Kushary

The Vegetarian's Guide To The World

Forking Off

Kushary

Ingredients (Serves 4)

 

  • 200g Medium Grain Rice (Weight Uncooked)
  • 200g Brown Lentils (Weight Uncooked)
  • 200g Macaroni (Weight Uncooked)
  • 400g Tin of Chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp White Vinegar
  • 4-6 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 100g Tomato Puree
  • 300g Passata
  • 2 Large White Onions, Finely Diced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Finely Diced
  • Ground Cumin
  • Garlic Powder
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Finely Diced
  • Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp Chilli Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper

My friend and I and a bunch of back-packers we found in a hostel, visited Abou Tarek’s kushary house, essential if you’re in downtown Cairo, and it was absolutely heaving. Awkwardly the management shifted a family off a table so that we could all sit together to sample their national dish, but it was awesome. Just the right level of spice to be warming and not too hot; it’s hearty and filling. Of course if you can’t quite make it to Cairo and you don’t fancy cooking, you can pick up a pretty lush bowl of it in Borough Market too.

  • Bring your lentils to a boil and then drop the heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes until your lentils are soft, but still holding their shape. Simultaneously bring the rice to a boil in a different pan.

 

  • Strain the lentils, but don't throw the water out - boil the macaroni in it instead. Simultaneously bring the chickpeas to a boil and then simmer.

 

  • Put the lentils straight in with the white vinegar, 1/2 tsp of cumin and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder.

 

  • Heat 3-4 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and fry up one and a half of the chopped onions until golden brown, then take them out and let them dry on some paper towel.

 

 

  • To make the sauce, heat 1-2 tbsp of oil and fry the remaining half an onion and the garlic until golden brown. Then add the passata, tomato puree, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chilli flakes, salt and pepper and simmer till the sauce thickens.

 

  • To serve, split the rice evenly across 4 large, shallow bowls, then spoon the macaroni on top of that, the lentils on top of that and then lastly the chickpeas. Pour the sauce over the top. In Cairo the sauce would be served separately in a silver vessel (that looks quite a lot like Aladdin's lamp).

 

  • Sprinkle the fried onions over the top to finish.

Kushary is completely unique amongst all the dishes I have tried in different places. Not only does it combine every type of starch imaginable in a seemingly unnecessary, yet ultimately brilliant carb-load, but in Cairo it is literally bigger than The Beatles. There are pop songs about it. Music videos. Whole buildings dedicated to it. Abou Tarek, host of Cairo’s most famous kushary house, is a national hero and has achieved rock star status; I know because I have his CD – a combination of jangling Arabic music, base-dropping beats and the words ‘kushary, kushary!’