Egypt – More than Mummies and Mortuaries

CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC

Music – “The Music of the Pharaohs” from Egyptian Music. Nile Cruises Music for Relaxation by Sound Relax Nilo Studio. Released: 2012

Tutankhamun, Queen Nefertiri, The Valley of the Kings….these are the images that come to mind when we think of “Egypt”. The written records of Egyptian history go back several thousand years and there is nowhere you can wander in Egypt, without finding a trace of its ancient roots.

Cairo, Egypt - The Pyramids of Giza, 1984.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Cairo, Egypt – The Pyramids of Giza, 1984. Photo by Sue Jimenez

In 1984, I spent 10 days touring Egypt with my sister and what a trip it was! Every temple or pyramid was older than the previous one.

Luxor, Egypt - Luxor Temple, 1984.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Luxor, Egypt – Luxor Temple, 1984. Photo by Sue Jimenez


Edfu, Egypt - The Temple of Edfu (with tour guide for scale!)  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Edfu, Egypt – The Temple of Edfu (with tour guide for scale!) Photo by Sue Jimenez

The culture is rich in influences from neighbouring countries, and from those countries, who over a period of several thousand years, invaded and “conquered” Egypt: Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks, the French, Albanians and the British.
Luxor, Egypt - The Nile at sunset.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Luxor, Egypt – The Nile at sunset. Photo by Sue Jimenez

This multi-cultural history has also influenced the food of Egypt, and during my trip, I had the opportunity to experience many of these delightful dishes. The Arabic influence is strong, with a heavy emphasis on vegetables.

While in Cairo, I found a small bookstore and managed to find an Egyptian cookbook: “Egyptian Cooking – A Practical Guide”, by Samia Abdennour, published in Cairo in 1984.

"Egyptian Cooking - A Practical Guide" by Samia Abdennour, 1984.

“Egyptian Cooking – A Practical Guide” by Samia Abdennour, 1984.

I found many recipes for dishes I had enjoyed, while in Egypt, but was delighted to find two of my favourites: “Lamoon Mikhalel” (pickled limes), and “Shorbet Hommos” (chick pea soup, thick). The recipes follow:

Lamoon Mikhalel (Pickled Limes)

50 limes
salt

Wash the limes and soak in water for 36 hours, changing the water every 12 hours. Drain, add fresh water to cover and parboil for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain, add fresh cold water and soak again for 36 hours, changing the water every 12 hours. Place in a pickling jar and cover with salted water, 1 tablespoon of salt to every 2 cups of water. Serve after 24 hours. These pickled limes do not keep longer than 5 – 7 days.

It should be noted that the limes in Egypt are similar to Mexican limes, although may be slightly larger. A more labour-intensive recipe for the limes is also in this cookbook, but it requires 3 to 4 weeks, more salt and slashing the limes before weighing them down in a jar.

Valley of the Kings, Egypt - the very modest entrance down to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, 1984.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Valley of the Kings, Egypt – the very modest entrance down to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, 1984. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Esna, Egypt - The Temple of Esna, built by Ptolemy VI and dedicated to Khum, the God of Pottery.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Esna, Egypt – The Temple of Esna, built by Ptolemy VI and dedicated to Khum, the God of Pottery. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Shorbet Hommos (Chickpea Soup, Thick)

2 cups chickpeas
2 onions, sliced
5-7 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons oil
salt
baladi bread (“local bread”)

Soak chickpeas overnight, drain, add fresh water (double their measure) and onions. Cook about 20 – 30 minutes. Reserve 1 cupful of broth and set aside.

Add the garlic, cumin and lemon juice to the chickpeas and whirl in a blender or mash to a thin paste. Return to the fire, add oil, adjust seasoning and cook for 3 – 5 minutes.

Cut up local bread (baladi bread) into small pieces 2 – 3 cms square and line the bottom of the serving dish. Reboil the cupful of broth, moisten the bread with it and cover with the boiled chickpeas.

"The Pharaoh's Kitchen" by Magda Mehdawy and Amr Hussein, 2010

“The Pharaoh’s Kitchen” by Magda Mehdawy and Amr Hussein, 2010

Another wonderful Egyptian cookbook is “The Pharaoh’s Kitchen – Recipes from Ancient Egypt’s Enduring Food Traditions”, by Magda Mehdawy and Amr Hussein, published in Cairo in 2010. This book also contains chapters on Egyptian eating and serving customs, including festivals and feasts, cookware, table manners and cooking methods and is well worth tracking down.

Cairo, viewed from inside the Mohammed Ali Mosque, 1984.  Photo by Sue Jimenez

Cairo, viewed from inside the Mohammed Ali Mosque, 1984. Photo by Sue Jimenez

Egypt has gone through a lot of turmoil in the past 20 years, and I was fortunate enough to have seen much of her in relative safety. There was the day, somewhere around October 10th, 1984, however, when my sister and I walked across the top of the Aswan Dam (we were the only two people there), and after returning to Cairo, we heard the news that Muammar Qaddafi was thought to be planning an attack on the Aswan Dam and the Suez Canal. Timing is everything.

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About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,202. What next? More shelves!
This entry was posted in Cookbooks, Cooking, Cooking and Social History, Eating, Recipes, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Egypt – More than Mummies and Mortuaries

  1. Thank you so much. I loved my brief visit to Egypt years ago, the food, the people, the history. It is an amazing place.

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