This lentil-and-rice dish is one of the most popular in Egypt, sold hot by street vendors and specialist restaurants. It is not too far removed from the Indian kitchari, ancestor to the British kedgeree. Usually in Egypt it is served with a spicy tomato sauce, but it’s also delicious with cucumber, tomato and yoghurt salad.

Serves 4.

300 gr. green lentils
200 gr. basmati rice
40 gr. unsalted butter
50 gr. vermicelli noodles,
broken into 4-cm. pieces
400 ml. 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

Spicy tomato sauce

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 hot red chilies, seeded and
   finely diced
8 ripe tomatoes, chopped
   (canned are fine)
370 ml. water
4 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
20 gr. coriander leaves,
   chopped

1. Start with the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and chilies and fry for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, vinegar, salt and cumin. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the coriander and then taste. See if you want to add any salt, pepper or extra coriander. Keep hot or leave to cool; both ways will work with the hot kosheri. Just remember to adjust the seasoning again when cold.

2. 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. The lentils should be tender but far from mushy. Drain in a colander and leave to one side.

3. In a large bowl, cover the rice with cold water, wash and then drain well. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a 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 then reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 minutes. 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.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and sauté over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, until dark brown. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.

5. 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.

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