10 October 2010

Ottolenghi to the rescue! Kosheri & spicy minced beef.

Kosheri on the right, Spicy minced beef on the left
We are currently going through a period of extreme financial embarrassment (least said, soonest mended) and have been making meals out of very little.  For instance, this last week, our total groceries bill came to just short of £45 - which I think is something of a record.
On the menu list for the Saturday, was entered "Rice & stuff".  Now this is the name of a moveable recipe which, in our house, can mean absolutely anything - it's one stipulation is that it has to involve rice.  I had been pondering over this "Rice & stuff" as to what kind of "stuff" I could utilise.  I knew we had a pack of minced beef in the freezer for use in this dish, but what form it would take thereafter was in the lap of the gods.

A few days into this pondering, I suddenly remembered a recipe I'd seen in the Ottolenghi book "The Cookbook", which I had borrowed from the Library.  To the best of my recollection, it involved rice (tick), lentils (tick), vermicelli noodles (hmmn, no vermicelli in the cupboard, but I did have egg noodles) and spices, all of which I had in stock.  So I looked it up.  "Kosheri" is, apparently, an Arabian street vendor dish.  Well, that suited the lack of vermicelli, as I reckoned that if street vendors made it they probably didn't go off down to their local deli for noodles.  Kosheri is traditionally served with a spicy tomato sauce, which got me to thinking regarding the minced beef.  If I could make a spicy tomato-based minced beef, that might go quite nicely.

Well, it did.  I have blogged the minced beef recipe here.

A couple of notes on the recipe itself - firstly regarding the lentils.  I used dried lentils and put them on to cook as it said in the recipe, to boil for 25 mins.  Then it occurred to me to check the cooking time on the bag.  Which said "soak for min. 12 hrs".  Yikes!  Well, I couldn't do anything about that now, so continued with the cooking.  I tested them at around 15 minutes and they were becoming softened, so put my trust in Ottolenghi's recipe and continued.  Suffice to say, they didn't need the 12hrs soaking.  For sure, if they had have been soaked, they'd have needed far less cooking - so that's something to bear in mind for the future.

Secondly, where the chicken stock was concerned, I used a chicken stock cube.  However, having watched Masterchef far too many times and consequently having had the words "get lots of flavour into your food" drummed in, I had an idea which turned out to be a blinder.  I keep a dripping cup in the fridge.  Whenever I roast a joint, I tip the fat into the dripping cup and use it for my roast potatoes, next time.  Inevitably, I also get a layer of jelly in the dripping cup.  Now I know that this jelly is like concentrated chicken (as that's the meat we predominantly roast) stock.  So I included a tablespoonful of it in the stock - which upped the chickeny flavour by a measure of many.  Well worth doing, I'd say!

NOTE : Here's a picture of our second go at Kosheri, this time accompanied by some spicy lamb mince.  Just as good!

KOSHERI (feeds 4)

Ingredients :

150g green lentils, unsoaked
200g basmati rice
40g unsalted butter
50g vermicelli noodles (I used egg noodles)
400ml chicken stock
half tsp grated nutmeg
one and a half tsp ground cinnamon
one tsp salt
half a tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced.

Method :

1.  Place the lentils in a large sieve and wash them under cold running water.  Transfer to a large saucepan, cover with plenty of cold salted water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  The lentils should be tender but not mushy.  Drain in a colander and leave to one side to keep warm.

2.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and sauté over medium heat for around 20 minutes until dark brown.  Transfer to kitchen paper to drain and keep warm.

3.  Rinse the rice and drain well.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the raw vermicelli or noodles, stir and continue frying and stirring until they turn golden brown.  Add the drained rice and mix well until it is coated in the butter.  Now add the stock (with or without the chicken jelly included), nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.

4.  Stirring all the time to prevent the rice sticking, bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 mins.  Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a clean tea towel and put the lid back on.  Leave like that for around 5 minutes, which helps to make the rice light and fluffy.

5.  To serve, lightly break up the rice with a fork and add the lentils & most of the onions, taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.  Top the rice with the remaining onions.


  1. Yes, this is a really great and cheap dish, and very tasty too....
    Koshari (as l've always spelt it). is of course a poor man's street food of Egypt. A mixture of rice, lentils and short macaroni. Can also be made with couscous, nuts and raisins. And this dish l know, was introduced into Sicily by the Arab armies, as was pasta, and as we all know pasta is not confined to Italy, but it was the Italians
    who introduced the ways of cooking pasta. And certain dishes originated in Persia.
    But, NO region in Italy, can match the marriage of pasta, fish and vegetables like la bella Sicilia..x. :)
    Goodness, l am waffle'in to-day, well start me off on food and Sicily, and l'm away with the fairies....But then l'm full of Motown to-day. :0).
    But, you can always make good cheap tasty foods from a few ingredients, and adapt them to your own tastes. And, of course pasta and rice are a god-send! And, a must for the larder, larder, yes l still have one, (and l don't mean the car!)
    Have fun cook'in....l've got kippers for tea..!

  2. What a great post. Lovely to read and well written! .. if you fancy testing any of my recipes Please let me know I'd be delighted!

  3. Thankyou, Vanessa! I'd love to test your Tomato & Garlic Spaghetti recipe. I did leave you a message to that effect on Twitter, but it obviously didn't get through. :) I'll run over to your blog and leave you a message there, just in case you miss this one, too!

  4. Oh the shame... I shall admit here as I'm amoungst friends, but the shame...

    Mr Ottolenghi has a vegetarian recipe page in the Saturday Guardian. I didn't realise it was his name. I thought it was a type of dish. So every week I looked to see what type of Ottolenghi he was making. This went on for the best part of a year, until I started wondering what a basic Ottolenghi might be. One Google later I felt VERY stupid indeed. :(

  5. Oh writerscript, if you ever get the opportunity to tuck a copy of Ottolenghi's "The Cookbook" under your arm - do it. If not for the food, for the photography. It's out of this world!

    Well if you've never come across the name "Ottolenghi" as a person instead of a thing, you wouldn't ever consider it to be a surname. I think a bowl of Ottolenghi sounds very tempting indeed. *grin*


I love to receive messages from you all, so if you can spare the time, comment away!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...