Or do you prefer to spell it koshary? Because the name of this dish is transliterated from Arabic, there are variations in English spellings. But whatever way you spell it, this is a tasty dish from Egypt—and because I’m heading for Egypt tomorrow, I thought it would be an appropriate recipe to leave you with, until my return.

In Egypt, they’ve been eating lentils for almost as long as the legume has been cultivated. In fact, most of this dish’s ingredients have been available in Egypt for millennia. Cinnamon, cumin and olive oil are spoken of in the Old Testament, and the book of Numbers records this lamentation of the wandering Israelites: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt, also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Aside from noting the antiquity of a few ingredients, the verse suggests some of the things you could serve with this dish—cucumber salad on the side, melon for dessert. Enjoy.

6 ounces (1 cup) brown lentils
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
4 plum tomatoes (or 2 regular tomatoes), chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup plain yogurt (optional)

Soak the lentils in water to cover for 1 hour. Drain, place in a saucepan, cover with water by 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. salt, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until just about tender.

In a large saucepan, or skillet with a lid, heat olive oil and sauté the chopped onion and garlic until it begins to color. Add the cumin and cinnamon, and stir together. Add the uncooked rice and stir to coat with oil and spices. Add 2 cups water and lentils with their cooking liquid, plus remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and the ground pepper, and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, stir in tomatoes and celery leaves, cover and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until the liquid is (mostly) absorbed. (Don’t worry if there’s a little liquid in the pan—better to have it juicy than dry.)

Beat the yogurt lightly with a fork or whisk, to make it smooth. Serve yogurt in a bowl, as a topping to be spooned over the koshry. Serves 4 to 6.

©2008 Cynthia Clampitt

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Filed under Food, History, Recipes

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