Friday, 30 September 2011

American Classics: Meatloaf

 When you think of American classics, meatloaf is one of the things that come to mind. Similar to a big meatball or kofta, meatloaf is relatively easy to make and can be made for summer or winter.  Meatloaf is also very versatile and you may play around with the spices until you find the best combination. Here I have a basic recipe I grew up having.

It’s best to slice the loaf after it has cooled down for 10 minutes to prevent the slices from breaking. The slices can be frozen for a quick individual snack. Also, any leftovers can be eaten cold in a sandwich.


- 1 kg Lean Ground beef
- 2 Cloves garlic
- ½ cup BBQ Sauce
- ½ Tbsp Black pepper
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 egg
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 1 medium onion, grated
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp Ketchup

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Put the oats in a bowl, with the milk to soak for 10 minutes. Add in the grated carrots and onions. I always prefer grated for the meatloaf, unless you can chop it fine enough. Add in the egg, BBQ sauce, garlic minced, olive oil and the salt and pepper.  Mix in the meat, but don’t over mix it. Allow the meat to sit for 5 minutes to settle and absorb the mixture

In a pan, shape the meat into a loaf shape. Glaze the top with the ketchup, then place in the oven. It should take about 45 mins to 1 hour.

Allow to cool before slicing.


What is your favorite ground beef recipe, or do you prefer burgers

Friday, 23 September 2011

Breakfast Time: Power Yoghurt!

Recently I have taken up a healthier lifestyle, and have started exercising regularly. Looking deeper into healthy foods, I was glad to find that many of my favorite foods have now become ‘health fads’. Lentils, beans, new supplements, are all on the list. One absolute favorite food of mine is yoghurt.

 Yoghurt has recently become a health fad in North America, while it has been a staple on the breakfast and dinner table in the Middle East. The difference is, that Egyptians and other Middle Easterners like their yoghurt unsweetened, and may add honey to it as a sweetener, or just have it plain. In the USA for example, it was not easy to find plain yoghurt. Most were sweetened and colored, and the most ‘plain’ you could get was vanilla flavored. Now with the introduction of Greek yoghurt (very similar to the Middle Eastern yogurt), plain yogurt is more available. Also, with the widespread loving for more natural foods, pro-biotic yoghurt has also entered the yoghurt shelf.

One of my yoghurt breakfast recipes is so simple yet so filling I had to share. It is sweet so could be eaten as a dessert for calorie conscious people, or omit the honey all together if you are adventurous and don’t want the extra sugar. The wheat germ gives it a nice texture and unique nuttiness. I find it in Egypt in the Imtenan health shop. But be careful since it must stay refrigerated or it will go bad.

This is my personal preference on how to make this, but it is so simple, feel free to find your favorite mix. Fresh fruit is always nice instead of the honey.

The “power yoghurt” is just under 200 calories, which is great for watching your weight.


- 2 small cups (220gm) of your favorite yoghurt, I use plain Activia light.
- 1 Tbsp raw wheat germ
- 2 whole walnuts crushed
- dash of cinnamon
- 1 tsp Honey

Mix them all together and be prepared to have your mind blown in healthy goodness!


How do you like your yoghurt?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The ABC’s of BBQ

Pictures courtesy Mohamed Azmy 2011

For most people in Egypt, summer is a time of lazy days, intense nights and a severe case of procrastination.  If having a barbeque was one of the things on your summer to-do list and haven’t gotten around to yet, you’re in luck. Take advantage of the hot weather and dust off your grill, its barbeque time!

Here I have a few examples of my favorite grilling meats. Shish Tawook (Grilled chicken pieces), Shish Kebab (Meat on a skewer), Kofta (Oriental Meat balls), and BBQ Burgers.

Barbequing could result in amazing juicy meats or a burnt catastrophe. The main thing you should focus on is getting the coal bed to cook the food, not burn it to a crisp.

Make sure you have enough coal. Fill your barbeque with the coal and light it using a small amount of lighter fluid or a long match. Allow the coal to set fire then turn the coal around, to distribute the flame. After the flame has died down, start fanning to make sure the coal is glowing. We want the coal to radiate heat, rather than be in flames. The coal should turn an ashy-grey color and the coal bed should be all glowing. You may need to ‘stir’ the coal bed and fan for a few times to get a good uniform bed.

Now we have to grease our grill. Before putting the metal grill on top of the bed, we need to grease it so the meat doesn’t stick. Dip a paper towel in some vegetable oil, and rub it thoroughly on the grill. Make sure to do this BEFORE the grill is on the coal. You will prevent a few burnt fingers this way not to mention a good flame show.

Now, allow to grill to heat for 5 min, and then put your meats on the grill. Try to group similar meats next to each other, since they will have a similar cooking time.

You can undercook red meat, depending on your preferences. Some people like it medium rare while others can’t stand it other than well done. Just remember that you MUST cook poultry all the way through.

Some easy side dishes to have in your barbeque, and which don’t need warming up are Macaroni with Broccoli, Coriander-Fava Bean rice, and Mashed Potatoes. And for dessert you can always make Lemon Bars the day before, or Brownies which are always a crowd pleaser.

Pictures courtesy Mohamed Azmy 2011
 Shish Tawook (Grilled Skewer Chicken):

Chicken is known to get dry on the grill, especially if you are using boneless chicken breasts. One way to ensure they stay juicy is using yogurt in the marinade.

 I use half chicken breast and half boneless thighs, which are the original Tawook type of chicken, but feel free to use whichever you prefer.

The chicken should be marinated the night before as should most meats that are grilled.

Marinade (enough for 1 Kg of chicken cut into cubes):

- 1 head of garlic minced
- 1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
- 400 gm of yogurt (four small cups)
- Salt (unless your Tandoori mix is heavily salted)
- ½ tsp chili powder
- Tandoori mix (read packet instructions, enough for the amount of chicken you are using)

Make sure the Tandoori mix is mild, if it is spicy then omit the extra chili.

If you cannot find Tandoori mix, you can mix your favorite dry curry mix, or just some turmeric and chili powder which is what I used in these photos.

Kofta and Kebab  courtesy Mohamed Azmy 2011

Shish Kebab (Meat on a Stick):

- 1 kg of shish kebab (meat cut into cubes, specify to the butcher that it is for grilling)
- Onions cut in quarters
- Green peppers cut in squares
- Garlic minced, about half a head per kilo
 - Black pepper
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, this will tenderize the meat and the sour flavors will cook off
- ¼ tsp Meat spices (you can find this in any Arabic food store)
OR ¼ tsp Nutmeg.

Mix the spices with a little oil and coat the meat. Then place them on the stick alternating with onions and peppers. You may also add cherry tomatoes on the sticks.


Kofta is the same recipe as my Egyptian Meatballs, but the meat shouldn’t be as lean as not to fall apart. If the meat is very lean, you may need to add a handful of breadcrumbs to keep it together.

Pictures courtesy Mohamed Azmy 2011

BBQ Burgers:

- 1kg of chopped meat
- 1 small onion minced very fine
- 5 cloves of garlic minced
- 5 Tbsp of barbeque sauce
- black pepper to taste

Mix all together and shape patties. 1 Kg of chop meat should give you approx 8 – 10 medium sized patties.


What do you put on your grill in the summer?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Omm Ali: Egyptian Bread Pudding

Each region of the world has their versions of certain foods. Italian meatballs have their Oriental Kofta counterparts. And as for Latin famous rice and beans, in Egypt we have a Fava Bean and Rice recipe that is the same idea. Same goes for bread pudding, some think of it as a classical American dessert, but in Egypt it is a very popular dessert. We call it Omm Ali, or “Mother of Ali”, and differs from its American cousin, and is seasonal to Ramadan here in Egypt.

Where did this incredible dessert get its name from?

 During the beginning of the Mamlouk era in Egypt (around 1250 A.D.), Shagarat El Dor, the widowed Sultana of Egypt, had quite a few enemies. Having re-married to Ezz El Din Aybak to validate her controversial position, she passed the rule on to him, as so she can remain in power through him.

After Aybak gained power of the throne, Shgarat El Dor was unable to control him anymore and had him murdered. This angered his first wife and son, Mansour Ali. Omm Ali (Ali’s Mother) ordered for Shajarat El Dor to be murdered by her maids, beaten to death with wooden clogs in her bath.

Legend has it that after the death of Shajarat El Dor, Omm Ali ordered the palace to make a sweet dessert to be distributed to the common people in celebration of her son’s new position on the throne. The palace put together what they could find from dried flat bread, coconut, nuts, rasins and milk, and baked the concoction. This new dessert was named Omm Ali, in reference to the Mother of Ali.

Regardless of its gruesome past, Om Ali is hands down my favorite original Egyptian dessert.


-  1 Liter milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- ½ cup crushed nuts (I use pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts)
- ¼ cup raisins (optional)
- 100 ml cooking cream or heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp sugar and few whole nuts for garnish
- 3 cups roughly crushed Rokak*
- 1 tsp cinnamon

*phylo dough or puff pastry could be used, but must be crisped first in the oven. Very thin pita bread could also be used if you cannot find any of the above, but be sure to separate the top and bottom halves and to bake them to harden.


Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C  (350 °F).

In a sauce pan, heat the milk adding in the sugar, cinnamon and coconut. We don’t want to boil the milk, just warm it until all the sugar is dissolved.

In a ceramic oven bowl or “Tagen”, add in the Rokak and the nuts. You can also make individual servings in ramekins. Pour the milk mixture over it.

Pour the cream on the top, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the garnish sugar and the rest of the nuts.

Place in the oven for about 20 mins, or until the mixture bubbles through the sides. Turn on the broiler for the last 5-10 mins to brown the top.

Serve warm.


What is your favorite Ramadan inspired or Oriental dessert?