It’s that time of year – holidays are just around the corner! We’ve all got those special dinners on our minds. Holiday dinners in Egypt really are FEASTS. No matter what holiday we’re celebrating, there never fails to be an overwhelming amount of food!
One of the traditional foods served at holiday meals here is called fetta. I first was introduced to fetta by a dear friend, Maha, who had invited me to share the special meal with her family. She knew I was vegetarian and was creative enough to ‘veganize’ her main dish, ‘fetta’, so I could also eat it. So, even though every one else was eating this meal with meat on top, I got to enjoy a special vegan version just for me.
Isn’t it funny how food can bring us together? Even though I was quite the outsider at the time, a simple adjustment made me feel like one of the family. I was vegan among non vegans, non Egyptian among Egyptians and Christian among Muslims when I first fell in love with fetta. I later discovered that almost all Egyptians – Christians and Muslims use fetta as a dish to celebrate their feasts! Maybe if we keep looking for more similarities, we’ll keep finding them and stop focusing on our differences! So, thanks to Maha, I am able now to share this recipe with you.
To all our Muslim friends who will be celebrating the feast next week: Happy Feast!
2 3/4 loaves (rounds) of baladi bread (or pita bread), toasted in the oven
1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 cups water
2 cups white rice
4 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
8 small to medium sized tomatoes, pureed (this is about 2 3/4 cup of tomato puree)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons oil
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of vinegar
Make the rice.
1. Wash the rice, remove any bits of dirt or stone. Drain in a strainer.
2. In a large pot, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and the 2 cups of rice to the mix and return to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally. The rice is ready when it is tender and the water has disappeared.
4. Remove from heat and set aside.
Make the soup.
5. Bring 1 vegetable bouillon cube and 2 cups of water to the boil.
6. Make sure the cube has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the bread by toasting it in the oven. When toasted, cool. Then coarsely tear into bite size pieces and set aside.
Make the tomato sauce.
7. Puree the tomatoes. Add to a pot with the tomato paste. Heat on very low heat, stirring occasionally. Leave to simmer while you make the garlic sauce.
Make the garlic sauce.
8. Put three tablespoons of oil in a skillet and heat. Add the minced garlic and fry until the garlic becomes golden.
Remove from the heat, add the 1/4 cup of vinegar. Stir and return to heat to boil for about half a minute.
Mix the garlic sauce with the soup and the tomato sauce.
9. Add half the prepared garlic sauce to the soup and heat on low heat.
10. Add the other half of the prepared garlic sauce to the tomato sauce and continue simmering for a few more minutes.
Build the Feta:
11. In a large casserole dish, place half the bread directly on the bottom of the dish.
12. Wet the bread with 1/2 cup of the soup with added garlic sauce.
13. Spread 1/2 of the cooked rice on top of the moist bread.
14. Pour another 1/2 cup of the soup with added garlic sauce over the rice.
15. Spread the rest of the dried, torn bread pieces on top of the rice.
16. Pour another 1/2 cup of the soup with added garlic sauce over the bread.
17. Add the rest of the rice on top of the bread.
18. Pour the last of the soup with added garlic sauce over the rice.
19. Top the casserole with the simmering tomato sauce with added garlic sauce.
Serve hot (and it’s best eaten on the same day)!!!
Nutritional information (for 1 of 6 servings):
Calories: 405; Fat: 10g; Cholesterol: 0g; Carbohydrates: 70g; Fiber 5g; Protein: 8g