Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Egypt Sunflower

After around two months from sowing the seeds, my sunflower plants started to flower:

The photos above are of a sunfowr plant I had planted in a 40 cm (15") pot at the edge of my balcony in Cairo, Egypt.

The birds seemed to like the taste of the sunflower plant leaves so I had to hange an old CD next to the sunflower plant in order to deter them and it did turn out to be very effective.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Egyptian Dove

I live in an apartment in Cairo, Egypt. A few days ago, I was hearing doves flapping their wings against my window as I woke up early in the morning. Yet I forgot to open up the curtain and check out what was going on. No big deal I though.

Two days ago, upon opening the window we discovered some sort of 'nest', a tiny white egg and a dove sitting next to it. The dove was nesting right on my window sill!

Every day I woke up with the intention of checking up on the dove but every time I forgot to actually do so. Today I finally remembered and managed to take some shots with camera. I can't wait to see when the eggs hatch. I hope they do!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Eating Fava Bean Sprouts

Sprouting many types of seeds can be an interesting thing to do and greatly increases their nutritional value. While fava beans (broad beans) are not among the commonly listed seeds for sprouting, yet in Egypt fava beans are the seeds which are commonly sprouted by ordinary Egyptians and used as a popular inexpensive Egyptian dish.

Fava bean sprouts are called Fuul Nabet (فول نابت) in Arabic. Unlike with other sprouts, fava bean sprouts must be coocked first before eating.

Fava beans are the most common type of food present in Egypt. It has been consumed by Ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago and is still the most popular type of food consumed in Egypt. There are numerous dishes that Egyptians make from fava beans. Fava bean srprouts is one of such popular Egyptian dishes.

Here is how fava bean sprouts are commonly prepared and cooked in Egypt:
  1. Soak the dry fava beans in water overnight.
  2. Rinse and move the fava beans into a colander next morning.
Repeat the above process for a couple of days intill the fava beans start to sprout. It can take around 3 or 4 days for the seeds to sprout depending on the weather. During summer it takes fewer days than during winter. In Egypt it does not take long due to the warm weather yet in colder countries like in Europe for instance and North America fava beans would probably normally take longer to sprout on their own.

After the fava beans have started to show the first signs of germination, they are now ready for cooking. Here is how to cook the fava bean sprouts:
  1. Add fresh water to the rinsed fava bean sprouts.
  2. Add two small whole onions.
  3. Add three cloves of garlic.
  4. Add half a small spoon cumin.
  5. Heat the water till it boils.
  6. Keep boiling untill it is tender.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Turn off the gas.
Cooked fava bean sprouts can be served with lemon. The soup is delicious and can either be served alone or with the fava beans themselves. Some people eat the whole coocked fava bean sprouts while others peal them and only eat the more tender part inside the fava bean leaving the brown cover.

Some people make sandwiches full of cooked fava bean sprouts and usually season them salt, cumin and chillies. They are considered a nutritionally rich yet inexpensive type of food in Egypt. Many lower class people in Egypt offer fava bean sprout sandwiches for free to others as a form of charity.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Milk and Date Shake

Last month I've learnt how to make a new drink. It is milk and date shake! I will call it so to be inline with milk and banana shake which I enjoyed greatly since my early childhood.

I learnt this new drink only last month upon my visit to a young Egyptian guy who has taken 6 feddans (around 6 hectars just a bit more) of land in Wadi El Natrun which is in the Western Egyptian Desert. The interesting thing is that this guy had no electricity in his land yet recently bought a small generator that works on gasoline. He also bought a blender which he plugs into electric outlets from that generator. The more interesting thing though is that this young guy has improvised to make such wonderful drink. He had never heard of it before nor had he tried drinking it in the past. He just set on to try and added dates (after removing the seeds of course) to the blender with some milk and found that it tasted wonderful!

I tried it there, and indeed was amazed with the taste! He used powdered milk, yet when I went back home in Cairo I made it with fresh milk instead and it tasted just the better.

Here is how it is done: Remove the seeds from dates (preferably soft dates) and put them in the blender without moving their outer skin. Add milk. Start the blender. That's it. This method results in a highly sweet drink so you may consider adding water to make it more sutable for your palate.

By the way, this is no traditional Egyptian drink and the great majority of Egyptians don't know it. My mother was astonished when I first told her about it but was delighted after she tasted it for the first time. Yet in Egypt and other Arab countries we have a traditional drink/food which is basically made by soaking dates (seeds removed) into warm milk then leaving them for some time. The result is a really delicous kind of food. It's been knonw for hundreds of years. Yet the shaked version is brand new for us here and does indeed taste great. Perhaps you ought to try it out yourself and see. Remember to add water in order for it not to bee too sweet for you unless you need that much sweetness in your drink. An excellent drink for athletes I guess or for the rest of us after an exercise.

By the way, the type of dates I used is called rotab, it is dark and soft and has an outer skin. We easily squeze the rotab date out of its black outer skin when eating it yet when making this milk and date shake the outer skin is not to be removed. That was another astonishing thing for me to notice and for my mom as well till we tried the drink by ourselves and found that the outer skin 'disolved' completely into the drink and tasted so good.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Eating Watermelon Seeds

Watermelon is one of our favorite fruits here in Egypt. Getting back home after a hot day in the hot summer of Egypt there is nothing like athe red juicy watermelon pieces to rebalance ones body giving it back what it has lost of water and energy. I tried drinking water after getting back home from such hot days, but it does not return my body to its balance and peace. Only sweet watermelon quenches my thirst and the sugar in it provides me with the energy I need. It is an amazing perfect balance. Yet in Egypt, it is not only the red juicy part of watermelon that we eat, for we also eat the seed kernel after extracting and roasting it.

The process is easy and straightforward. It goes like this: First collect the black watermelon seeds after eating the juicy red parts of the watermelon and instead of throwing them away put them in a colandar to dry out. Then wash them well with tap water and leave them again to dry. After that, put the dried watermelon seeds in a frying pan and turn the heat on. Keep stirring the black seeds in the pan till they are almost completely roasted.

Prepare a cup of water with salt in it. Stirr the salt well in the water. Then when the watermelon seeds are almost complety roasted pour the salted water slowly in the hot pan and keep stirring till the water dries out. At this point, your black tasty watermelon seeds will be ready for you to try out.

When the seeds cool down, pick one and crack it open with your teeth then eat the small kernal inside it. Yummy! That tastes good!

Millions of Egyptians enjoy eating red and juicy watermelon fruits in the hot summer of Egypt, but today not all of them eat the watermelon seed kernals anymore. Yet roasted and salted watermelon seeds remains as one of the traditional Egyptian snacks.

Unlike in other countries, in Egypt we do not have seedless watermelons, so eating roased watermelon seed kernals in summer remains easily within the reach of most Egyptians.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Eating Apricot Kernel in Egypt

Here in Egypt when we want to refer to something that will never happen we say "fel meshmesh". This Egyptian saying in Arabic means "when the apricot season comes". Meshmesh (مشمش) is the Arabic word for Apricot. The season for apricot in Egypt is so brief that as soon as it starts it comes quickly to an end. The brevity of the apricot season in Egypt is what led to this common Egyptian saying.

Apricot is a common fruit in Egypt. Many people call their cats "meshmesh" specially if their fur color is close to that of apricot. In the English language, orange is a color and is taken from the name of the fruit with the same name. In Egypt, we use the word "meshmeshi" to refer to anything that has a color similar to that of apricots. A testimony to the popularity of apricots as a fruit in Egypt.

Egyptians do not only eat the apricot fruit, but traditionally we also break the seed coat of the apricot and eat the kernel inside. Traditionally, we take the kernel out and grind it till it's powder, or a bit course grained, then add other ingredients to it such as dried coriander and salt. We grind all this together and mix it perhaps after some roasting in a pan with no additives. The resulting mix is called dokka (دقة). It can be eaten with bread at breakfast or dinner.

The apricot kernel can also be eaten without grinding right after breaking the protective seed coat from around it. It would taste a bit bitter yet has a pleasant taste to it at the end. It is also said to have great health benefits and has even been claimed, yet not officially proven, to have cancer preventing or even cancer curing effects.

Apricot kernel can also be roasted in a pan with or without oil and then used instead of almonds either for direct consumption or in preparing foods that otherwise use almonds.