a taste of ancient egypt

egypt spicesIt’s believed by many that the world’s first recipes date back to the time of the Pharoahs. In ancient Egypt the staple diet included bread, honey, peas, beans and tasty vegetables such as garlic and onions, with meat only consumed on special occasions.

Today many delicious vegetarian dishes can still be enjoyed in Egypt and here are two recipes that have definitely stood the test of time…

Date Candy
This recipe was from 1600BC and was found on an ostraca. It’s more delicious than you might expect and this should make enough for two people to enjoy.

1 cup of fresh dates
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of kardemam seed
1/2 cup of fresh ground walnuts
small amount of warm honey
dish full of fine ground almonds

1. Mix the dates with some water to paste
2. Mix in cinnamon and kardemon seeds
3. Kneed in the walnuts
4. Form balls, spread with honey and cover in the ground almonds. And there you have it, over 2400 years of culinary history!

There are many local variations of this meatless dish and much debate about whether the lentils should be the bottom layer or not. But here’s one dish that is recommended by those in the know…

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked penne pasta
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup cooked lentils
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups), optional*

1. Combine rice and pasta; spoon in bottom of shallow serving platter. Keep warm.
2. Whisk together vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Add cooked lentils and stir to combine. Spoon over rice and pasta.
3. Combine tomatoes, water, sugar, cinnamon, salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin and red pepper in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Stir in squash. Spoon tomato mixure over lentil layer. Partially stir tomato mixture into other layers, but do not completely combine all layers. If desired, prepare crisp-brown onions in a large saucepan over a high heat and add as a topping.

Tour Egypt with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Egypt Explorer – 15 days
Cairo to Istanbul – 21 days

* photo by Monique Couvee – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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