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MENA Cooking Club: Egypt

egyptian red lentil soup
This month MENA Cooking Club members were set the challenge to cook like an Egyptian!

Egyptian cuisine is largely vegetarian based as the country's fertile nile valley and delta produce large quantities of high quality legumes and vegetable crops. Bread is also a big part of the cuisine much like it is in Algeria but instead of baguettes or kesra the local bread known as Eish Masri - a thick form of pita made from corn/maize is used like a utensil to scoop up dishes such as full medames - mashed fava beans.

I've always wanted to visit egypt and by exploring just a fraction of the cuisine this month as only increased that desire.

The dishes assigned by Amira - Arabian Mama were red lentil soup, messa'aa (egyptian take on greek moussaka) and the famous umm ali (pastry/bread and nut pudding)
egyptian moussaka - messa'aa recipe
lemon and cardamom oum ali bread pudding recipe
As you can see, I tried my hand at all dishes masha'Allah.

The messa'aa / moussaka dish I cooked was also a vegetarian dish without meat or bechamel sauce like the greek version although a lot of egyptian recipes call for those components, I wanted a different experience and it was a tasty one. Much like a veggie stew which i added a sliced green chilli to, for more heat! recipe i followed can be found here.

Quite surprisingly I've never eaten or baked any form of bread pudding before like British Bread & Butter Pudding not that i can recall. Oum ali is usually made in 1 big dish using puff pastry or croissants as the bread and also includes milk, butter, nuts, raisins and sometimes dessicated coconut and is topped with whipped cream that forms a skin not too dissimilar to creme brulee in looks not crunch. I adjusted this recipe slightly making mine into individual portions using ramekins plus half fill a bread tin and used lemon infused raisins and  a sprinkle of cardamom on top of the nuts. It was both warm and comforting, an ideal pudding for these colder nights and days here in the UK but I wasn't too fond of the raisins that had soaked up the milk, for me raisins should always be dry and chewy which is impossible in a dessert like this.

No guessing what my absolute favourite was? Yes the red lentil soup - it was spiced exactly to my liking with plenty of cumin and coriander. Pureeing the soup gave it a creamy texture as I'm not much of a fan of the texture of lentils in soup unless it's Algerian lentil soup / shorba addass - yes this month you have discovered I am quite the picky eater.
The topping of crispy fried onions gave the soup that extra dimension both in terms of texture and flavour and it  just goes to show fried onions aren't only for Burgers or Biryani. I adore a bowl of heartwarming soup this one is my new go-to vegetarian soup and i encourage you to try it for yourself.

Check out how everyone else got on with cooking egyptian dishes  - here

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Waitrose 
Serves: 3-4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
UK Cup = 250ml


2 onions
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
150 grams split red lentils
1 organic vegetable stock cube 
4 cups / 1 litre boiled water

to serve

lemon juice


  1. Chop one of the onions and slice the other. In a saucepan, fry the chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft and just beginning to colour. Stir in the garlic, cumin and coriander; when the aroma rises, add the chopped carrot, lentils, stock cube and water. Bring to the boil and remove any scum that appears on the surface. Simmer for 30–40 minutes, or until the lentils have disintegrated.
  2. Warm the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the sliced onion, cover and cook over a low heat for 15–20 minutes until soft. Take off the lid, turn up the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until dark, crisp and caramelised. Set aside.
  3. Puree soup using a stick blender or by pouring contents into a blender then Taste and season the soup. Add water if it needs thinning down – it should be the consistency of single cream. Garnish each bowl with some of the caramelised onions and serve with wedges of lemon for people to squeeze lemon juice into their own bowl if desired. 

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At 10 October 2014 at 10:05 , Blogger Maryam Mohammed said...

Masha Allah you made all the dishes! That must have been one delicious meal :)

At 10 October 2014 at 11:03 , Blogger Noor said...

Everything looks amazing over here. Red lentil soup is also one of my favorite dishes.

At 10 October 2014 at 11:36 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

I didn't make them all on the same day! But i agree they would be delicious served as a 3 course meal.

At 10 October 2014 at 11:39 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

Jazaak Allahu khair noor next up persia/iran you must be excited? As i know you luv their cuisine

At 10 October 2014 at 13:38 , Blogger Carrie Rashid said...

Wow, you made everything! Soup looks delicious, and I love the burnished tops of the bread pudding.

At 10 October 2014 at 15:45 , Blogger madiha Shafi said...

MashAllah great looking dishes , i also wanted to make Oum Ali but i wanted to go savory dish route:) JazakAllah for stopping by my blog!!

At 10 October 2014 at 18:29 , Blogger sneha datar said...

The spread of food on your blog looks delicious and inviting. Can I share this meal with you.

At 10 October 2014 at 20:22 , Blogger Heni El G said...

Salaamu aleikoum, Machallah you really did a great job Asmaa with 3 dishes! I'm sure your family enjoyed them all!

At 11 October 2014 at 08:59 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

Thank you Carrie & yes the burnished tops on umm ali made me think of creme brulee!

At 11 October 2014 at 09:02 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

wa iyaki madiha ♡

At 11 October 2014 at 09:04 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

thank you and yes your welcome sneha (i ♡ the meaning of your name)

At 11 October 2014 at 09:05 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

wa alaykum salaam heni, jazaak Allahu khair for your kind words.

At 12 October 2014 at 00:41 , Blogger The Halal Gourmet said...

Soup looks so scrumptious. I really hope you post that eggplant dish. Drooling over here, mashaa allaah!

At 12 October 2014 at 09:43 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

Jazak Allahu Khair Sister i've updated the link in the post referring to the egyptian moussaka (i'd linked to the wrong 1) and here it is http://www.gumshoegastronomy.com/archives/egyptian-moussaka i just added a sliced green chilli and did the chickpea variation.

At 17 October 2014 at 17:02 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

MashAllah this all looks wonderful! I'm loving the soup and the addition of crispy onions! I too only use them in biryani :)

At 17 October 2014 at 19:45 , Blogger Halal Home Cooking - UmmHamza said...

Jazaak Allahu khair sister you really should join the club when you have spare time in shaa Allah

At 22 October 2014 at 16:40 , Blogger Amira Ibraheem said...

Masha'Allah Masha'Allah, you've done an awesome job my dear. Your dishes look amazingly perfect I love every piece of it. Thanks for joining us this month.


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