Look no farther than the store cupboard for this popular Egyptian street-food dish of rice, lentils and pasta topped with tomato sauce and fried onions
Koshari is as popular across Egypt as its pyramids are across the world. Although no one knows exactly where the dish originated, one theory is that it was inspired by kitchari, the spiced Indian rice and lentil dish. But as well as rice and lentils, koshari contains pasta and is topped with a sharp tomato sauce and fried onions. Whatever its origin, what’s certain is that it can be cooked using mostly storecupboard ingredients and will be as popular on your kitchen table as it is on the streets of Cairo.
The macaroni I used had a cooking time of 10 minutes, but yours may be different, so cook according to the packet instructions.
Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr
200g basmati rice
2 red onions, peeled and cut into thin half-moons
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 ½ tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp white-wine vinegar
180g dried brown or green lentils (or 2 x 400g tins of cooked green lentils, drained)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300ml vegetable stock
Wash the rice under the cold tap until the water runs clear, then leave to soak in cold water.
Heat six tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and, when hot, add the onions and two pinches of salt. Fry, stirring regularly, for 30 minutes, until dark brown, soft and sticky. Scoop out the onions with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to drain them of as much oil as possible, and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Reheat the oil in the pan (there should be about four tablespoons left) on a medium flame, then fry the garlic for three minutes, until it starts to turn golden. Stir in the tinned tomatoes and their juices, 150ml water and half a teaspoon of salt, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring infrequently. Add the chilli and vinegar, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, put the lentils in a large saucepan for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and, if using dried lentils, simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pasta, and cook for a further nine minutes (or for a minute less than your packet says). Drain well, then tip on to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Drain the soaked rice. In the same pan you used to cook the lentils, heat two tablespoons of oil on a medium flame, then add the rice, cumin, cinnamon and a teaspoon and a half of salt, and stir to coat the rice, being careful not to burn the spices. After a couple of minutes, slowly add the stock, bring it to a boil, pop on the lid, turn down to a simmer and leave to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave, still covered, to rest for 10 minutes.
Gently transfer the rice to the serving plate and gently mix with the lentils, pasta and most of the onions. Top with the tomato sauce and the remaining handful of onions, and serve.