Friday, 25 March 2011

Simple Delights: Easy Brownie Recipe

Brownies...what more can I say!

Brownies are a staple in my house. Whether I’m in the mood for something sweet, or a quick desert for company, Brownies always are my number one choice. Cooking with chocolate may be tricky, that’s why I chose to post this easy recipe. Usually when I bake brownies, I don’t have time for a big production and I want something sweet now.  What makes it easy are two factors: 

1) When baking chocolate desserts, usually you need to melt cooking chocolate, or use semi-sweet or unsweetened chocolate. Now this poses two problems, it’s hard to find unsweetened chocolate in Egypt, and sweetened cooking chocolate will throw off the sugar content of the desert. And melting the chocolate is usually a hassle, as you don’t want it to burn but at the same time you don’t want to wait an hour for it to melt.  

Solution: Use cocoa powder. 

2) Classic brownie recipe calls for shortening or softened butter. With no good substitute for Crisco in Egypt, and the use of our local Ghee or Samna is out of the question, one would have to use butter. Again, if it is too cold, it will lump, and if you over heat it will be totally liquid. 

Solution: Use oil as the fat substitute. 

We will keep the more complicated chocolate recipes for later.
All of my cook books use both butter and cooking chocolate for their brownie recipes. So I have devised one of my own, using cooking chocolate to cocoa substitution and lots of trial and error.


- ½ cup Flour
- ½ cup Oil
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2 Eggs (Make sure they are not very small, Medium to Large size preferred.)
- ½ cup Cocoa Powder
- ½ tsp. Baking Powder
- ¼ cup warm Water
- 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
- pinch of salt

Preparation (Approx. 10 mins)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Blend the eggs, sugar and vanilla very well, until smooth. 
Add in the oil. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt). 
Slowly add in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, whisking manually while doing so. 
Batter should be very thick at this point.
Add in the water and combine without over mixing. If your eggs are very large and the batter is a bit too wet, omit the water.

Pour the batter into a well greased 20 cm x 20 cm pan (or a Rectangular 28 cm x 18 cm).

Put in the oven for about 20 mins for fudgey brownies add 5-7 mins for more cakey ones. Allow to cool before cutting.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Lentil Soup: Food for the soul

This classic Egyptian dish is a must in the cold days of winter. Lentil soup is warming, hearty, vegan friendly and is great to take on the go in a thermos mug for a quick lunch. Definitely one of my favorite dishes to have while curled up on the couch.

Lentils are a staple in Egyptian cuisine. The most popular dishes that use lentils are Koshari, Lentil soup, and Yellow Koshari. Lentils are considerably cheap, and is commonly known as the ‘poor man’s meat’. The protein to carb ratio is not bad for a legume, giving around 28 g protein and 60 g Carbs, to every 100g uncooked lentils. That’s not so bad considering that a little goes a LONG way with lentils.
Egyptians cook their lentil dishes using two types of lentils, Yellow lentils (which are orange in color) and Brown lentils. Yellow lentils are just a peeled brown lentil.

This recipe is a classic, given to me by the mother of my best friend. It’s fool proof and easy to make. Of course no two Egyptian lentil soup recipes are the same, but this is my favorite, as it incorporates different vegetables into it, without turning it into a vegetable soup.  It’s great for when you want to clean out your fridge. Another reason I love this soup, is because I feel like it’s a never ending pot. When re-heating you usually must add water to thin it out. Yummy, more for me!

Egyptian Lentil Soup with Garlic Croutons

by Ameirah Abou-Azama

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 1 hour

Keywords: soup/stew appetizer entree low-carb vegan vegetarian Lentil Egyptian winter

Ingredients (8-10 servings)

    For the Lentil Soup
    • 250 gm Dry yellow lentils (approx. half a bag of any brand)
    • 2 Liters Chicken or Vegetable stock
    • 1 Large Zucchini
    • 1 Large Onion
    • 1 Large Tomato
    • 1 Medium sized Potato
    • 1 Large Carrot
    • 2 Garlic Cloves
    • ½ tsp Cumin
    • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil or Butter (Optional)
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • ½ cup Chopped fresh parsley
    • Lemon or lime cut into wedges
    For the Garlic Croutons
    • 4 Balady bread or brown pita bread
    • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil



    I love having croutons with my lentil soup. My favorite are the Balady bread garlic ones. Better than chips!

    Cut with a bread knife about 4 Balady bread into squares. In a pan, drizzle olive oil over the bread pieces, mixing it with your hands, separating the pieces. Add freshly crushed garlic (or powder for you lazy people), salt, and paprika or chili powder. Mix well, put in oven for about 10 mins on a high setting, or until crunchy.

    Soup Preparation

    Wash lentils, and wash & peel vegetables.

    Chop vegetables in halves, keeping them in large pieces.

    Bring stock to a boil, adding in pepper and cumin.

    Add in lentils and vegetables.

    Leave for about 40 mins, or until vegetables are very soft.

    Add water whenever needed.

    Take off heat, allowing soup to cool for 5 mins, and then puree the mixture with a hand blender.

    Add salt to taste.

    I always like to add in a handful of the chopped parsley to the pot in the end, it adds a fresh taste. You can opt to just use it as a garnish.

    Serve with croutons and lemon wedges.

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    My Experimentation:

    - I have added all kinds of vegetables, green pepper, even peas. Once I threw in a bag of frozen soup, and it still came out great.
    - The soup also works if you have nothing but the lentils in your cupboard.
    - Going low carb? Omit the potato, the soup thickens very well without it.
    Ready to Eat!
    - Adding fresh cilantro (coriander) instead of parsley and adding in a bit more cumin, gives it a whole different flavor. If you love Indian food, you might want to try that trick.
    - If you use fresh chicken stock, cut up pieces of the chicken and save them on the side, add a handful of chicken pieces to your bowl, and you have a complete meal; vegetables, carbs and protein.
    - Thick soup is amazing over rice. This is a great way to eat leftover rice, when there is nothing else in the fridge.
    - Make a lot in advance and freeze in 2 portion baggies. Be sure to allow the soup to cool though, hot bags of soup in the freezer rip open and make a mess. Take my word for it.