
- Cook the rice: wash and drain the rice. Add to a saucepan with butter and then add boiling water and salt. When it boils, lower the heat and leave to cook.
- Prepare the pita bread: cut the pita bread into little squares and place on a baking tray in the oven until they turn golden brown.
- Brown the lamb cubes in butter in a frying pan and set aside.
- In the serving dish, layer the pita bread and add 1-2 ladles of broth. Layer the rice and lamb on top.
- Chop the garlic finely and saute in a frying pan with butter, salt and pepper. When it turns golden brown, add a splash of vinegar and a ladle of broth. Drizzle on top of the dish just before serving.
- You can also add some tomato sauce in a bowl or on top of the dish.
If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for another one in a few weeks’ time with even more Egyptian food at home. But this time the recipes will be vegetarian / vegan!