Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة Kobeba

Christmas is in the air.  We have had a very busy weekend catching up with friends and family and have now had two of our annual Christmas parties to attend.  I feel like I have been moving non stop for the last few days.  My contribution has been mainly desserts and sweets which included Christmas chocolates that I had in moulds and decorated with the boys as well as some very easy chocolate pudding lookalikes, and little reindeers.  All of those were a hit with the kids.  I might make another batch to take to the Kinder Christmas party this week.  If I get a chance I might even make a video and put it up for the “Cooking in your pyjamas” video collection on my cooking channel (DynasEgyptiancooking Channel on YouTube). 

also made a dark and white chocolate cheesecake and a Danish custard pudding which was really tasty and I took along a main dish Sunday too - كبيبة  Kobeba.  My brother saw it and said “ I haven’t had kobeba for so long. This is one of my favourites!”.  I must file that away for future reference.  It is always great making food which people refer to as their favourite.    Truth be told كبيبة  Kobeba was always a welcome sight to me when my mother made it.  Delicious!  I didn’t have too much trouble getting it made on this occasion but it hasn’t always been the case.  Last time I made this I am sure would have had my mother shaking her head in disapproval.

That time I decided to tackle making Kobebaand by tackle I mean undertake a task that required significant lateral thinking.  كبيبة  Kobeba is basically wheat (burghul, bulgur) that is minced together with ground beef, onion and spices.  Growing up we had it as little cocoons that were stuffed and fried producing wonderfully crunchy shells which gave way to the meat filling.  Alternatively it was layered in a tray (wheat, meat, wheat) and baked.  The ideal way to make the bulgur mixture (and the way I always saw my mother make this) was to use a meat mincer attachment to a mixer and alternate the bulgur, meat and onions so that it is all very finely ground together and combines well.  I don’t have a standalone mincer or a mincer attachment for my mixer.  The alternative I thought of was to use a food processor and while I do have one of those it was broken and I gave it to my father in law in the hope that something could be done in the way of repairing it.  He lives about 4 hours away by car so popping over to get it was out of the question.  I really had nothing else to use except a hand / stick blender. 

Without any other options I set to work.  I blended the onions first since that they would produce a little liquid. I added some minced beef and a little more then transferred it to another bowl and tried to blend in some of the bulgur.  With quite a bit of patience and the need to produce a finished product with all the ingredients I had set out with, I persevered and actually ended up with a similar product to what I needed.  It was messy having bowls and containers of different sizes and with burghul and meat at different stages of mincing.

The smell of كبيبة  Kobeba is wonderfully comforting.  This is another dish I am particularly fond of and since I can no longer have my mother make it for me it really is up to me to try, try and try again until I produce something similar to what my mother used to make.  I really took in the smell and was determined to finish.  Time consuming but not a bad outcome considering my lack of vital equipment.  Finally I had all the mince, onion and bulgur used up and now all minced together in one bowl.  I added the spices and while I stood in the kitchen layering a baking dish to make the baked كبيبة  Kobeba or my family, I thought of my mum standing in her kitchen making this for her family.    I enjoyed that time of reflection.  I felt connected to her in a positive happy way.  I do miss her at times like this but at least now her food and cooking can live on.

(The photos are mostly of my mother putting this together in her kitchen. It is the only series of photos I have of her cooking and it happens to be one of my favourite dishes!)

500g / ½ kg fine, brown bulgur wheat
500g ½ kg lean ground beef
2-3 large onions cut into quarters
2 teaspoons cinnamon or mixed spice
1 ½ teaspoon nutmeg/mace/allspice

½ -1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Butter extra

Meat filling:
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
500g ½ kg lean beef mince
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon or mixed spice
1 teaspoon nutmeg/mace/allspice
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons pine nut, if desired.

To prepare the bulgur:
Place bulgur in a large bowl, cover with hot tap water for 1-2 hours, or until the water had been absorbed and the wheat is soft and has doubled in volume.

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Bulgul / Burghul

Remove the excess water from the wheat by taking handfuls of wheat and squeezing the water out.  Place the dry wheat into a clean bowl.

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Bulgul / Burghul

For the filling:
In a large pan, melt the butter and fry the onion for 2 minutes until golden. Add the meat and brown over medium heat.  Add the spices and season with salt to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated.  Add the pine nuts and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add 1 to 2 cups water to cover the meat.  Bring to the boil on high heat, reduced heat and simmer until again until all the liquid has evaporated.

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Frying onion for filling

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Browning meat

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Meat filling is cooking

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Cooked meat filling ready for assembly

Using a meat mincer, mince together the meat, bulgur and onion quarters, alternatively.  Collect the combined mixture into a bowl then add the salt, pepper, mace and cinnamon to the mixture and mix to combine.  

Alternatively place the ground beef in food processor and mince to fine paste. Add the remainder of the ingredients (adding water a little at a time) to the blender and mix. Remove and keep aside.

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Mince meat, Bulgul and onions ready for mincing
Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Alternate onions meat and bulgul in the mincer 

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Using the plunger is better

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
catch the minced meat and wheat into a clean bowl 

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
The mincer does a great job of combining everything together

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Use your hands for combining the ingredients with the spices

Preheat oven to moderate 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4).  Grease a 30cm x 25cm tray.  Place half the bulgur mixture into the tray and flatten using the palm of your hand.  Spread the cooked mince over the base.  Use the remaining bulgur mixture to cover the meat.  You may need to wet your hands to flatten the bulgur for the top layer.

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Flatten half the mixture into the tray 
Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
cover with dollops of butter before baking

Cut into squares.  Place a few small dollops of butter on top of the Kobeba before placing in the oven and baking for 75 - 90 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked all the way through. 

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Bake until golden brown on top and cooked through

This was the original photo I had for this dish.  I made it in Canberra during the 4 year stint we had there for work. .  I am sure we can all find problems with it.

At the time I thought this was a great shot!

Here is the latest and greatest photographed version.

Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba
Wheat and Meat loaf كبيبة  Kobeba

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen

Being a Sunday I like to take it easy and have a relaxed day, both in the kitchen and out.  Meals are not as complicated and perhaps not as nutritionally balanced as during the week but what I like the most is to have an easy dinner.  Something without too much effort or without too many dirty dishes!  My favourite easy dinner is Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen and it has been a favourite ever since I was a child.  Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen is kind of like mezze (small snack like things) and to me is dinner without work.  Enjoyed by everyone who eats it because you only eat what you like!  Basically, it is a whole variety of ingredients chopped up and placed on a platter.  It is a healthy meal with plenty of fresh vegetables, meat and/or eggs.  People sit around the platter and each person then assembles whatever they like on bread, or crackers and then eats it. Wonderful fresh food which is great in Summer when cold food appeals so much.

I remember eating like this on Sunday nights growing up.  My dad was tasked with getting dinner since my mum did all the cooking during the week.  Dad would empty out most of the fridge of cheeses, vegetables and meats and then set to work cutting and slicing them all.  This was so exciting because it was also the only time we got to eat while watching television.  Sunday night cartoons on Disney.  How I loved those times and the memories.  So much so that I really want to recreate them for my own children.

Click on the picture below to watch the video of Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen
Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen

I have actually also had this as a meal for a casual dinner party with friends.  It was such a big hit since it is easy and fun with hands moving in all directions picking up foods of different colours.  Building little towers of food that thrown into mouths whole or is crunched and crumbled and falls onto plates.  This is definitely not a knife and fork meal but who says they all have to be.

Gather together for Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen:

A selection of bread or crackers such as Salada biscuits, Savoy, water crackers or pita bread(aish balady)
A selection of cheeses such as Feta, Gouda, Parmesan and Cheddar
A selection of deli or cooked meats such as ham, turkey or chicken and salami
Tomato halved and sliced
Lebanese cucumbers sliced
A small onion or several radishes very thinly sliced
Boiled eggs sliced
Olives, pitted
Pickled cucumber, sliced

Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen, Mezze
Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen
You could add anything else you liked such as sliced
Dips such as Hummus or Baba Ghanoush,
Steamed vegetables
Capsicum or peppers
As well as cooked and sliced meats such as Kofta or sausage, etc. which are great too.

Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen, mezze
Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen

Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen, mezze
Farmer’s food غذاء الفلاحين Aqul el Fellaheen

Place platter on a table.  Sit around it with friends or family and build little towers with cheese, meat and vegetables as you like.  Eat and Enjoy!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Fig men

Snacks are essential in our household mid-morning and mid-afternoon. It keeps us all going, especially the kids.  One child’s crazies are often subsided with a snack of some kind.  Thinking back to living with my parents I recall that we snacked a fair bit too.  More often than not it was nuts, seeds or fresh fruit.  Dad would roast whatever was in season, chestnuts, peanuts etc. or there would be a bowl of pumpkin or watermelon seeds which mum would leave out on the bench.  

Dessert was fresh fruit (and often still is!).  Watermelon, grapes, honeydew or cantaloupe (rockmelon) was very normal for finishing off a meal in summer.  We also grew fruits including plums, apricots, figs, prickly pear, persimmons and pomegranates (and you all know how much I like Pomegranates) as well as having really great almond and walnut trees.  

These two nut trees would produce enough nuts to fill a fruit box or two or three each season.  I don’t think I came across anyone else who grew almonds or walnuts in their backyard but they are unbelievably delicious when they are fresh.  Almonds with their white flesh are sweet and soft.  Walnuts are slightly crunchy but still tender with their natural and healthy oil.  

Konafa   كنافة
Konafa   كنافة 
Goulash, Baklava   جلاش  Baklawa  بقلاوة
Goulash, Baklava   جلاش  Baklawa  بقلاوة 
With so many nuts there was never a shortage for chopping up and using them in dishes such as Konafa   كنافة , Quataef /kataif, and Goulash, Baklava   جلاش  Baklawa  بقلاوة    These pastries are common Egyptian sweets that are filled or stuffed with chopped nuts, sugar, coconut and / or sultanas then drenched in thick sugar syrup.

Kataif / Qatayef قطايف
Kataif / Qatayef قطايف 
Goulash, Baklava   جلاش  Baklawa  بقلاوة
Goulash, Baklava   جلاش  Baklawa  بقلاوة 

Kataif / Qatayef قطايف
Kataif / Qatayef قطايف 

Besides the sweets the nuts were laid out on newspaper and dried so they would be like the nuts you get from a shop.  In the evenings I remember my dad getting dried figs then cutting a slit across the centre to form a sort of pocket and filling them with almonds or walnuts.  

fig men
fig men

fig menThe crunch of the nuts sandwiched between sweet popping seeds from the figs was a fantastic combination.  I think the walnuts are perfect with the dried figs.  I am not sure if they were something my dad put together himself or whether he had them growing up but I find them a very easy and sweet treat and I just love the look of them, little fig men (reminds me of Pacman when I was growing up).  I dare say that dressing them up by drizzling a little melted chocolate over them would render them a great accompaniment to tea or coffee instead of the usual biscuit fare.
fig men

I have a few ready today for the kids to enjoy, a much more nutritious alternative to chips and lollies!

 fig men

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Meat Lahm لحم and more vocab!

I’m not sure where to start today.  It has been a very busy and exciting three months as we have moved into Spring here in Australia and I have been working ridiculously hard on my health and fitness.  While the effort is never wasted it has meant that I have not done as much cooking.   The boys have also had to curb their kitchen creations.  I stopped mentioning cooking together and hoped the boys wouldn't notice but that wasn't to be. 

 For those following the “Cooking in Your Pyjamas” videos and watching the boys cooking together and eating the fruits of their labor then you will be happy to know that I have uploaded another great creation.  Chocolate and coconut self-saucing pudding.  A twist to the usual Chocolate pudding which has to be my husbands all time favourite dessert.  He did however approve of this so variation so that’s a relief! 

The link is below if you are interested in seeing the video of the boys at work.  They really do have so much fun and in this one my youngest son finds feeding his older brother very funny.  You can also find more of the "Cooking in Your Pyjamas" cooking videos in the playlist on YouTube under "Dynas Egyptian Cooking Channel".

Anyway back to the Egyptian cooking.  I think now that the weather is warming up I will no doubt be outdoors so the boys can burn of energy and I do look forward to getting into the kitchen again and getting the boys involved.  In the mean time I thought I would add to the word list since it has been over a month from the last addition.  As usual you can find the entire list in the “language centre” tab at the top.

Today’s topic: Meat!

Meat                                  Lahm                                                               لحم

Basturma                             Basturma                                                          بسطرمة
Beef                                    Lahm ba`ar                                                      البقر لحوم
Cured Ham                         Lahm Khanzir memalah                            مملح خنزير لحم
Hamburger mince                Hamburger Lahm Mafroom               المفروم اللحم همبرغر
Lamb                                  Hamal                                                                    حمل
Liver                                   Kebdah                                                                   كبد
Kidney                                Kalawy                                                                 كلوي
Meat                                   Lahm                                                                       لحم
Pork                                   Lahm Khanzir                                                  خنزير لحم
Rabbit                                Arnab                                                                    أرنب
Sausage                             Sausage                                                                  سجق
Sheep                                Kharoof                                                               خروف
Steak                                 Steak                                                                     ستيك
Veal                                  Lahm Betelo                                                         بتلو لحم

I think I needed to revisit these again.  We often don’t cook a huge range of meats and I must say that my favorites are Chicken and Lamb so that is what I prefer but I still have rabbit in the freezer so there is always something a little different I don’t have to go shopping for when the desire strikes me!

Monday, 5 November 2012


There are a few really strong memories I have of growing up.  I thought I was Australian in most respects as I didn’t really understand or experience what living in Egypt would have been like.  I thought my parents were strict (certainly compared to many other kids I went to school with) and I wasn’t into sports or much physical activity, and I knew that we ate different food since people would often ask me what Egyptians eat.  I am also pretty sure my siblings and I were the only kids to have cheese and mortadella sandwiches for lunch at school.  I stopped having mortadella (a deli processed meat) when I left school and had it again for the first time in over 15 years recently.  I bought some for my son to try instead of the usual ham.  Now that my first born is at kinder I am exposed to the school activities that accompany school life.  Papers and crafts from the days’ activities and a constant array of fundraising offers.  I am already thinking of all the cakes and slices that would be good for stalls and parties.  Having these things on my mind often leads me back to my childhood and what I experienced growing up when my mum had to make things for me to take along to stalls and parties.  I forgot about one of the all-time classics where school fetes and stalls are concerned - at least they were when I was growing up - the simple and astoundingly popular with children - Toffees.  I had forgotten until a child memory of it came back to me last weekend.

While I was making wax (refer to blog entitled Wax and Waxing) my oldest asked me what I was doing and why.  The usual conversation with him.  I was explaining that it was wax but made from sugar and naturally that lead to “Can I taste it”.  I said you can taste it before I use it but then you can’t have any more.  I thought that was sufficient for an answer but when he asked me why I went on to say that he would then end up eating hair and dead skin cells  and that can’t be nice.  He settled for a little of the wax, decided that it was good and asked me to make some more wax for him to eat since I was going to use the one in my hand.  I told him he couldn’t eat wax because it was so sticky.  Trust me I said, I tried it once.  I told him there was sugar made into toffee which was hard and you can suck on it and that I would make it for him so he could try that too, then I sent him out of the bathroom to wax in peace.

He didn’t forget and repeatedly asked me to make toffees.  I can’t help but laugh to think of my mum attempting to make me these for a school fete when I was in primary school.  I remember it so well because it was clearly something completely new to her.  All I knew was it was sugar and so she made us toffees just like she made wax.  Sugar, water and lemon (Recipe for wax in the wax blog I mentioned earlier).  Anyway, it was completely inedible.  I tried to eat one but it went everywhere, was distinctly lemony and got stuck to the roof of your mouth, teeth, lips, fingers, clothes…


I know that my son will not have to have that experience but it does bring a smile to my face when I think about my experience of toffee.  So while not a typical Egyptian recipe my mum did attempt to make some the Egyptian way.  I can definitely attest to this being unsuccessful so don’t bother trying to make toffees the Egyptian way.  You can see a video of how to make hard toffees at Dyna’s Egyptian Cooking Channel on YouTube under a separate playlist where my kids feature with their own recipes.  Toffees is now one of them. (Or you can click on the picture below)

Happy sucking!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Red tea كركديه Karkadé

Karkadé is made from the red calyces which form around the seed-pods of the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower.  It is this outer covering that is collected and dried to make karkadé.

Red tea كركديه Karkadé
Red tea كركديه Karkadé 
We didn’t have Red tea كركديه Karkadé available all the time at home but I distinctly remember asking my mum for some and we struggled to source it locally.  I think when my parents went to Egypt we were able to bring some back.  Kept in a plastic container it lasted for years. 

I remember having red tea كركديه Karkadé after that kind of like it was cordial.  Occasionally we would have it in winter, hot and in summer it was a lovely refreshing drink served cold during the heat of the day.  I like it either way.  I made it today hot and my husband drank Red tea كركديه Karkadé hot for the first time.  He seemed surprised that he liked it so I should remember that for next winter when anything hot and sweet is particularly comforting. 

Red tea كركديه Karkadé
Red tea كركديه Karkadé  in the making
The drink is made in much the same way as a cup of tea.   In a tea pot take a full handful of the dark, almost purple-black, karkadé (The light red kind has less flavour and contains more acid).  Add a litre  or 4 cups of cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for three minutes.  Strain off what is now a bright red liquid. You can re-boil the calyces again with enough cold water to cover them and give them another three-minute boil to extract all you can.  Add a tablespoonof sugar for each glass (or to taste) stir and serve hot.

To watch the video of how to make Red tea كركديه Karkadé, click the image below :

Alternatively, in a jug pour boiling water.   Add karkadé and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves.  Leave for a couple of hours until the water becomes dark red.  Strain the tea and cool in refrigerator until serving.   Drinking tea made this way is believed to be able to lower blood pressure.

Red tea كركديه Karkadé  can come as a very dark red / purple colour.  This has more flavour than the light red variety.  This lighter variety is also more acidic so try and buy the dark Karkade.

Red tea كركديه Karkadé
Red tea كركديه Karkadé 
It may be difficult to source in some areas but the best bet would be in Mediterranean delicatessens or possibly health food shops.  Speciality tea shops sell it too (something like T2 tea). T2 offers over 180 teas (wonderful for all you tea lovers out there) and amongst the lot they have a variety of tea blends which contain Hibiscus in them.  They are called Very Berry Fruitea,  Vanilla Slice, French Earl Grey, Strawberries & Cream, Citrus Punch, Passion, Strawberry Sensation, Ruby Red Rosehip, Raspberry Rush, Red Chai, Botanica, Fruit Royale, Spring, Sweet Spice, Riotous Rose, Fruit Blush, Pumping Pomegranate.  

They also, thankfully, stock Just Hibiscus which is unblended so the best option if you want to try true Red tea كركديه Karkadé, plucked from the heart of the hibiscus flower.

I got my last stock from Dad (as per usual) and so did not have to go hunting for it myself.  If you have had Red tea كركديه Karkadé or know where to get the tea from locally perhaps you could leave a comment here so that others might be able to find it too.

Red tea كركديه Karkadé
Red tea كركديه Karkadé 
I am not a tea drinker, per say, herbals occasionally but I do think that even if you are not a tea drinker then this one is for you.  Give it a try - you might be surprised at how nice this tea can be!