My readers are probably aware that when I travel to new locales, I love being able to take cooking classes. Not only do I enjoy trying new foods, but I think learning about local cuisines gives you insight into the local culture you wouldn’t otherwise get.
When I heard that the Community Services Association (CSA) offered Egyptian cooking classes I signed up immediately.
After arriving at my class I found out that the other couple who signed up had just called to cancel, so it looked like I’d have myself another private lesson.
First off let me say that this wasn’t so much a cooking class as it was a cooking demonstration – no hands on work for me. Generally, I prefer being able to do more cooking myself, but the dishes were all relatively simple, so I didn’t feel like I was missing much by not participating directly this time.
My instructor was Amira, an Egyptian lady who actually does several different cooking classes at the CSA. She patiently answered all my questions, which made for a very enjoyable experience overall. I really felt like this class gave me the basics of Egyptian cooking.
Onto the dishes we made….
We began the class by making a dessert called Mohalabia – a simple pudding made with milk, sugar and corn starch. We added rose water and rose syrup for flavouring, which as you might imagine made for a very floral tasting dish. Amira said that vanilla can also be substituted if you prefer.
The next dish we worked on was Mosakaa, which is very similar to Greek Moussaka, minus the bechamel sauce on top. When I was in Greece recently I’d had Moussaka several times, so I was curioius how it would compare. It turned out to be my favorite dish of the day.
The first step was frying the eggplant and chilies, which would make the base of our Mosakka. We then layered slices of fresh red and yellow peppers and finally added a ground beef, tomato sauce mixture, seasoned with cinnamon and ginger on top. After that we popped it in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes.
Amira served the Mosakaa with a rice/pasta side dish, which reminded me a little of an unseasoned version of “Rice-A-Roni”!
The second meat dish we made was a very traditional Egyptian dish called Molokhaia. We made our Molokhaia by boiling our meat (in this case beef, but it could be lamb or veal) and adding it to a mixture of finely chopped molokhia, which is a green leafy vegetable (looks similar to mint leaves), beef broth, garlic and a few other spices. The end result is something similar to a thick soup that is traditionally eaten with Egyptian flat bread.
We finished off our meal by making a couple of appetizers – hummus and Baladi salad. If you have made hummus before, this recipe was pretty standard. Amira served it with Egyptian flat bread that she toasted in the oven to make chips. The salad was made up of arugula, tomatoes, onions, cucumber and had a light lime, olive oil dressing. Both very simple to make and really delicious.
So that was my first foray into Egyptian cooking. I’ve already made the Mosakaa at home and it turned out pretty well. Thank you again Amira for making this a great experience. I expect that I’ll be taking a few more cooking classes at the CSA before our time in Egypt is done!