Last month, my niece Ally and nephew Ryan came for their annual weeklong visit to our house. My house is transformed into "Camp Aunt Mary Kays" as we do crafts, take trips, play games and generally have a good time.
This year Ally asked me at the beginning of the week, "Aunt Mary Kay, could we have another Egyptian Party this year?" "Sure!" was the reply. And so we started planning. We would all dress up in our galabeyas and eat Egyptian-style food, and dance to Egyptian pop music.
* Mezze: Hummus & Pita
* Main: Shish Kebab with Cinnamon Clove Rub & Zesty Couscous Salad
* Dessert: Mihallabiya (Rosewater flavored Milk Pudding)
Shish Kebabs with Cinnamon Clove Rub
Cinnamon and cloves are spices associated with baked goods in the west. However, they are also used very commonly with meat dishes in North Africa, particularly Morocco. These spices make for a very tasty seasoning on grilled shish kebabs.
* 2 pounds beef cubes (or lamb)
* 1 tablespoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* Onion wedges
* Olive oil cooking spray, or a few Tablespoons olive oil
Prepare the grill (dont forget to spray with oil before the fire is lit.) Combine ingredients, cumin thru garlic in a dish or plastic bag. Spray the meat cubes with olive oil spray or brush lightly with the olive oil. Toss the meat cubes in the rub, either in the plastic bag or roll the cubes in the dish.
Let the meat "age" in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes.
Thread the meat cubes and onion wedges onto skewers alternately. * Grill kebabs on the grill rack for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the meat reaches the desired degree of doneness.
Approximately 8 servings, 1 1/2 kebabs each.
If using wooden skewers be sure to soak them in water for 15-30 minutes prior to use, so they wont burn on the grill.
Zesty Couscous Salad
Couscous, a staple grain of Western North Africa, is made from durum semolina, the same hard-wheat grain from which pasta is made. But, couscous can also be made from other grains such as barley or millet. Traditionally, couscous is steamed in a coucoussier, but I dont have one. Claudia Roden, in her marvelous The New Book of Middle Eastern Food describes a method for preparing the couscous in the oven, which results in a very light and fluffy grain, and this is the method I used.
Prepare the Couscous
* 3 cups of couscous (quick cooking)
* 3 cups of warm salted water (1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt)
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* Oven 400F
In a large oven dish, with a great surface area, such as a 9" x 13" baking dish (or larger), place the couscous so that the grains are not squashed on top of each other. Gradually add the same volume of water, stirring constantly so that the water is absorbed evenly. Keep fluffing up the grain with a fork and breaking up any lumps. After about 15 minutes of this, when the grain is plump and tender, mix in 3 Tb of vegetable oil and rub the grains between your hands above the bowl to air it and break up any lumps. Put the dish uncovered, into a pre-heated 400F over and heat thru for about 10 minutes, then fluff again, and then heat again until heated through, about 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Prepare the Salad
* 2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
* 1-2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thinly
* -1 cup fresh basil, cut into strips (I use kitchen shears)
* cup green onions, sliced
* 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
Combine cooled couscous, lemon juice and olive oil. Add tomatoes, zucchini, basil and green onions. Chill 4 hours or overnight. Add feta cheese right before serving. 6-8 servings.
NOTE: you may want to make up additional dressing for use when serving.
Mihallabiya (Rosewater flavored Milk Pudding)
I happened to have a prepared box of Mihallabiya on hand that I purchased at a Middle Eastern market. I gave the task of making the pudding to the girls. They mixed it up. We added additional rosewater. The pudding was poured very carefully into the dessert bowls. The young chefs added sliced almonds and cinnamon sugar, as a garnish. I must say the dessert dishes looked beautiful. The bowls were put into the refrigerator to chill.
When dessert time came, everyone decided that they would have dessert later. It seems that unlike orange or lemon flavored puddings, rosewater flavored foods are an acquired taste, something none of us have developed. While looking and smelling absolutely heavenly, no one got the urge to actually eat the pudding!
If you want to try making Mihallabiya at home from scratch, try this recipe:
* 3 tablespoons ground rice
* 3 cups milk
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon rosewater
* 2 tablespoons mixed nuts
Add ground rice to 1 cup of the milk. Dissolve the sugar in the remaining milk and bring to a boil. Add the rice-milk mixture, lower heat, and cook, stirring occasionally until the pudding thickens like a thin custard. Remove from the heat, stir in the rosewater and pour into a shallow serving dish. Sprinkle with the nuts.
Last Updated: June 7th, 2011