“Music is the food of love,” as the saying goes. For many people, however, it’s the love of food that lures them to a house concert.
The Glass Vase Concert on 23rd May 2010 is no exception. In its fifth year of producing live classical music concerts in private homes, the Monument House Concert Series continues to expand in breadth and diversity. [A future blog entry should definitely be entitled “Variety is the spice of life.”] For the first time, a professional chef was invited to cater for 50 people.
Egyptian food, by its very name, is a mystery to many. Just what is Egyptian food?
Chef Hany Youssef explains.
There is a variety of tastes in Egyptian cuisine. The main breakfast for many Egyptians is “fool” which means beans with salt, garlic, and lemon juice, and served with bread.
In Egypt every meal is accompanied by bread. The beans are made in many different ways, the most famous being taameia [falafel], aatz [lentilsoup], and koshari [a meal with beans, lentils, rice macaroni all in one plate.] All these meals are vegetarian.
Most meals are with rice and meat, fish or chicken, and a wide variety of vegetables.
Egyptian food is not very spicy. Salt, pepper, garlic and kamoon [cumin] are used the most.
Chef Hany made three different meals for the Glass Vase Concert dinner, for which guests had to reserve in advance. The meals were koshari, kobeiba shaimi, and bahmia, described below.
Koshari is a vegetarian meal made from rice, beans, lentils, and macaroni. It is served with fried onions and a hot tomato sauce.
Kobeiba shaimi is a dish of meatballs made from bulgur, stewed with potatoes in tomato sauce. It is served with rice. Bulgur is a Middle Eastern grain high in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories.
Bahmia is okra with lamb meat in tomato sauce, also served with rice.
As salad is very important in Egypt, Chef Hany made a mixed salad with lettuce, cucumber, tomato and onions and another salad with extra anchovies and bacon.
How did Chef Hany learn to cook?
“When I was a little boy (about 9 years old), my mother was ill for a long period. She could not move but taught me how to cook.
I like food. I am always interested in learning new recipes from all over the world. And I like experimenting with new flavours and ingredients.”
Apparently what he made for the house concert dinner was just a small percentage of his entire repertoire. Besides food from his native Egypt, Chef Hany also has extensive experience in the Mediterranean kitchen largely from a period he spent in Italy.
For the Glass Vase Concert, Chef Hany and his assistants spent the previous day (Saturday 22nd May 2010) shopping for the various vegetables, beans, meats, fruit, rice, herbs, and spices and preparing the meal that could be done beforehand. Such included frying the onions and cooking the sauces that could be reheated the next day.
Even before the door opened at 14:00, Chef Hany was already busy setting up the kitchen for dinner.
At 18:45 after the third concert had ended, the Egyptian dinner was served in the back garden. It was a warm, late spring day without wind, perfect for an outdoor gathering.
After a dessert of mixed fresh fruit in yoghurt, it was time to reconvene for the fourth concert indoors.
Someone announced, “Let’s give the chef a hand.”
Standing ovation for Chef Hany!
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