This year for Christmas, the Bailey family met in Calgary and enjoyed a number of delectable treats, including, but not limited to, turkey, ham, perogies, cabbage rolls, rice krispie cake, Mom's "turban-shaped" cookies, pepperoni sticks, and Christmas Morning Wifesaver Breakfast (A Canadian classic- make it the night before, sort of like an egg strata casserole).
But the real highlight of the Bailey Family Christmas was my Uncle Ray's Christmas Popcorn. Bringing 5 (or 6, I lost count) different kinds of popcorny treats to the table, Uncle Ray really took the cake this year. Included among the yumminess were Crunchy Carmel Corn, Chewy Caramel Corn, Popcorn Balls, Popcorn Cake, and Cinnamon Sugar and Cranberry Popcorn.
Much of the skill lies in being able to make the right consistency of dough so that it does not break when you stretch it out into a big circle. I made the dough on my own so of course it was popping all over the place. Luckily you can patch it up but it is a beautiful sight to see the whole "jufka" or dough ball all stretched out without any battle scars. I made burek and krompiraca or potato pita. Despite my first shot at it, they were delicious. If there is one thing I miss from home, this is the food that kept me going. All is not lost though as I am going to Bosnia on Saturday and I have instructed my aunt to prepare some Pita that I can eat as soon as I can get there. I'm sure her's will look more appealing.
Here, we have the mixture from the bowl on the left and on the right, we have noodle with vegetables, egg and pork.
I find there are always things that accompany the main course. Here, we have miso soup, rice with raw fish on top and a cabbage salad.
I love dessert, here we have green tea ice cream (better than in Calgary), red beans and some whipped cream.
When talking to people, they always tell me that takoyaki is similar to okonamiyaki but I don't really know what they mean. Maybe something got lost in translation. Takoyaki is balls of octopus deep fried in a thin batter and then covered with thinly sliced dried onion. I burnt my tongue eating this so I didn't really enjoy it, plus it was really squishy.
The Spread.The Channa Masala
Yesterday, I was given the honour of cooking for a Bengali mother, Mahmuda. Talk about a nerve-racking experience. Bengali mothers are among the best in the world at cooking, so pleasing one demands skill, effort, and sheer luck.
I decided to prepare Channa Masala for this occasion. My plan was to bring a blender to make a smooth gravy, but the kibosh was put on that when I had to go inside one of the more secure buildings in Cairo. I wasn't convinced that they'd let me in the the blender blades....
In the evening, I arrived at the cooking venue without half of my ingredients. Again, not a good thing. At one point, Mahmuda came in and said, "Where is the channa for your channa masala?"
"Pandrah minit (fifteen minutes)," I replied, to which Farzina said, "We don't say pandrah in this house...we're Bengalis."
A short walk around the neighbourhood looking for channa later, I had myself I pretty decent looking masala. Mahmuda then showed me the kichuri and lamb curry she had made. This was going to be a feast-and-a-half.
Then she tried a bit of my curry. "It needs more salt." I couldn't help but trust her verdict, so I added some more salt. Otherwise, I think she approved.
When it came time to feasting, the guests did not disappoint. I chowed down on about four bowls of the two curries and rice. The outcome that was decided upon was that the combination of the two curries and rice were phenomenal. Mahmuda and I also worked out the details of the restaurant we were going to start up.
Perhaps I should go back and get some schooling on Bengali cuisine. And make chai, of course.
The Juice Artist
Fruit Cocktail is the Mona Lisa of juices in Egypt. It takes a steady hand and an artful touch to create the masterpiece, so only those with the skills that take years to refine should come forth.
It starts with a layer of mango juice, followed up by a level of guava (which sinks to the bottom), then a small banana (that is expertly peeled and cut into slices) is added. To be honest, I'm not sure what happens next because I didn't hang around to see the end. I think they finish it off with a layer of pommegranate and then maybe some pineapple, strawberry, hibiscus, or coconut juice.
Koshari is one of those dishes that makes you wonder what the guy/girl was thinking while inventing it.
Start with a layer of pasta, add a layer of rice, then a layer of black lentils, sprinkle on some chick peas, dress with a layer of crispy onions, and then cover with tomato sauce. For added effect, try drenching in garlic sauce or hot oil. If you're one of those carnivorous types, ask for shawerma meat on top.