Comfort foods in Egypt depend on the region. In urban areas, ful (beans) with ‘aysh balady (country bread) and tourshy (pickles) is a winning sandwich for any time of the day and available in street carts throughout cities. Falafel, fried ful beans with cumin and other spices, are equally popular as a sandwich filling.
Also, families will bring home a container of ful beans from a street food stand and add their favorite items, perhaps oil, eggs, tomatoes, and so forth.
But in rural areas, away from cities, comfort foods are often regional – especially the breads. Where I lived in Upper Egypt, ‘aysh nashf (dry bread) was baked. A delicious, crisp large flat bread that takes several women most of the day to bake.
In the mornings, ‘aysh nashf with some gibna bayda (white cheese) or a boiled egg and a cup of tea – makes a wonderful breakfast!
Further south ‘aysh shamsy (sun bread) is the traditional bread. So-named because part of the preparation process takes place in the sun; it is a bread aptly suited to the environment.
There are other wonderful comfort foods that depend on region, such as Kishk. This is another country item whose manner of cooking may be regionally based. Made of fermented milk with grains and formed into little balls, it could be stored for months. The balls can be mixed with water to dissolve them, and kishk then becomes a kind of instant breakfast or snack.
An Egyptian friend from Cairo sent me the following recipe, which is for a kind of instantly made kishk to be eaten while still wet, or as a cereal; very much a city version:
hi diana, how are you?
here is the kishk recipe:
1 small cup of rice
1/2 cup of flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper as desire
1 litre chicken stock
first step: wash rice and put it on soup (chicken broth) to boiling well
second step: mix the flour and milk in mixer well
third step: apply the last mix to the soup with rice after boiling very well
fourth step: slice onion and fried in oil to be the red color, put this to the the mix and put in plates you can decorate it with some
of fried onion
it`s delicious Egyptian dish, enjoy it, dodia
Here are a couple of other versions:
Kishk – Milky Cold Sauce
1. 2 cups chicken broth.
2. 1/2 cup flour.
3. 1 cup milk.
4. 1 sliced thinly onion.
5. Cooking oil.
6. 1 tablespoon butter.
7. Salt and pepper.
1. Mix flour and seasoning.
2. Add chicken broth to milk and pour over flour, stirring to blend.
3. Cook over low flame and stirring constantly, to reach the thickness of thin custard pudding.
4. Place in shallow serving dish to cool.
5. Fry onion until nicely brown.
6. Drain on absorbent paper and cool.
7. Sprinkle decoratively over kishk.
8. Serve cold.
How to prepare Kishk for storage
Kishk Li-l-Takhzin – Kishk, for storage
1. 1 tablespoon salt.
2. enough flour to form hard dough.
3. 2 cups milk.
1. Dissolve salt in milk.
2. Add gradually sifted flour, mixing thoroughly until a thick dough formed that easily leaves the sides of container.
3. Allow to rise for 5 days, sprinkling flour on top of dough.
4. Mold into small round flat cakes and allow to dry in fresh air, turning over each cake twice a day until they become very hard.
5. Store in box with tight-fitting lid, either in cake form or pounded and reduced to powder.
As a major meal, for me, nothing can beat a big Iftar, which may contain 10 or more dishes depending on the wealth of the family. The iftar – or breaking fast in the morning during Ramadan, is family based but may also include any number of invited guests. It is the joy of all being together, chatting and eating, that brings comfort.
As rural Egypt becomes increasingly incorporated into the modern world, availability of electricity and of gas is flattening out the regionality of cuisines. In the process, it is often the most poor who retain regional cuisines as they are often unable to purchase gas or link to electricity in order to produce more ‘modern’ meals. This is a global process.