Saturday, 7 March 2015

A taste of Egypt for less than a fiver

Dee - This single-meal project is a response to a challenge set by fellow food blogger Andrew, who runs ‘The School Cook’ Link to Blog to create a three course meal for two people for less than 5GBP.  This limit is based on the cost of the quantities used in the recipes rather than the quantities purchased, so I will firstly give an indication of how much it all cost at the point of purchase, then, in the commentary for each course, the cost based on the quantities the recipes.

For my three course meal, I have selected three simple recipes from Amy Riolo’s book ‘Nile Style’ Link to Review which I believe provide a good showcase of Egyptian food using readily available ingredients.  The recipes I’ve selected can all be prepared quickly, and most of the items on the shopping list below will not need replenishing for a while.

First, the shopping list;

Courgettes:  £1.50 for 250g
Vegetable stock cubes:  £1.39 for a box of 12
Whole milk:  49p for 568ml
Salt:  40p for 750g
Pepper:  £2.00 for 35g
Wholemeal flour:  £1.00 for 1.5kg
Yeast:  95p for 8 sachets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  £2.29 for 500ml
Fava Beans:  94p for 1 tin
Ground cumin:  £1.75 for 28g
Lemon:  30p each
Yoghurt:  £1.60 for 500g
Honey:  £1.18 for 227g

I found the vast majority of these ingredients in local supermarkets.  The only exception was the tin of fava beans, which I bought from an international grocery shop nearby.

Starter:  Courgette Soup (Shorbat Koosa)
Gourds have existed in Egypt since ancient times, but their relatives, courgettes, are a more recent arrival, probably from Italy via the port of Alexandria. 
This soup was quick and easy to prepare, with a rich texture and earthy flavour, but needed a careful balancing of theingredients.  We found the secret to be in the seasoning, which needed constant checking to ensure that the flavour of the courgettes showed through without letting the salt overpower it.  The milk gave a slightly richer texture to the soup.
When calculating the cost, I was surprised to find that the courgettes were the most expensive items on the shopping list.  However, I could have paid less for them if I’d shopped around more.
Cost for Two Servings:  £1.69

Main Course:  Simmered Fava Beans (Ful Medammes) with Wholemeal Flatbread (Aish Baladi)
I couldn’t showcase Egyptian cuisine without mentioning Ful Medammes.  This simple dish of slow cooked fava beans is considered the national dish and is usually enjoyed as a filling breakfast.  We decided instead to serve it as a main course, with a wholemeal flatbread cut into quarters.  Most recipes for Ful Medammes, or ‘Ful’ call for dried fava beans, which are soaked overnight before cooking, but the tinned cooked beans have proved much easier to source, plus the recipe in the book uses them, so that issue was settled in their favour.  We added the salt, pepper and cumin to the beans as they were cooking, but served the lemon juice and olive oil separately and added it as we went along.  The quantities in the recipe in the book stated that a tin of beans was for 4 servings, but that was as part of a much larger menu, so we shared it between just the two of us.
I made four flatbreads but we only had two of them, so I froze the other two for use at a later date.  The quartered bread was great for scooping up the spicy ful.  Another way to enjoy it is to break the bread into two halves, split in and spread the ful inside.  Either way it’s a great tasting and nicely filling dish.
Cost for Two Servings of Ful:  £1.37
Cost for Four Flatbreads:  £0.41

Dessert:  Yoghurt with Honey (Zabadi bil ‘Asal)
This was the simplest of desserts to prepare, but the sweetness of the honey and creaminess of the yoghurt provided a fine finish to the meal.
Cost for Two Servings:  £0.75

The final cost of the meal came in at £4.22 but as previously mentioned, that included two additional flatbreads. 

This was an interesting experiment to take part in, and I was happy that I had managed to fulfil both the brief for the challenge and my own aim of offering a small Taste of Egypt.

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