If you are on a low-carb diet, you need to go away now. That's right. Just back up, turn around, and keep going. I'll wait. See you tomorrow, ok? No hard feelings, just trying to take care of you.
For those who have stuck around, signed their health waivers, etc. I'll continue.
In Egypt, the local, baladi, bread is also called 'Ayesh, which means 'life'. Which, I can agree with. Bread is a staple of life. I love bread. However, this isn't about bread. I think the ancient Egyptians only gave bread the alias of 'life' because it must have been invented before koshari. Koshari is an amazing one-dish meal. It is solid. Hearty. It can hop off your plate, go plow the fields, wash the clothes, repair your car, and raise your kids for you. It definitely would have earned the nickname 'life' if that name hadn't already been used. When it was first described to me, I was blown away. It sounded... BIG, FULL, unreal. And it is. But it is also incredibly basic and simple. And addictive.
I do not eat high-starch meals. I love breads and pastas, but to me, a meal is "Meat, veg, starch". I go for 'balanced'. I'm not a believer in all-protein or other extreme diets either. If it works for others, then good. But I can't imagine living that way. I only have koshari rarely, but I really like it when I do. It had been awhile since my last meal of it, so, I decided to try and make some last night.
It started with eggplant. I know. There is no eggplant in koshari, but I had one, and decided to make babghanoush. A baked eggplant, mooshed up with a yogurt or tehina sauce, as a bread dip. Yummy, but not a meal. I also had a cauliflower. Kids didn't like it plain, so I thought I might fry this one in a very light batter. I hardly EVER fry foods - not healthy, very messy, I hate the process - but every so often I'll try something like this. Still not koshari though.
I also decided we needed meat. Figured I didn't want to cook that too, so I went on line and OTLOB'ed a small mixed grill selection.
Ok, the koshari. Basically. Koshari is lentils, rice, pasta - mix it together, scoop tomato sauce on top, add fried onions on top of that, serve. Yep. That's it. A pile of starch on starch. With beans. Tomato sauce. And oil. And onions. Mmmm!
I had some sort of mystery local brown, dry beans. No lentils. I cooked them (one cup) forever, and they turned out nice. A little harder than my kids liked, but I thought they were good. Very rich and nutty in flavor. The recipe I had seen for this type of bean did not suggest soaking. I think I will try soaking next time. Or maybe use actual lentils. I also cooked a cup of very small macaroni pasta, and one cup of white rice. All separately.
In a big pot, I sliced up two onions, several cloves of garlic, and then fried them to a nice golden-brown in a couple tablespoons of oil. I removed the onions and garlic to a paper towel, and kept the flavored oil. I dumped the rice, pasta and drained beans into the oil, stirred, and cooked it all for a few moments more. I used a plain, local tomato sauce with a little salt and pepper. The whole concoction is served with tomato sauce on top, onions/garlic over that, if you like. Some people add chili sauce as well. I'm the only one who'd like it in my house, so I left out the chili. Chickpeas also make a nice topper to the dish.
The kids weren't completely happy with the beans, but loved the rest. Ok, I know how to work with that. What I didn't like was the consistency of the rice. It was, how do I say this?? Too sticky. That seems like such a bad thing to say. To me, rice should be sticky. It is supposed to be a social animal, piling into happy little hugging piles of friendly rice buddies - snuggling up to your veggies, cuddling the meat, etc. Not flopped over, lifeless and inert, individual, antisocial, paralyzed little rice bodies that tumble freely over one another without a single attempt at grasping hands or holding on to anything. That's just so sad... and terribly wrong...
But, apparently, to make fluffy koshari, I need less sticky rice. I need the rice, pasta and beans to mingle, not gather in tight-knit communities. So, how do you make non-sticky white rice?? My mom used to make non-sticky rice... but she used (shudder) boil-in-bag instant rice. It had no flavor and I hated it. I make white rice by boiling 2 parts water, add one part rice, a bit of olive oil or butter, cover (no peeking at all!), and simmer for 20 minutes. Simple, perfect, sticky rice. Every time. I cook a lot. I experiment with nearly everything. BUT, I've never thought to alter this basic recipe. Why mess with a good thing?
Any ideas? Less water? More peeking? Stir? It's not like I plan to make koshari a lot. It's good, but HEAVY. But I'd like to make it with the proper consistency next time.