Um Ali is a well known dessert in Egypt that dates back to the Abuyyid period. This ubiquitous dessert is an Egyptian version of bread pudding made with flaky layers of Egyptian bread soaked in a thick sweet mixture of milk, sugar, and cinnamon. The […]
Egyptian massak’aa is easily one the tastiest dishes out there. In this version, sliced eggplants and peppers are lightly fried and then cooked in an irresistible tomato sauce simmering with garlic, onions, cumin, and vinegar. It’s really a simple dish to prepare with complex flavors […]
It has been a frequent complaint when we go out to eat at Middle Eastern restaurants: “they just don’t make falafel like they do back in Egypt.” We have tried countless places, and although it still may taste good, it doesn’t ever taste the same. Oh, how I miss my Egyptian falafel. The memory of waking up in our Alexandria vacation home and finding my cheery grandfather walk into the dining room with some hot and fresh falafels wrapped in a greasy newspaper, along with some hot-out-of-the-oven pita bread is one of my best childhood memories. I can almost smell it.
Here, in the U.S., it is easy to find falafel everywhere. It is even in our local grocery stores. Falafel is such a loved favorite by all because it is a healthy, flavorful, vegetarian and vegan protein based dish. In metro-Detroit where I grew up, and in Chicago where I currently reside, it is even easier to find a wide variety of falafel dishes in endless cafes, restaurants, and diners. But why can’t I still enjoy that same nostalgic scent and flavor of falafels in Alexandria?
I finally figured out what is different. The falafel so well known here is that which hails from the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine) and it is primarily made with chickpeas. Now don’t get me wrong, these chickpea based falafel recipes are still delicious with all their variations and spices from each chef. But that is why it always tasted so different to us.
Egyptian falafel is not made with chickpeas, it is made with fava beans! Ah hah! Here is the key difference and why it has never tasted the same to me. We also load it up with greens for flavor such as cilantro, parsley, and leeks. So there you have it; it wasn’t a special oil, a pan, or even certain contaminants from the Egyptian cooking environment as we have often joked :D. The Egyptian falafel is greener, crispier, and flakier. In Cairo they call it T’aamiya, but if you are in Alexandria they still call it falafel. My dad and his family is from Cairo, and my mother’s side is from Alexandria so we use both names, interchangably. That is the beauty of blending cultures; you have a richer experience and vocabulary 🙂 And this here, is the best falafel recipe out there, demystified.
To make falafel, we do not use the brown fava beans as used in my ful mudammas recipe. Instead, you need peeled, large fava beans. These are sometimes labeled habas beans. I was lucky to find some in the bulk section at Whole Foods. Bob’s Red Mill also sells the correct larger, peeled bean. They should look like this:
The beans need to soak in water for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The beans do not get cooked soft, but only pulsed in a food processor before frying or baking. So the soaking is very important. The soaking also helps remove some of the unwanted by-product in the beans that our bodies do not digest well and may cause bloating. So, step 1: soak the beans!
The greens used in the recipe give this falafel a really fresh and flavorful bite. It is crispier and lighter than the chickpea variation. Because there is a lot of liquid from the onion and fresh herbs, you need some type of flour to bind the falafel together. I love using garbanzo bean flour, which is really just ground chickpeas. The flavors combine perfectly, and keeps the recipe gluten-free. You can also find ground chickpea flour from Bob’s. Some chopped white onion, cilantro (with stems), parsley, and leek go into this falafel dough for a fresh and green patty. It is fine to add the cilantro and parsley leaves along with garlic into the food processor with the beans, but it is better to finely chop the onion and leek so that the mixture does not get too much water.
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When blending the ingredients slowly pulse the beans until they are like a grainy texture, with no large chunks. Be careful not to puree it into a paste. It won’t hold together into a patty if you do. Once everything is blended, you may begin to combine all ingredients for the dough. Add the spices: cumin, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper. Cayenne is a great addition if you want some kick, but I keep the heat down for my kids.
Once all the ingredients are combined (except for the baking soda), you may either pack away the falafel “dough” into freezer bags for later use, or if you are ready to fry them, prepare for shaping the patties.
When the falafel will be shaped into patties to fry, you need to add 1 tsp of baking soda per 1 cup of dough. Use about 2 teaspoons of dough to roll into a ball and then flatten into a patty. Roll in sesame on both sides and set onto a plate until ready to fry. I fry mine in a combination of sunflower, grapeseed, and olive oil, but you could use any frying oil you like.
It is basically compulsory to eat falafel with tahini. The sauce smothers the falafel with the right amount of juicy zest, and makes any sandwich better. Tahini to falafel is like ketchup to potato fries. My cilantro tahini is perfect for falafel. Simply whisk the lime juice into the tahini. Add the minced garlic and cilantro, and whisk in the water until the tahini is the desired consistency. For some reason blending the tahini makes it get hard. So only use a whisk. Drizzle over your falafel sandwich, or simply dip the falafels in and enjoy. :p
- 3 cups habas beans (peeled and soaked overnight)
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped (1.5 cups)
- 1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 bunch of parsley leaves
- 4 large cloves of garlic (or more to taste)
- 1 leek
- 2 tsp salt (more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
- 1.5 cups chickpea flour
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp of baking soda (for frying only)
- 3 cups of sunflower or canola oil (or any oil you prefer for frying)
- sumac for garnish
- pita bread to serve
- 1/2 tahini paste
- 1/4 c lime juice
- 1/4 c water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp minced cilantro
- After soaking overnight, rinse the fava/habas beans with cold water and drain well.
- Thoroughly wash the parsley and cilantro. Remove the parsley leaves from the stems, and discard the stems.
- Trim off the bottoms of the cilantro stems and discard, but keep the tops of the stems near the leaves.
- In a food processor, combine the beans with the parsley, cilantro, and garlic cloves.
- Peel the outer leaves of the leek and wash well. Roughly chop the leek and add to the bean mixture. Pulse in a food processor until the bean and herb mixture is grainy like sand. You will likely need to pulse in a few batches to fit it all, so that you do not process parts of the beans too much. Be careful not to puree to a paste.
- Stir in the spices and chopped onions.
- Slowly stir in the chickpea flour so that you have a moldable dough with no excess water. If it is too watery, add more chickpea flour.
- Separate the dough into baggies to refrigerate or freeze for later, or you may fry it all at once to yield several dozens.
- Only use the baking soda right before cooking the dough, not for storage. Stir in 1/2 tsp of baking soda for every cup of falafel dough you will cook. Roll into balls, then flatten lightly. Roll the patty in a plate of sesame seeds and set aside on a platter until ready to fry.
- Heat the oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat. The oil is ready when you drop a crumb of dough into it, and it sizzles and turns golden quickly. Once hot, turn the heat down to medium and place about 6-8 falafels into the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and set onto a towel to drain. Serve hot and eat immediately!
- Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Dip the falafels in tahini and enjoy! Bil hana wil shifaa!
- Like potato fries, falafel tastes best served immediately. It is best to only fry a small amount that will be consumed immediately, and store the rest in the fridge or freezer. Store in the fridge for 3 days maximum.
- When using a frozen bag of falafel dough, allow it to thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.
- Serve the falafel with the tahini sauce, sliced tomatoes, green onions, and cucumbers, and of course, with some pita bread.
- Bil Hana!
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This is a delicious citrus cake that is divinely moist, and bursting with tangy cranberries throughout! The recipe is so simple, anybody can whip it up in no time. Orange cake is one of those nostalgic recipes that takes me back to my childhood visits to […]
This dish is easily a favorite for all in our family, a comfort food that triggers nostalgia, and a delicious and easy recipe to include in every kitchen! The chicken is juicy and tender, with a crunchy and flavorful outer crust.
Chicken pane is classic Egyptian recipe of breaded, fried chicken. The flavors are somehow juicier and zestier than what I have tried in the classic American fried chicken counterparts, although both are equally delicious in their own regard. This chicken is softer crunch, with a more flavorful bite. I also use this recipe on smaller strips of chicken tenderloins to make chicken strips or chicken nuggets for the kids, and this is a favorite for all! The name chicken pane, comes from the French word meaning bread crumbs. It turns out when Napolean came to Egypt, the French occupation left some flavorful influences. It is not uncommon to find French influence on Egyptian cuisine, language, and music. Because I love all things Parisian, I don’t mind throwing in this tidbit about my parents’ beautiful home country.
To make this dish, you need boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into two pieces, and filleted in half (sometimes into thirds, if it is especially thick). It is essential to marinate the chicken in onions, garlic, salt, and pepper overnight or for a couple of hours at the very least! This is what makes the chicken extra juicy and flavorful.
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The breads crumbs mixture is combined with some panko crumbs and a delicious combo of seasoning: salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, onion salt, and garlic powder. Sometimes I add minced parsley.
The final step seems obvious: fry the chicken. However, I consider it mandatory to lay it on a plate lined with some paper towel as soon as you remove it from the pan. Maybe it’s the blot-the-oil-off-your-pizza high-schooler in me, but I find that this makes it lighter and tastier without the greasiness. But again, you could certainly bake this in the oven if you choose! Baking steers away from the traditional recipe and flavor, but it still works. I promise. Just brush the baking pan with some oil and turn the chicken over mid-way. This ensures a crispy golden crust.
- 3 lbs of chicken breast, filleted and cut in half
- 1.5 cups of bread crumbs
- 1.5 cups panko crumbs
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 large onion, sliced or blended
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp onion salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 cup sunflower or grape seed oil (or any oil for frying)
- 1/2 cup flour
- Cover the chicken breasts with the onion and minced garlic, 1 tbsp of salt, and 1 tsp of pepper and marinate over night.
- Crack the eggs in a bowl and whip with the water.
- In a separate bowl combine the breadcrumbs, panko crumbs, and remaining salt, pepper, and spices.
- Pour the flour in a third bowl.
- Add the oil to a pan and turn to medium-high heat. The oil does not need to fully cover the chicken, as you will be pan frying it on each side.
- Remove the pieces of chicken breast from the marination mixture one at a time and dip it into each bowl you have prepared. So first dust with the flour (shake off any excess flour), then dip into the egg wash so that it is coated on both sides, then dip into the bowl of breadcrumbs to coat completely. Shake off the excess and place it in the pan.
- Cook the chicken on one side in the pan until golden, and then flip it. This takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat for each piece of chicken, and add more oil if necessary.
- Remove the chicken after it is golden and place onto a plate lined with paper towel.
- Serve garnished with red onions, parsley, or other vegetables you prefer.
- You may bake the chicken in the oven at 375 degree F. Simply place the chicken on a pan brushed with oil and flip half way through the cook time. Cook 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the chicken.
This green bean stew is such a delicious and simple recipe, you will want to add it to your favorites and quick dinners repertoire. The recipe is a classic Egyptian stew eaten in most Middle Eastern homes throughout various countries in the region. There are […]
Do you know about this super food? This dish is a classic favorite for Egyptians and is prepared in its uniquely flavored broth and usually served over rice, or with pita bread. Its savory, garlicky flavor is an instant hit and its slipper texture makes it […]
This is another classic Egyptian dish. Oozing a creamy béchamel sauce, savory beef, and yummy cheesiness, this pasta casserole will be a huge hit with the whole family. There are many variations to make this casserole slightly healthier such as using vegetables instead of beef, whole grain pasta instead of regular, and even reducing the cream and cheese used. This recipe however is the original and is the PERFECT texture and flavor. I am using my mother in law’s recipe which she perfected over the years as it is her husband’s favorite meal! Everyone who knows her, knows she makes this dish the best; so I went to none other than the source herself for the secret!
The recipe is fairly easy and is excellent for making in large quantities and freezing extra pans for later quick meals. The trickiest part is stirring up a creamy velvety béchamel sauce. But I will take you through the steps below to help ensure the best sauce! Bechamel consists of flour and butter creamed into milk. You first need to melt the butter in a large pot over LOW HEAT. The temperature is very important. If you scorch the butter or flour, it will clump and not cook properly.
Once the butter melts, you will add some oil, and then the flour and stir consistently with a wooden spoon or a whisk into a golden paste.
Then you need to slowly add the milk, a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well in between each pour. It is best to use an immersion blender to stir in the milk and prevent any clumps.
The béchamel will thicken significantly when it sits, so you want to make it after you boil the pasta and cook the beef so that it does not sit for too long.
Once the sauce is cooked, you will add some shredded romano cheese, salt and pepper.
The pasta should be tossed in extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, some shredded cheese so that you’d actually want to just eat it like that! You will add a dollop of the béchamel to the cooked pasta and mix that all together. This mixture of pasta is part of the secret to achieving the perfectly delectable flavor in every bite you take. Once you have the sauce, pasta, and beef all ready, you can assemble the casserole.
Then Pasta again:
Finally, crown it with the béchamel:
Bake for 30-40 minute in 400 degrees until the top is bubbling.
Macarona Béchamel (ala Neveen)
- 1 1/2 lb penne pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the beef filling
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 c diced onion (one medium onion)
- 2-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, minced
- 1/4 c tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Bechamél
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1/2 c flour + 2 tbsp
- 4 cups of milk
- 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 c shredded romano cheese
- 1/4 c shredded mozzarella
- Cook the penne pasta in boiling water and 1 tbsp olive oil, just past al dente (it will cook more in the oven), and set aside to drain.
For the beef Filling:
- Brown the beef in a pot over medium heat, adding some oil if it is not a fatty beef.
- Add the onions and garlic and stir until you hear a sizzle and onions turn a yellow in color.
- Add the spices, salt, and pepper.
- Add the tomato sauce and 1/2 c water and stir.
- Add minced parsley leaves and stir. Cook until all excess water has evaporated.
For the Bechamél Sauce
- Make the béchamel sauce by first melting the butter over LOW heat and stirring in the olive oil.
- Maintaining the pot over low heat, slowly add the flour, stirring constantly into a golden paste. Slowly add the milk, bit by bit, stirring constantly. Use an immersion blender to completely blend smoothly.
- Stir in the broth and stir.
- Turn the heat up to medium. Keep stirring and once the mixture bubbles, turn the heat back down to low. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup of the shredded romano cheese. Remove the sauce from heat.
- In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with 1 tbsp olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, 1/4 cup of romano cheese, and 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella. Add about 2 tbsp of the béchamel to the pasta and stir.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (f).
- Layer the casserole in a 9 inch rectangular dish in even layers in the following order: half of the pasta, all of the beef filling, the other half of the pasta, then pour all remaining béchamel sauce so that the penne is completely covered. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, uncovered.
- Allow the casserole to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Bil hana will shifaa!
When you think of typical Egyptian food, kushary may come to mind. Kushary is a classic Egyptian comfort food. It is a popular street food in Cairo and throughout Egypt. Kushary is a delicious combination of common pantry grains, chickpeas, crispy onions, garlic, and savory-tangy […]