Kushari Al Forno

I wasn’t sure what to think the first time I looked at this recipe. Kushari is a traditional Egyptian dish and pasta al forno is Italian, so how are these supposed to mix? Turns out Jamie Oliver knows what he’s doing when he mixed two completely different styles. (Go figure, a chef who knows how to cook…) What you get in the end is a unique dish that could feed a small army. Most importantly, this is a completely meatless dish that will fill you up!

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I didn’t make too many changes to his recipe. I used less onions and did not have any mint. I also substituted fresh chillies from a couple of dried ones. Aside from that, it was pretty much the same, with the main ingredients being the noodles and rice, mixed with some lentils and chickpeas.

First step is to fry up a couple of large onions with garlic and the chillies with some ground cumin for about 15 minutes.

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After that, I put in tomatoes, a veggie boullion cube, some tomato paste, chickpeas and some water for 30 minutes. All this was easy stuff. In the meantime, I boiled rice and noodles and had them ready for when the sauce was done.

Eventually you get all your ingredients together and pour it into a large dish. I had so much that I actually had to use another smaller dish as well. Crumble in some feta and add the lentils and then put it in the oven at 350 degrees for around 30 minutes.

The last bit of this recipe calls for deep fried onions with fennel seeds and cumin seeds just for a topping. I was ready to do this when I realized that my deep fryer was not working. I tried to fry them up in just a regular deep sauce pan, but they were not quite crispy. However, the onions still came out great and were an important addition to the recipe.

This is what mine looked like in the end, in Jamie’s book the top was much crispier, but as I have learned, my gas oven tends to cook things more evenly and does not make the tops very crispy. I did turn up the heat slightly for a few minutes near the end, but I can’t do that too long or I might overcook it.

For a dish with so many noodles, this was not as heavy as one might think. The sauce gave it a nice light taste, while the chickpeas and lentils really added to the flavour. I highly recommend eating it with some fried onions as Jamie suggested, because it gives it that extra savoury flavour. Although, it’s still great without them.

I mentioned that this recipe has a lot of servings and I think Jamie underestimates when he says that it serves 8-10. My guess is more like 12-16 and I guarantee each serving will be large. Yet, you can still have quite a bit without feeling like you had a heavy meal. This will fill you up and because there’s no meat, it still feels light.

So, if you’re interested in a veggie dish for a dinner party, this is a great choice. You can feed a lot of people and it honestly does not require a ton of effort. It’s easy to make, yet feels like a fancy dish in the end. I enjoyed making this because of how easy it was and knowing that I’ll have lots of food that I can save for another day. See you next time!

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