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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cooking in Cairo

I knew I liked to cook before we moved to Cairo.  Growing up I would watch my mother and grandmother make meals and desserts effortlessly.  My mother's greatest gift with cooking is her ability to make a wonderful meal out of anything.  She's the creative chef.  My grandmother has magic fingers, anything she touches tastes good.  She's an especially good baker.  So I guess it's not that big of a surprise that after watching these two amazing women for so many years I developed a big butt and a love of cooking.

Fast forward 20 some odd years and now I'm living in Cairo (a city that is sometimes hard to find things in, especially when you don't speak Arabic)  with a husband who is a picky eater.  Oddly enough I would say that my love for cooking has grown!  I like to try out new recipes and when we find something we like it becomes a classic that is requested over and over.  There are stumbling blocks along the way just like anything else in life.  An oven that I didn't think worked, but really it was because I was dumb and wasn't using the right dial.  Learning to cook and bake with a gas stove, which takes some adjustment coming from electric.  Converting temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius.  Discovering halfway through a recipe that I don't have the bowl, pan, kitchen tool, ingredient etc that I thought I had and now cannot make the recipe without!  It's all a part of the process and now that we're into our 2nd year in Cairo, my inventory of kitchen tools is much better and I pretty much know where to find the things I need.  It's still a pain in the butt though, because I have to go to one place for good chicken, another for produce, yet another for nice cheeses and the list goes on and on.

 Oh how I miss you Publix!  How I miss the days of making one shopping list and being able to go to 1 store to find everything on that list.  I also miss knowing where to find things.  If I was looking for something in the states, I probably knew where I could find it on my own, but if I didn't it was easy to just ask in the store.  Here in Cairo, not so much.  And to be fair that's my own fault, my Arabic is pathetic and pretty useless past opening pleasantries.  The other day I was looking for basil and didn't know how to say it in Arabic.  So I asked the man who was bagging my produce if he had any basil.  Well actually that's what I was thinking, but the conversation went more like this:

Me:  Basil??
Him:  fhadhfioheahfihdofhajsdfiohadsiovjnaiojeivoahi??? With eyebrows raised and hands in the air.
Me:  Baaaaaasil?
Him:  fasjfklamwdkofjioashdigfojasdofjiodasjfiojdasiofj.  Points to an eggplant.
Me:  Laat (means no), Basiiiiiiil? I point to the leafy section of the plants hoping to at least get us focused on the right group of plants.
Him: Aiwa (Means yes) Hands me a head of lettuce.
Me  Laat, I point to the herbs
Him: Grabs each bunch of herbs one by by and holds them out for me to smell.
Me:  Smell, Laat, Smell, Laat, Smell, Laat  (Wish I could tell him that I don't remember what basil smells like)
So needless to say I went home without basil that night, but such is life.  I have now learned that basil is "rehan" in Arabic, so next time I'll be prepared!

Here are some of my favorite recipes that I've found recently.  I really recommend them all and I have a few pointers to offer to all my other chef friends!  I've found just about all of them on  It's a great site that has a nice variety of recipes.  Bon Appetit!

Pancakes recipe- Very easy to follow, I know "souring" the milk with vinegar sounds weird but they're amazing.  I would recommend you keep the finished batter in the fridge for at least 5 min and then don't stir it  before you cook!  These were so good I made them 2 days in a row and doubled the batch the 2nd day.

Sexy Chili Lime Chicken (Ryan's name for it)- This recipe calls for a lot of spices, and seems a little complicated at first but it's really not that hard to make and the flavor is amazing, go carefully with the paprika if you're not into spicy!  You can use lemons if you don't have lime, and make extra broth, you will want it to pour over the chicken.  I make this with rice and steamed broccoli.


  1. Okay this is going to sound so weird but I have the same problem. And this is coming from an Egyptian !!!!!I was brought up in an American school and I know my herbs in English not Arabic. So when I search for a recipe online and I find ingredient I'm familiar with but have no idea whatsoever it's name in Arabic, I get frustrated. It's hard to describe it to my husband so he can translate what it means in Arabic :(
    Another thing that annoys me when I can't find everything in one store or when the store ( I know usually has it) runs out of ( for example) sour cream or avocado or peanut butter, etc. The list goes on and on, I end up shopping in 4 different supermarkets. I know how you feel ! Welcome to my world :((((((

  2. That actually makes me feel a lot better! If an Egyptian has trouble then I'm doing alright! :) My other pet peeve is that you never know if a store will have an item in stock. Somewhere that had Jif peanut butter one month may not have it again for the rest of the year. That's why I buy in bulk now. If a place has something I want, I'll but all of it and stock up!

  3. So....lemons. We have bought what look like lemons 3 times now, even ones that look like key limes, and every time--they're oranges!! Where do you find real lemons??

  4. Lemons are the little small ones here, the ones that look like ping pong balls. You have to buy triple what you think to get enough juice though, so be warned! :)