Kosheri is a very common food in Egypt: available as street food, and also in restaurants specializing in it. We had it for the first time when we served it at one of Erin and Lisa's 2 Vagabonds open houses after they visited Egypt--and actually at every open house since then because it is always a hit--and many, many times at home, particularly for Meatless Mondays. It is so delicious as to be addicting. It's a hearty, satisfying meatless meal that is full of wonderful, assertive flavors (my favorite kind).
This particular version is from a fabulous cookbook, "Ottolenghi"--also a gorgeous restaurant in London by the same name (and they have a new, also wonderful cookbook, "Plenty" that is very much worth checking out here). If you would like a different, simpler version that is still delicious, check out the Tahrir Square Koshary recipe that was in this article in Saveur magazine last year. I have to say that I prefer the Ottolenghi version--a little more refined, and with some added spices, but both are delicious and give you quite a kick. I have had to translate amounts (hopefully accurately) from my British version of the cookbook; I know that American versions of the book are available here.
For the spicy tomato sauce:
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 hot red chiles, seeded and finely diced
8 ripe tomatoes, chopped
(They say canned are fine--I use 1-28 oz. can and 1-14.5 oz. can of whole or chopped tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups water
4 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. salt (I use only 1-2 tsp.)
2 tsp. ground cumin
20g cilantro leaves, chopped
(from 1/4 to 1 cup, depending on how tightly packed--use the amount you like, and I use tender stems, too)
For the rice, lentil, pasta base:
1 1/2 cups green lentils (just the cheap, common ones)
1 cup basmati rice
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup or so vermicelli noodles, broken into 1 1/2 " lengths
1 3/4 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 white onions, halved and thinly sliced
Start with the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and chiles and fry for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, vinegar, salt and cumin. Bring to the boil (this will really wake you up!), then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the cilantro leaves (I use a lot) and then taste. Keep hot or cool; both ways will work with the hot kosheri. Just remember to adjust the seasoning again when cold. (If too thick, add a bit more water.)
To make the kosheri, place the lentils in a large sieve and wash them under a cold running tap. Transfer to a large saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes or so. The lentils should be tender but far from mushy. Drain in a colander and leave to one side.
In a large bowl, cover the rice with cold water, wash and then drain well. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raw vermicelli, stir, and continue frying and stirring until the vermicelli turns golden brown. Add the drained rice and mix well until it is coated in the butter. Now add the stock or water, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 minutes (until just tender). Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a clean tea towel and put the lid back on. Leave like that for about 5 minutes; this helps make the rice light and fluffy.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and saute over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, until dark brown. (Very, as in a lot of blackened parts!). Transfer to a kitchen towel or paper towel to drain.
Close, but not yet!
Now it's done!
To serve, lightly break up the rice with a fork and then add the lentils and most of the onions, reserving a few for garnish. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Pile the rice high on a serving platter and top with the remaining onions. Serve hot, with the tomato sauce.
And look at my beautiful 2 Vagabonds platter from Morocco!