I am pretty excited about this recipe guys. I have been wanting to share it for so long. Why? good question!
Well, I have a soft spot for my childhood food. Food that brings back good memories with the first mouthful and Koshary is definitely one of them.
This recipe is my take on the popular Egyptian street food KOSHARY! If you haven’t heard of Koshary before, let me tell you a little about it. It is a delicious vegetarian dish that consists of a combination of simple carbs and plant based protein. This iconic dish is basically made out of layers of rice, brown lentils and pasta topped with a spicy garlic-infused tomato sauce, chickpeas, fried onions and finally the garlic and vinegar super sauce that brings everything together just before serving. This is a dish that perfectly describes the atmosphere of the crazy and busy streets of Cairo where Koshary is usually sold in small carts. This is a picture of a typical koshary cart in the heart of Cairo, captured by myself on my last trip to Egypt back in 2014.
I cannot believe the time has come again and that I will soon be walking along these streets with my camera. I am counting down the days to my visit to Egypt at the end of this year. Tickets booked already, woot woot!!
In this recipe, I have replaced the rice with the super grain Quinoa. If you want to make the original Koshary, you just replace the quinoa with rice. I see quinoa as a great replacement for rice, I use it ALL the time in my kitchen, it goes in soups, stews, in stuffing vegetables, in desserts and now it found its way into my Koshary.
Here I used white quinoa which is the cheapest and the most readily available type too. I love how the white quinoa is light and fluffy when cooked, it has a nice texture and can absorb flavours easily. But most importantly it is high in protein, rich in fibre and minerals and has a low glycemic index (GI), which makes it the perfect grain for diabetics or for people on a low GI and high protein diet like myself.
With cooking quinoa, I have recently discovered an easier way which works every single time. If you cook quinoa a lot, you will find this very useful. In most cook books you will find that the absorption method of cooking quinoa is the most popular, which is a 1 to 2 ratio of quinoa to water. It works fine most of the times. But I personally think that the absorption method is not so accurate, as different brands of quinoa behave differently, so it can easily end up being undercooked or overcooked. My easy way is to treat it as pasta, but starting with cold water instead of boiling, bringing the water to a simmer until cooked, I then drain it and rinse with cold water. I get perfectly cooked quinoa every time using this method. Cooking time differs according to the type of quinoa. White quinoa takes about 10-12 mins to cook, red quinoa takes a little longer about 13-15 mins, and black quinoa takes up to 16 mins. You Are Welcome!
- 2 cups dry white quinoa (400g)
- 1 cup dry (smallest size) brown lentils 'Adss be Gebba'
- 250g small dry pasta
- 400g cooked chickpeas
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin+pinch of salt, to add to cooked lentils
- 3 brown onions
- 250ml good quality sunflower oil or light olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil or olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (more if you wish)
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 4 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
- 1 cup of water
- pinch of fine ground black pepper
- 1/2- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (to taste)
- 1and1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 50ml water
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
- pinch of salt
- extra chilli powder, or red chilli sauce if you wish to fire it up.
- prepare the base ingredients: *you will need 3 pans to cook quinoa, lentils and pasta.
- start by rinsing the lentils then place them in a pan of unsalted boiling water, simmer for 15 mins or until just tender. (don't overcook it)
- rinse the quinoa with cold water, then place it in a deep pan and add plenty of cold water.
- bring the water to a boil, stir then put the heat down a little and keep it at a rolling simmer for 10 to 12 mins or until quinoa is perfectly cooked.
- meanwhile, start cooking the pasta in a seperate pan according to packet instruction.
- when quinoa is ready, drain through a fine sieve and refresh under cold water, drain well and leave aside.
- drain cooked lentils, add cumin and salt, stir to combine, and leave aside.
- drain cooked pasta and leave aside.
- heat the oil in a medium size pan until hot.
- place the onions in the hot oil carefully and fry the sliced onions on medium heat until it's golden brown. (don't fry on very high heat to avoid burning the onions+ onions change in colour very quickly when frying, so make sure you are watching it)
- drain on paper towels and leave aside to cool down and crispen. *keep the frying oil for later use.
- prepare sauce ingredients first
- in a pan, add the oil and garlic, sizzle for 30 seconds on medium heat.
- add all spices except salt and pepper
- stir on low-medium heat for a min or until spices are fragrant
- add white vinegar and stir for a few seconds then add the tomato paste, water, salt and pepper.
- stir to combine well and leave it to simmer on medium heat until sauce thickens 3-5 mins.
- put all ingredients in a glass jar with a lid, tighten the lid and shake to combine. Leave for serving.
- when tomato sauce is ready, taste to adjust the salt.
- add 2 tablespoons of the oil you used for frying the onions and stir.
- Now add the cooled lentils to the quinoa and stir to mix well (you can add only half the amount of cooked lentils and leave the rest in a bowl to add when serving if you wish)
- add 3 tablespoons of the oil you used for frying the onions to the quinoa mixture and mix gently (*this step is very important to achieve the authentic taste of Koshary)
- Koshary is served in individual bowls, so that each person gets a bowl.
- To assemble the Koshary, spoon the quinoa and lentil mixture in a deep bowl, add some pasta ( usually half the amount of quinoa mixture), then top it up with tomato sauce, fried onions, a small amount of cooked chickpeas and finally season with a few teaspoons of Dakka (vinegar sauce)