I’m not Egyptian. I have never visited Egypt. My first exposure to this dish was
watching Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” on Travel Channel. It fascinated
me. It could not POSSIBLY be that good. It is. I researched it a bit, made it,
and it’s delicious, very easy and very cheap. Easily made from storable food, too.
Kasheri is, apparently, the #1 street-food/utility dish in much of Egypt. It is
a very tasty, protein-and-carb “gut-bomb” that keeps poor working folks full and
going all day, and has for centuries (if not millennia). The gent who was Tony’s
guide stated “I would never marry a woman who could not make good kasheri.”
It is not as quick and easy as an MRE or a blue box of mac’n’cheese, by any
means, but it is not hard, either, and tastes MUCH better.
The ingredient that takes the most work is the topping – caramelized onions.
The standard way to make these is to thinly slice onions, and cook over
medium-low heat in a little oil, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown,
nearly burned. Pre-SHTF, you can slice them up fine, toss in a crockpot with a
little oil and salt, and go to sleep. They will be yummy in the morning.
Post-SHTF/Outdoors, slice the onions, wrap in foil, oil, and bury them in your
hot campfire ash for a few hours. They’ll burn a bit, but still taste great.
(save the juice at bottom of the foil package – yumm). I even tried soaking
dehydrated minced onions in water overnight, and browning them in a cast iron pan
– not half bad. You can even forget the onion topping, but not nearly as good.
The next ‘topping’ is sauce. If you have canned tomato sauce, etc, this takes about
5 minutes. Sautee onions and garlic (or use powders), add sauce or canned tomatoes
of your choice and a big amount of ground cumin (this makes all the difference).
The base of kasheri is basically 2 parts (this can be any measure you have) white
rice, 1 part dried lentils, 1/2 part broken-up spaghetti (or other thin pasta –
Cook it the way you normally cook rice (I got taught by an 80-year old Chinese
woman – “put rice in pot, touch top with index fingertip, add water to first
knuckle. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer.”) It works in a rice-steamer, too.
Chicken broth works great instead of water.
You will not get fluffy, individual grains. Do not expect this. It’s thick and
“gloppy”. The Middle Eastern “3 finger pinch” should get you a mouthful of food.
Fill your bowl with the rice/lentil mix, cover with some of your onions
and douse with your tomato/cumin sauce to thin it out. A shot of your favorite
hot sauce makes it even better.
(It’s not at all traditional, but mixing in some sauteed Swiss Chard, beet tops
or your other favorite greens, makes it even better, IMHO. Chop ’em fine.)
It will keep your crew full, energized and happy. From personal camping experience,
when it’s cold and rainy and the road might flood, big cups of coffee and reheated
kasheri is, indeed, “The Breakfast of Champions”.
Give it a try. It will cost you about a dollar or so to give 5-6 people a real
(and fairly-healthy) taste-treat. (Note to students: That’s cheaper than ramen).
If you, or your family or crew consider yourselves “picky eaters” and don’t
have allergy-related problems with these ingredients, try it anyway. It is a
lot more gentle introduction to new flavors than stewed roadkill in a tin can
(*Shuddering*, recalling my ex-daughter-in-law who only ate Honey Nut Cheerios,
‘blue box’ mac’n’cheese, instant mashed potatoes and stuff from the “golden
arches place”, Coca-Cola and nothing else….)
We’re all in this together. Hang in there.