Tag Archives: cooking

How to replace eggs in your cooking…


Many of our Egyptian friends who taste our delicious treats can’t believe that they are free of animal products.  This is especially true when it comes to baked cookies like cookies and cakes.  We always get the question:  How did you do that without EGGS?

As many of our readers already know, there are many ways to replace eggs in your cooking, whether you’re making something sweet or not.  And yes, dear Egyptian readers, you can do it with products available here in Egypt.  So, here goes.

Why are eggs used in recipes?

Before you begin to replace the eggs in your recipe, it’s important to know what role the eggs were playing in the original recipe.  Usually, eggs are used for two main reasons: to add leavening (or lightness) and to bind (or hold) the food together.   We will discuss ways to replace eggs that play both roles in the following.

Sometimes you can leave the egg out of a recipe entirely without replacing it.  In such cases, you may need to add some liquid (non-dairy milk, fruit juice, water, etc.) so the moisture in the recipe remains the same.

Using plant-based ingredients to replace eggs when they add leavening to a recipe

There are many ways to get lift in a recipe without the use of eggs.

  1. vinegar + baking soda
    1. 1 egg= 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vinegar
    2. you can use white distilled vinegar or other vinegars (apple cider vinegar is nice!)
    3. this substitution is especially nice for cakes, cupcakes or quick breads
  2. ripe mashed banana
    1. 1 egg = 1/2 ripe mashed banana
    2. this substitution is especially nice when you don’t mind the banana flavor like in muffins, cookies, pancakes, or quick breads
  3. tofu
    1. 1 egg= 1/4 cup of tofu, blended with the liquid ingredients in the recipe
    2. this substitution works when you want a rich texture like in moist cakes or brownies
  4. applesauce, canned or mashed pumpkin or squash
    1. 1 egg = 1/4 cup of any of these
    2. these may add flavors to your final product, so watch out!
    3. you may want to add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe because these fruit purees may make the finished product heavier than the original
    4. this substitution works well with moist baked goods like cakes, quick breads and brownies
  5. cornstarch + water
    1. 1 egg = 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
    2. this substitution works as a binder and a thickener
    3. we use this substitution frequently like for spinach and cheeze phyllo pasteries, chocolate chip brownie surprise, chocolate chip cookies, and apple cake
  6. flax seeds + water
    1. 1 egg = 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water
    2. this is especially nutritious because the flax seeds provide essential Omega 3 fatty acids while they bind and provide lift in your recipe!

Using plant-based ingredients to replace eggs when they hold food together in a recipe:

  1. When you replace for eggs that bind with dry ingredients, you may need to mix it with water, vegetable broth or another liquid (use 1 1/2 teaspoons of dry to 2 tablespoons of liquid).
  2. tofu
    1. 1 egg= 1/4  cup of tofu, blended with 1 tablespoon of flour
  3. Use any of the following at the ratio of 1 egg = 2-3 tablespoons of the following:
    1. tomato paste
    2. potato starch
    3. cornstarch
    4. breadcrumbs
    5. quick-cooking oats or cooked oatmeal
    6. mashed potatoes

Every recipe is different and every substitution acts differently.

You will have to experiment to see which substitution is the most appropriate for the recipe you are changing.  The important thing is to know that there are options for replacing eggs.  You can bake and cook your favorites while maintaining a plant-based diet!

There are other ways to replace eggs in your cooking.  We have chosen these to feature because they are relatively easy to find in Egypt.  Have you tried any these substitutes or others in your cooking?

 

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Egyptians got a fever for fava! (Foul Medammes)


Along with koushari and molokheyia, fava beans are the three staple foods of Egypt.  Once this post is published, you’ll be able to cook the basic Egyptian foods in vegan variations (most of them started out that way, anyway)!

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that fava beans are eaten thousands of ways in Egypt.  Known as foul (pronounced ‘fool’), the fava beans lend themselves to so many different flavors and cooking techniques, it’s hard to keep track!  In fact, you could probably write an entire blog just about how to cook and season fava beans!

Egyptians eat foul for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You can find them gathering in the morning around small carts savoring warm foul with fresh bread on their way to work.  You can hear the man selling foul in the evening walking by and calling out “fooooooooooooool!”.  Just call out and he’ll bring you as much warm, freshly cooked foul as you can fit into your container.

When Egyptians make foul at home, they use a long-necked, tapered container called a “damasa” (that’s why this foul is called foul medammes).  Supposedly this long neck is necessary to provide for the proper slow cooking of the beans.  I never had one of these kitchen items, so I always stayed away from making my own homemade foul until I recently found a recipe that had an easy work around.  So I thought I’d share the vegan version with all of you here on Alf Hana.

Serves 2-4 people
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried fava beans
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup red lentils

Instructions:
1.  Wash beans and pick out any dirt or stones.  Cover with the water.  Leave to soak overnight.

Left: bean soaked overnight, Right: dried bean

2.  Put both the beans AND THEIR SOAKING WATER in a heavy pot that has a tight-fitting lid.  (Yes, you read that right.  Do not discard the soaking water.  Use it for cooking.)
3.  Add lentils.


4.  Cover tightly and cook on very low heat for 3 hours.
5.  Check beans every hour or so and add water if they look dry.  (I added about 1 cup after about 1 and a half hours.)
6.  Try not to stir the beans while they cook.  The beans are ready when they are soft and easily crushed with a spoon.

 

Cooked foul, before seasoning

I like to mash mine with a fork as I season it.

Typical way to eat foul. This technique is known as the 'rabbit's ear' because the way you scoop up the beans with the bread looks like the shape of the rabbit's ear.

Our foul feast!

Nutrition Information (for 1 of 4 servings, unseasoned foul):

Calories: 170; Fat: 0g (for unseasoned foul); Cholesterol: 0g; Carbohydrates: 29g; Fiber: 13g; Protein: 13g

Serving Suggestions and Variations:

Here’s with things get creative!  To serve, use any combination of spice you like.

  • Here are some traditional spices Egyptians use:  salt, cumin, garlic, lemon, onions, oil, hot red pepper, parsley, tomatoes
  • I usually like to have mine (about 1 cup of beans) with salt (about 1/2 a teaspoon), cumin (about 1/4 teaspoon), lemon (about 1/2 a teaspoon), and oil (about 1 – 2 teaspoons).  I usually keep the onions and tomatoes separate so I can munch on them after every few bites.  Of course, foul wouldn’t be foul without baladi bread (much like pita bread).
  • Some Egyptians like to purée the foul in the food processor before serving.
  • Most Egyptians would not serve the foul seasoned.  They’d leave you to make it the way you like it!
  • Alexandrian foul is famous for its mix of tahina, parsley and oil.
  • Sometimes I like to have foul with oil and tomato paste or pureed tomatoes – yummy!
  • Try different kinds of oils (olive, corn, etc.) and see which you like best.

Alf Hana!!!

Powerful Protein


If you’ve ever told anyone that you are vegetarian or considering it, you’ve probably heard one of these questions:

  • “Do vegetarians get enough protein?”
  • “Isn’t plant protein inferior to animal protein?”
  • “Where do vegetarians get their protein?”

We hear these questions usually because people are legitimately concerned for our health.  These are very valid questions and perhaps you also are not sure about the answers, so let’s see what the research says.

What is protein and why is it important?

Protein is a nutrient that we cannot live without.  It is made up of amino acids.  Some of these amino acids are created within our bodies, and some are not.  Those that are not are called ‘essential’ amino acids and must be consumed within our diets.

The protein we consume helps to grow, maintain, and repair our bodies.

How much protein do we need?

This is a complicated question.  Many factors affect how much protein you need: your age, your sex, and your weight.  In order to know how many grams of protein is recommended for you, you should average .9 grams of protein for every kilo of weight.  In other words, use this calculation:

Body weight (in kilograms) X 0.9 = recommended protein intake

EXAMPLE: A 60-kilo person needs about 54 grams of protein per day

This calculation includes a safety margin to make sure every individual’s needs are covered.  In fact, many people do just fine and actually thrive on a diet including slightly fewer than the recommended guideline.

Do vegetarians get enough protein?

Vegetarians / vegans get their protein from plant sources.  Some people are under the impression that plant protein sources provide protein that is less complete because it may contain only some of the essential amino acids.  According to research (cited below), every plant protein includes at least some of every essential amino acids.


Courtesy of Ron Diggity

Also, it has been a popular belief that you must combine certain foods in order to obtain protein from certain plant foods.  For example, eat bread and beans at the same meal in order to get “complete protein”.  Considerable research has been carried out over the last few years and has consistently shown that our livers can store amino acids and they can be used when needed at a later time, so there is no need to combine certain foods at the same time.

So, where do vegetarians / vegans get their protein?

Here is a short list of some foods and the amount of protein in each.

Plant-Based Food Protein in grams
1 cup of firm tofu 40 g
1 cup cooked soybeans 29 g
1 cup cooked lentils 18 g
1 cup pinto beans 15 g
1 cup black beans 15 g
1 cup cooked chickpeas 15 g
1 cup cooked fava beans (foul) 13 g
1 cup red kidney beans 13 g
1/2 cup almonds 12 g
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds 12 g
8 ounces soymilk 8 g (same as cow’s milk!)
2 tablespoons peanut butter 8 g
1 cup oatmeal 7 g
1 cup bulgur (make some Tabouli!) 6 g
1 cup broccoli 6 g
1 loaf of baladi bread 6 g
1 cup brown rice 5 g
1 medium potato 4.5 g
1/2 ounce walnuts (7 halves) 4.3 g
1 cup white rice 4.1 g
1/2 ounce almonds (12 nuts) 3 g
1 cup chopped cooked cabbage 2 g
1 cup tomatoes 1 g
1 medium carrot 0.6

This is a short list.  Many more foods not listed here contain protein as well.  As you can see, a wide variety of foods contain protein and it is possible to get more than enough protein in a vegetarian / vegan diet that includes a selection of these foods.

Too much protein: a health risk?

Recently, diets very high in protein and very low in carbohydrates have been the rage.  The value of such diets, emphasizing high intake of meat and very little fruits and vegetables is not supported by the research in the field.  In fact, they may have negative effects on our health, including contributing to osteoporosis, cancer, impaired kidney function, and heart disease.  To avoid over-doing the protein, the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends trying to include the following in your diet each day:

  • 5 or more servings of grains
  • 3 or more servings of vegetables
  • 2 or 3 servings of legumes

Protein is one nutrient of which we should be conscious as we plan our diets.  There are others that we will discuss here soon.

More information about Protein:
Vegan Health.org: Where do you get your protein?
Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine: How Can I Get Enough Protein? The Protein Myth
Compassionate Cooks: Protein: Getting the facts straight
Nutrition data.com

Rice: Egyptian Style!


Here’s an easy recipe for Egyptian rice.  We’ve altered it slightly from the traditional rice in order to make it vegan and a bit more healthy, but it definitely hits the spot!  Everyone (even my Egyptian friends who are a bit picky) really like this – even with the twists we’ve added!

So, here it goes!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown rice*
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/4 cup vermicelli
  • 1 tablespoon of corn oil
  • 1 veggie bouillon cube
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of water

1.  Pick over and then wash the rice.  (*You can use 1 whole cup of white rice if you like, rather than 1/2 brown and 1/2 white.  However, the addition of the brown rice adds protein and fiber and really is not that noticeable when mixed with the white.)

 

Rice (brown and white)

 

2.  Heat the oil.  Add the vermicelli and fry until golden brown.

 

Vermicelli

 

Golden Vermicelli

 

3.  Add the rice. Break up the veggie bouillon cube and add.  Stir.

4.  Add the water.  Make sure it completely covers the rice.  You can add more if it doesn’t.

5.  Bring to a boil then decrease the heat to a simmer.

6.  Cover and cook from 35-45 minutes on low heat.

 

Egyptian Style Rice

 

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie


Do you like bananas?  What about peanut butter?  Well, this cool, ice-cream like nutritious breakfast is the perfect way to start the day!

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana *
  • 1 cup cold nondairy milk (soy, almond, rice, etc.)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

Instructions:

1.  Add the banana to your blender.  (* We usually buy ripe bananas, peel them, cut each into four slices and then freeze them.  They are a delicious, healthy treat, perfect for smoothies and actually have the texture and taste of ice cream!)

 

Frozen bananas

 

2.  Add the soy milk. (Use store-bought or make your own – recipe coming soon!)

 

Soy milk

3.  Add the ground flax seeds.

 

Ground flax seeds

4.  Add the peanut butter.

 

Peanut butter

5.  Blend for about 1 minute.

6.  Drink and enjoy!

 

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

 

 

Better than butter!


Your favorites: adjusted…

Do you eat your foul with butter?  Or maybe you like to fry your onions in butter or spread butter on your steamed veggies.  Many people think that changing to a plant-based diet means eating an entirely new, strange, and boring group of foods.  Just the opposite!  The key to really changing your diet is to find tricks to continue eating your favorites in more healthy ways while you slowly discover all the new delicious plant-based foods waiting for you.

Substitute: Oil

Olive oil

So, how do you continue having your tasty, foul without using butter?  Well, butter really is just fat, right?  So, you could always substitute a plant-based fat: oil.   Not all oils are equal, of course, so be careful.  Olive is known to have the least of the saturated fats – which may contribute to weight gain, and other health problems, so use olive oil to substitute for butter as much as you can.

Oil in baking?

Baking is a bit different, but oil works most of the time in place of butter, especially if the recipe calls for melted butter.  I usually substitute about 7/8 of a cup when the recipe calls for 1 cup.  Canola oil is especially useful as a substitute for butter when baking.  It is available in Egypt and we will be posting about it soon.

Do away with fat entirely?

If you’re really trying to decrease the amount of fat (and calories) in your diet, you can try this trick:

  • When frying onions or garlic for a recipe, instead of using oil, use water.

This trick really works and you honestly will not know the difference!  (You will, however, need to keep your eye on the pot to avoid burning!)

What about ‘samna nabeti’ or ghee made from vegetable oils?

Yes, many people use this as a substitute for oil.  However, it is made up of a collection of oils that have been chemically altered and contain trans fatty acids which can be dangerous for your heart health.  There are some special occasions and some foods that are very hard to cook without such an ingredient.  (My pie crusts always come out better when I use ‘samna nebety’.)  So, let’s agree to use this as little as possible in our cooking – only for a special holiday, for example. Doing so will help your heart stay healthy!

Keep your heart healthy

Cups and Spoons – Do they matter?


Many years ago, I was standing in the kitchen next to my friends’ mother learning how to make macarona bil bachamel sauce.  I LOVED her recipe and I really wanted to learn.  So, here’s what she said: “Oh, you put a little of this, a lot of that.”  Me:   “But, how much exactly: a cup?  two cups?”  My friend’s mom: “Oh, until you think it’s enough.”

Well, my friend’s mother, bless her soul, was an amazing cook.  She always seemed to make the bachamel sauce exactly the same way.  How?  I have no idea – maybe it’s an Egyptian talent.  But, unfortunately, God did not choose to gift me with this talent.  When I cook, I need to know measurements.  I need to know that every time I make our favorite meal, it’ll come out the same, tasty way.  I admit sometimes I try it the Egyptian way and there are some meals I always cook like that, but I almost always need to use exact measurements.

All the recipes we will post on Alf Hana with include measurements.  These measurements are based on the measuring cups and spoons you can buy in most supermarkets [YES, you can find them in Egypt].  Usually they come in a set.  For cups, you will find (from greatest to least):

  • one cup
  • one half of a cup
  • one-third of a cup
  • one-quarter of a cup

Measuring cups

For spoons, you will usually find (again from greatest to least):

  • tablespoon
  • one half a tablespoon
  • teaspoon
  • one half a teaspoon
  • one-quarter of a teaspoon
  • one-eighth of a teaspoon

Measuring spoons

As you can see, these tools will help you make exact measurements as you cook, so you can follow a recipe, or at least be sure that your creation will consistently turn out yummy!

*Take care! Just like many systems of measurement, sometimes you will find variety from country to country.  All the recipes we post will be using the following measurements:

  • 1 cup = 236.64 ml
  • 1/2 cup = 118.32 ml
  • 1/3 cup = 78.88 ml
  • 1/4 cup = 59.16 ml
  • 1 tablespoon = 15 ml
  • 1/2 tablespoon = 7.5 ml
  • 1 teaspoon = 5 ml
  • 1/2 teaspoon = 2.5 ml
  • 1/4 teaspoon = 1.25 ml
  • 1/8 teaspoon = .6 ml

Maybe I’ll never be able to cook  like my friend’s mother (what they call ‘bil baraka’ or with blessings), but I can try to get close by using my measuring cups and spoons.  What about you?

*Don’t worry!  We will be posting a macarona bil bachamel recipe soon!!!!!