Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stepping Out: A walk Downtown evokes memories of Cairo’s old glory

An intereting article that I came the next time I am in Downtown, this is what I shall do!

Stepping Out: A walk downtown evokes memories of Cairo’s old glory
By Kate Dannies
First Published: December 5, 2008

The Groppi building's aristocratic architecture remains captivating.
Living in a city that seems to grow and change everyday, it’s easy to forget the rich history that is embodied in the buildings and streets of central Cairo.

Cairo’s downtown was built by Khedive Ismail, who strove to create a “new city” that was European, modern, and easy to secure. This meant wide boulevards centered around spacious squares and grand buildings modeled after Europe’s architectural masterworks. This was in stark contrast to the twisting alleys and narrow streets found Cairo’s ancient Islamic city.

This is Cairo’s “Tale of Two Cities”—an analogy that remains appropriate today as endless expansion continues and the popularity of new neighborhoods and satellite cities replaces the appeal of downtown life.

Downtown’s glamorous past is something that everyone acknowledges but few have experienced; the area’s glory may have long since faded, but it remains a fascinating place to visit for locals and tourists alike.

Due to the area’s one-way streets and many instances of interesting architecture, a walking tour is the best way to appreciate the myriad sights there.

A great route begins at an easily identifiable landmark: the old campus of the American University in Cairo — itself an institution whose buildings are about to join the rest of downtown’s architectural marvels in the history books.

Beginning in front of AUC’s Greek campus on Youssef El Guindy Street, walk down the street towards the Bustan Center. Continuing down Youssef El Guindy, passing by craftsmen making woven chairs and couches, you will arrive at the intersection with Hoda Shaarawi Street.

Besides boasting lovely architecture, this area is known for its fabulous selection of antiques — here, upper-class Zamalekites can often be found mixing with downtown regulars as they search for old treasures in crammed shops.

Turning left and walking up Hoda Shaarawi towards Talaat Harb, Bustan café will be on your left. This quaint coffeehouse in an alley is popular with locals and expat downtowners alike, and will be filled with an eclectic mix of people at any time of the day. Sit and have a shisha and enjoy some prime people-watching, or continue up the alley to Talaat Harb Street.
Historic Café Riche is nestled up between Bustan alley and Talaat Harb Street. Pop in for a look at the café’s portrait hall, featuring shots of famous Egyptians such as Naguib Mahfouz, Om Kolthoum and Ahmed Amin who frequented the café over the years.

Downstairs, Café Riche’s political history comes alive — visitors can see the old printing press that was used to create nationalist literature and the secret passageway that helped smuggle activists in and out of hiding.

Hang out in Riche for a bit and you're bound to meet some interesting people — many of Cairo’s top contemporary writers are patrons, and visiting scholars, writers and artists make for a captivating crowd at this landmark.

Across the street from Café Riche is the legendary Groppi — Cairo’s original chocolaterie and patisserie. Groppi’s pastries may no longer be the best in Cairo, but the aristocratic architecture of the place makes it easy to imagine the appeal it held for elite Cairo of old.

If you turn left past Groppi onto Mahmoud Bassiouni Street and take the second right onto Champollion, you will pass by one of downtown’s most beautiful, and most neglected landmarks. This is the Mansouria Girls’ School: an abandoned building that has, nevertheless, managed to maintain its dignity over the years.

While the building and its grounds have been granted protection as historic monuments, nothing has been done to bring them back to their former glory, so visitors must be content to look and imagine from the street.

At the end of the street is the Townhouse Gallery. An excellent example of the recent gentrification that has been taking place on a small scale in downtown, the Townhouse has managed to integrate itself seamlessly into the neighborhood. Gallery visitors can be seen sitting in the coffeehouse with alley residents enjoying a shisha under artistic light and banner arrangements put up by the gallery. This is one of the rare places where the diversity of downtown can be truly enjoyed.

The Townhouse’s exhibits are some of Cairo’s best, and the gallery’s gift shop, which boasts crafts and jewelry from all over Egypt, offers a refreshing change from the endless papyrus and perfume shops that offer the only other options for souvenirs.

Across Talaat Harb Square, turn onto the pedestrian thoroughfare of Sherifain Street, and you will be immediately struck by the architecture of the historic Cosmopolitan Hotel. Designed by Italian architect Alphonse Sasso and built in 1928, this building is one of the most beautiful examples of belle-époque architecture in Cairo.

Further up the pedestrian walk, is Egypt’s stock exchange, El Borsa. Newly renovated, El Borsa is a quintessential example of the architectural treasures to be found in the area. During the day, visitors can enter the rejuvenated building for a tour, but if you go after hours, it’s best to stop for a quick look and head along to the stylish Borsa Café for a street-side coffee break.

If you need more than coffee at this point in the afternoon, continue down Sherifain Street past the Mobil station to Mahmoud Mazloom Street. At the intersection with Hoda Shaarawi Street is a classic: Le Bistro. While not necessarily a true French dining experience, Le Bistro’s typical downtown shabby chic atmosphere and excellent steak frites make it worth a stop.

A walking tour of historic downtown concludes with a final stroll past Falaki Square, down Bustan Street back to the American University in Cairo, where walkers will get into their cars and head back out to the fringes of the city, far away from the Cairo of days past.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Four Women in Egypt

Have been searching the net in vain to try and download a documentary titled Four Women in Egypt. It is supposed to be a brilliant documentary exploring the lives, arguments and friendships of for very different women.

Teacher, writer, activist, politician--four extraordinary women testify about the tumultuous events they have lived through during their long friendship in Egypt. The four women speak animatedly about the nation, politics, culture, and Islam.

The four are friends. They are nationalists and progressives; one among them is a veiled Islamist. The women defy the stereotypical notion that "fundamentalists" and "secularists" do not talk to each other, that they do not have shared experiences or common concerns.

Have read fantastic reviews of the documentary. Tried looking for a copy in the video shops but no luck. If anyone reading this has a link or can tell me where I can get a copy, shall be eternally grateful!


Came across this the other day while surfing "Cairo" and was amazed. This is a KFC run by people who are hearing impared. The video is taken by JehanneMc.

This place is in Midan Vini, Dokki, Cairo, Egypt. Walking distance from the Cairo Sheraton. The manager of the outlet is not hearing impaired.

I think the whole concept is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of mankind and kuos to a company which has the courage to do something besides pay lip service to concept of diversity at the woerk place.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No time like the present!

Countries gain and loose an hour in daylight savings, I've lost a day!

For the last few days Blogger's clock has been running a day behind the actual date, well at least for my blog e.g. currently the time in 1.17 a.m. Dec 11 while Blogger shows the current posting time as 2.14 p.m. Dec 10. Am completely unable to figure out what happened. Have been through the layout, can't seem to find how to set it right! My laptop's clock shows the right time, so I know its not my comp but Blogger!

At times like this, I am forced to acknowledge that I am reasonably technologically challenged, lol!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quirky News

Was generally browsing the net looking for something when I came across this website "Digg" which had some really quirky news items, which I could not resist posting for the amusement value of the same...

Men under threat from 'gender bending' chemicals — Men are at risk of being "feminised" by thousands of "gender bending" chemicals that are changing the behaviour of humans and animals, according to a report. Scientists are warning that manmade pollutants which have escaped into the environment mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen.

Academics invent math equation for why people procrastinate — It might seem an idle pastime but academics have come up with a mathematical equation for why people procrastinate. Prof Piers Steel, a Canadian academic who has spent more than 10 years studying why people put off until tomorrow what they could do today, believes that the notion that procrastinators are either perfectionists or just lazy is wrong.

"The Ice Man" aims to break freezing record — A Dutchman who is able to withstand freezing temperatures that would kill most people will submerge himself in icy water for almost two hours in a world record bid. - Public Toilet Search with GPS Locations — SitOrSquat is a web based index of public bathrooms. In addition to providing the basic map-mashup and rating system. Sit or Squat users can provide and browse photographs of the restrooms in question. The real selling point is the applications available for iPhones and Blackberries, enabling GPS based directions to the nearest bathroom

Origins of Sphinx

Looks like historians are not going to let the myth and mystique of the Sphinx survive! They are keen to demystify the origins and contruct of the spectacular structure at the earliest.

Just came across an article in the Telegraph, Uk which talks about how they have come to the conclusion that the Sphinx was probably built much earlier than the 3 pyramids at Giza, and, how the head/ face that it was originally built was one of a lion which was subsequently replaced by that of a Pharoah when the pyramids were built.

Its fascinating isn't it, how even centuries ago they were capable of building structures on a gigantic scale that would withstand the test of time...

You can read the article here


I was browsing through "Not without my daughter" when I remembered having read a very interesting book called Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I remember having heard of it due to the rather unfortunate killing of Theo van Gogh, the man who had the courage to make the movie "Submission" along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. That sparked off an interest to see the movie and to read the book.

Born in Somalia, the daughter of a politician who opposed the Siad Barré dictatorship, Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up with oppression. The accounts of violent retributions at the hands of her religious teacher make you cringe, her mother's obduracy in sticking to what she is familiar with and her unwillingness to look outside that frustrates you, her mother's frustration in dealing with a life she does not understand makes you feel sorry for her while wanting to shake her up, the sisters' reading of romantic novels just like other young girls anywhere makes you smile, her first attraction for a member of the male species and their hesitant fumblings make you want to hug her, her all encompassing embrace of Islam including the wearing of a shapeless black garment makes you want to shake her for allowing her thoughts and her fire die out, her dissapointment as she realises that the father that she revered as a rebel, a thinker did deem her opinion / wishes / desires important make your heart cry for her, her mother calling her a "filthy prostitute" makes you cringe, her fear and anticipation as she awaits asylum in Holland keeps you on tender hooks.

Her description of her genital mutilation is narrated matter-of-factly without stretching it, which makes it even more agonising. And this happens across Africa, and, is not specific to a religion. I had to put down the book twice, before I could pick it up and read any further, it felt so real and personal.

And, not for the first time while reading the book, I thanked God for my blessings!

A couple of questions that arise when you read the book relate to the detailed description of her childhood when she was barely 10 years old. The detail in which she describes it, makes you question the veracity of the events. Can a person remember such details of a childhood that she strives to forget and move on? And if she has filled in the blanks at some places, is it concievable that there may be exaggeration at some other places?

Yes, a lot has been said about her falsifying some of the information on her application seeking political asylum, but is that an inconceivable thought and is she the first person to have done it? Though I wish she hadn't criticised the same action by others subsequently.

Yes, she appears to talk only of an oppressed Islamic world and has invited the ire of the more liberal muslims, but the fact is that she will talk about only what she has been exposed to in the Islamic world. Could she be a little less all encompassing in her denouncement of Islam? Definatley.

Yes, she paints a very rosy picture of the Western world but can you blame her? Her only yardstick are her experiences in Somalia, Kenya, Nairobi and Saudi, which is what she uses for comparision. As an educated woman, having spent time in the Western world, being a politically active woman, does one expect a more objective viewpoint? Definately.

And finally, in the last two years, having read so many books about muslim women in muslim states and their stories, I wonder whether all of what she says is really so far away from the truth for some women? Do many of us, who live blessed lives (irrespective of our faith), prefer to gloss over the fact that life is not so rosy for many other women?

I guess there will be many opinions and viewpoints about the book, but I think its definately worth a read.

I am attaching the links to the movie "Submission" by Theo van Gogh. Worth seeing, if not for anything but just to see what caused the man to loose his life.

I can imagine that he may have offended religious sentiments courtesy Quranic verses being written on a naked body of a woman. I remember an instance in India when Hussein, a famous painter, had painted pictures of Hindu goddess and invited the fundamentalist's ire. I remember it surprising me, cos we are the land of the Kamasutra, and, Ajanta and Ellora. I guess fundamentalists are the same everywhere, irrespective of the religion!

Top 10 things to do in Cairo

Had some friends visiting us from Singapore. While they've done the Nile Cruise and Abu Simbal, and of course, the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, they asked me a very pertinent question? Other than the antiquities, what are the top 10 things to do in Cairo? Not Egypt but in and around Cairo?

For a moment I was fazed! First thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions Cairo is the pyramids and the museum...that set me thinking....I am writing down what I would def like to do in and around Cairo, in random order...and these are things that I would like to do...

1/ Coffee and Sheesha at El Fishawy
2/ Tannoura at Al Ghouri
3/ Felucca ride
4/ Dinner at the revolving restaurant
5/ A day trip to Fayoum
6/ A trip into the White Dessert
7/ A night out at Darts (Heliopolis) After Eight or Budha Bar
8/ The 11 pm to 4 am show with Dina at Semiramis

Cannot think of the balance two which does not include the antiquities... needs some thought!

Anybody who is reading this and has suggestions, would love to hear your top 10 things to do...I have this nagging feeling that there is something very obvious that I am missing out!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Evans - Maadi City Centre

While I continue to fight a loosing battle of the bulge, my state of depression is enhanced by the lack of availability of clothes in this city.

Nah, let me rephrase it, lack of availability of clothes that I would want to wear, and, more importantly could wear! Brands like Rojada, Dalydress and sometimes Bella Donna do have some wearable stuff but by and large I don't seem to find anything that I like, though they do have my size..

Happened to be in Maadi City Centre when I chanced upon the store Evans. Evans is a high street UK retailer that specialises in 14 plus sizes...walked in quite excited cos in London at least, they have some very smart outfits.

However, my reaction was rather mixed. They have a couple of decent outfits but most others tend to be sequined, slightly shiny, more lycra and synthetic, though the jeans and troussers and a couple of skirts were not bad. But the prics are quite astonishing. Something that I had picked up in London for 25 british pounds was around 480 le here. I guess with the duty etc, the prices would be higher but here Evans was being positioned as a luxury brand.

But I think that's true for almost all foreign brands. I suspect if even Wal-mart was to open an outlet in Cairo, it would position itself at the high end of the market, lol!

So I shall continue to haunt Bella Donna, Rojada or Dalydress to find something I like, but for women looking for really large plus size outfits, at least there is a retailer in town.

Wedding fun or tradition?

Was driving to a friend's place on Road 214, listening to some music, I suddenly registered a persistent honking. Thinking that maybe I had blocked traffic lost in my own thoughts, I moved aside to let the car behind me pass. To my irritation, the honking continued! I lowered the window pane, and, turned around to see who was being so irritating!

To my surprise, there was a cavalcade of some 8-10 cars, with their parking lights blinking, and all of them playing the beat with their horns - beep, beep, beeeeeeeep, beep, beep! I followed rather intrigued, as they all decided to do laps around the midan after the railway tracks.

And then the penny dropped! It was a wedding procession, cos the car in front was beautifully decorated with flowers. They all kept going around in circles with the car headlights flashing and the rhythemic beat of their rather loud horns. It was quite cute, actually. I must admit, the Masrys certainly know how to enjoy themselves and have fun!

But I was wondering whether this was a one off thing or is this usually done at / after weddings?

Friday, December 5, 2008

I have been had!

Well, it would appear that the Genpets website is a hoax, so yours truly has been truly had! Thanks Connie for pointing this out. But am I glad. The concept deeply offended me.

A site called Snope GENPETS are actually artworks - made from latex and plastic - made by 24 year old Canadian commercial artist called Adam Brandejs. As per him Genpets was a way to have people sit and up and think about bioengineering and where the science might lead us.

The artist has similar works in the form of an animatronic Flesh Shoe (egad!) and and animatronic Heart.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Grill, Semiramis

One of my friends asked me to recommend a good continental place to eat - "The Grill" pat came the reply. It indeed is a pleasure to dine at The Grill with a caveat - you have to be a non-vegetarian!

Since she reminded me of The Grill, just thought I would write about it. The Grill is the French restaurant at The Semiramis Intercontinental. Located on the 3rd floor, you can't but help being drawn towards the loud music coming from the night club as you walk towards the restaurant.

The decor is very elegant and classy with a whole wall covered with an art deco wine rack as you walk into the eatry. We went past the main area, past the pianist, into a more private alcove overlooking the Nile. Faith, the view was lovely! The restaurant also has private glass cubicles that are segregated from the rest of the eatery with dark glass affording privacy.

We started off with a complimentary amuses-bouche, which consisted of salmon slices, piped with avacado mousse. It was wasted on my hubby, who is not fond of fish, and definately wasted on a poor vegetarian like me! My mom-in-law is the only one who loves fish, and, she swore that the combination was delicious! The maitre de very quickly realised that I was a vegetarian, and very thoughtfully got me small toasts piped with some delicious cheese. I thought that was very nice and considerate...

Then came the menus. It took me just a moment to scan through them to confirm that there was nothing for me to eat except mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. So much so for my fine dining experience!

I swear, for a moment I felt like throttling my hubby especially since I had wanted to eat at Bird Cage, and he had insisted on The Grill! "Well, what would you expect at a grill, other than grilled vegetables for vegetarians?" Pertinent comment that, not one that I could argue with!

Then arrived my saviour and my downfall - tons and tons of carbs! The bread basket at The Grill is fantastic, with fresh, soft, flour and whole wheat breads, some stuffed with cheese, other with olives, and some just brushed with olive oil and sesame seeds, served with soft butter! They were delicious!! If you cant beat 'em, join 'em! Dunk the carbs, I was going to enjoy my bread! What had Mary Antionnette said "If they dont have bread, give em cake!" So be it!

We ordered fresh juices, and, some soft drinks, and the mango juice was deliciously fresh. Actually now that I think of it, I have yet to come across an eatery in Cairo that does not serve delicious fresh mango juice.

For starters, I ordered a tomato soup, while others ordered a goose pate, and salmon mousse. The latter is a part of a set menu which is offered by the restaurant and costs approx LE 230-250.

I must admit, the tomato soup was delicious, albiet really thick. Hubby swore that the pate was one of the best that he had eaten in a while.

For the main meal, yours truly ordered, what else but grilled vegetables (LE 15)?

The restaurant offers a fantastic choice of meats - beef, veal, rib eye, US, Angus etc. I understand that The Grill is famed for its meat - that explains hubby's insistence on coming here. The grilled meats come with a choice of sauce, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetable or an au gratin.

My son ordered grilled veal with mashed potatoes and hollandaise sauce while my husband ordered a beef stake with mashed potatoes and a pepper sauce. Mom-in-law got grilled sea bass with rice and a lemon butter sauce as part of her set menu.

Surrisingly enough, the helping of grilled vegetables was very large, very delicious, consisting of very sweet peppers, zuchini, pumpkin, carrots etc. The mashed potatoes came wth a twist - they had a guest chef on for that week and the mashed potatoes were served with truffle. They were melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

My son loved his veal, though he thought my husband's veal was far more tender. Halfway through the meal, they decided to swap their dishes but my husband pronounced both to be equally good and the quality of meat excellent. Mom-in-law agreed saying her sea bass was excellent as well.

The service is quiet, attentive and efficient. We did order desserts, and, while my hubby and mom-in-law liked theirs, I must admit I was not too enamoured of them. I am rather masry in my sweet taste preferences, and I like my sweets to be a little fuller and richer.

I think the bill came to around LE1700 without any alcohol being consumed. The price includes the ambience, the service, the Nile View and of course, delicious food. Even my grilled veegtables were grilled to perfection!

A lovely evening with great food and great atmosphere, I am sure we will be back again, though my husband still owes me another fancy meal for the grilled vegetables that I had, lol!

King Tut's face revealed

While I know the news is over a month old, I just found this video while browsing YouTube, so posting it now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playing God?

Was looking up a BPO by the name of Genpact on the internet, and, my search threw up something so bizzarre that I was left astonished at what I was reading! Sometimes, I suspect, human being were better off as cavemen, at least you could find a justification for things they did, cos they knew no better...

A company called Bio-Genica, has designed these creatures called Genpets, using a process called "Zygote Micro Injection" that combines DNA strains from different species.

As per the company's website ( "The Genpets™ are Pre-Packaged, Bioengineered pets implemented today!" Yup, they are not toys but living, breathing genetic animals!

Each creature comes pre-packd in special plastic packaging and is equipped with a fully functional heart rate monitor and Fresh Strip to gauge the state of each pet while it lies in its hibernation state.
The Genpets are colour coded depedning on the personality type, and each personality displays a different emotion, ugh! You can determine the life of the pet by choosing a 1 year or a 3 year pet. Of course, should your child get bored before the "expiry" of the pet, you can always stop the nutrients, and, the pet would die.

Are we playing God? Creating and manipulating life? Determining when and how much a creature can live? Much as I am in awe of the human mind, its ability to think, fathom, decipher, imagine, create and much as I beleive that science and technology has done much to improve the qaulity of our life, this to me seems a little strange.

I don't know, maybe I am overreacting, but to me, giving a young child a live creature over whose life and death, the child has absolute control, creates the danger of the child having little or no respect for the value of a life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You've been had!

Mom-in-law came back from the CSA library a tad stressed out. She mentioned how everyone was talking about an expat lady who was stopped by a couple of men posing as cops and demanding her passport!

Technically, as per law, you are supposed to carry your passport showing your visa/ resident permit, and, the police can haul you up / fine you for not carrying the passport. The poor lady was not carrying her passport, and the so called cops threatened her with imprisionment unless she paid up cash.

I am not very sure, but I believe she had the presence of mind to tell them that she needed to call her husband, and, they would talk to the cops. On hearing this, the scamsters vamoosed.

Since I roam around quite a bit on my own, ma-in-law was very worried that I should be careful and not get caught by some scamsters trying to act funny. While its never happened to me, I guess its never harmful to be a little wary and be careful. In any case, replicating a Cairo cop's uniform is of no difficulty at all!

Cellar Door

Restaurant: Cellar Door
Address: 9, Road 151, Maadi
Tel Number: 2359-8328
Timing: 11am to 11pm
WiFi available

I am not sure why I have never written about Cellar Door though hubby and I have been there for meals ever so often. At one time "Petit Swiss Chalet", Cellar Door has made a huge leap from its erstwhile avtaar, and, I suspect for the better!

Its a chic yet cosy, small eatery located just around the corner from Bua Khao. A few steps transport you down into a trendy, relaxed place whose warmth is further enahanced by the easy manner of its new owner. He's usually to be found there, mingling with the guests, cracking a joke or two, and, generally adding to the atmosphere of the place which is a little irreverent, which makes it a fun place to go to!

They serve you the most delicious garlic bread with a vegetable spread while you browse through two, not one, menu! One is a printed, regular (er stable, lol!) menu while the other is a changing one! Quirky, ain't it? But thats what makes the place fun! Its nice going to place every 6 months and not knowing what to expect!

Today, we ordered a mushroom salad (LE 23), which was very basic but really nice The lemon vinaigrette greatly enhanced the flavour of fresh mushrooms and arugula. Even the Greek salad (LE25), with fresh tomatoes, onion, cucumbers and feta cheese, which I have had before, is quite nice.

Being a predominantly Italian place, there is enough and more choice for the poor vegetarian mortals like me. We ordered a home made gnocchi (LE27) in a tomato sauce, a home made lasagna (LE29) and spaghetti with a cream sauce (LE27).

The gocchi was soft, which is great, cos you can really mess up the gnocchi and the last thing on my mind was a battle between my teeth and the gnocchi! The lasagne tasted good though I though the pasta was a liitle underdone, but the yummy roasted vegetables made up for it! The spaghetti was a nice foil to the cheese and tangy tomato sauces we had had so far.

One of us had ordered fish in butter lemon sauce that was served with some rice. She thought the fish was very well done, more so cos a similar fish she ate at Crave the previous night had not been so good.

The other thing that I love about Cellar Door is their tableware. Plain white porcelain in large outsized plates and serving dishes , it makes the food look delicious - half the battle won! I was very tempted to ask the owner where he got the tableware from, but desisted from doing so!

We ordered a caramel cheesecake, which I must admit, was yummylicious! Though we all shared it, I thought it was perfect. In fact, I think I will send my driver to pick one up for lunch tomorrow! Now I know why I seem to fight a loosing battle as far as my waistline goes!

If I remember correctly, they allow you to carry your own wine but you need to pay corkage at LE 40. A bottle of wine at Cellar Door costs LE135, so it makes sense to carry your own and pay the corkage, if you have a specific wine in mind.

But I think, the place is definately worth a visit, and, we at least like the food quite a bit!

Your name in hieroglyphics!

Came across this while looking up something on hieroglyphics. This is a utility that tells you what your name would look like if it had been written in heiroglyphics!

Everytime I buy a cartouche for someone with their name inscribed in hieroglyphics, I wonder whether its really written correctly. Well, now I can check! Well to the extent, this utility is accurate, lol!

Fresh pizza dough

My son loves the pizza I make at home, and the biggest secret to my pizza is the base. As I have learnt, if you look for something hard enough in Cairo, you will find it!

Road 9 in Maadi, has this small innocous looking bakery called "Maadi Bakery" before McDonald, on the right side of the road. They give you fresh pizza dough at about LE 16 / kg. The dough is really delicious, and, can be frozen and used upto 4-5 days.

I use it to make pizzas, calazones etc and they always come out excellent. I would recommend the dough any day over frozen, ready made bases!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Indian recipes: Butter Chicken

Have some friends who absolutely adore the Indian dish Butter Chicken, and, have been asking me to show them how to making it, sans any chillies...

So finally, yesterday, held a small class for 4 of my friends where we decided to make Butter Chicken with Naan. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun, my kitchen looked like a war zone after we were done, and, I was the only one who was not eating, since I am a vegetarian!

Now usually I do not post recipes, but they all liked it, and, asked me to post it on my blog so that they don't have to write it down, and they can direct their friends to it as well.

This is how I make my butter chicken, I sure plenty others would have different and better recipes..but everyone at home seems to like it!

Butter Chicken / Chicken Makhanwalla
Serves: 4

For Marination
750 grams of chicken cut into pieces (boneless)
3 tablespoon yoghurt
3 tablespoon lemon juice
3 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin and red chilli powders
1 onion chopped and made into a paste
4 teaspoon each of ginger, garlic pastes
salt to taste
you could add orange food colour to get that authentic look to the chicken but that’s optional. I dont usually add colour cos my husbandis allergic to soem artificial colourings

4 large tomatoes, roasted, peeled & chopped
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon fresh cream
1 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin, red chilli powders
2 teaspoon each of finely chopped ginger and green chillies (the chillies is optional)
salt and sugar to taste
melted butter, fresh cream and finely chopped coriander leaves for garnishing

Cut chicken into medium sized pieces (slightly larger than bite sized). Make small cuts in the chicken pieces. Mix the ingredients for the marinade and coat the chicken pieces with the marinade. Let the chicken marinate for a few hours, overnight if possible. Keep it in the fridge if you are marinating overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter, in a pan and put in the chicken along with the marinade. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes or till the chicken is fully cooked. After the mixture turns dry, stir fry the chicken for some time.

Roast the tomatoes on fire, then peel the skin off and chop. Alternately, you can even puree the peeled tomatoes & then use it. Its a little more cumbersome, but thats what I do.

Heat the remaining butter (4 tablespoons) in a saucepan and add the red chilli, coriander, cumin powders. Fry for a few seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt and cook uncovered on medium level for about 8-10 minutes till the puree thickens and the fat separates. Stir in the beaten cream and reduce the heat to low. You can thin the gravy a little bit by adding milk, but not too much otherwise you will loose the taste.

Add the chicken, chopped ginger and green chillies to the simmering gravy. Sprinkle salt to taste if needed. Mix well. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes or till the curry is thoroughly heated through.

Just before serving pour melted butter over the curry. Garnish with a swirl of fresh cream and finely chopped coriander leaves.

If you want a richer gravy, then you can add cashew nut paste (soak cashew nuts in water for an hour or so and grind them) while making the gravy - fry it along with the spice powders and then proceed as above.

Little creative minds

Ever since my son joined CAC, I have volunteered at the class. It gives me a way to participate in my son's life at school and see first hand how he operates at school. Also, if I am honest, I am trying to make up for the last 5 years of his life where as a working mom, I had long working hours and could not spend as much time with him as we both would have liked.

Anyways, this year, have volunteered to help out with the kids' Writers Workshop. CAC has a very cute concept where every day they have half hour / hour where they are allowed to let their creative juices run, and, write and finally publish stories. The stories can be about anything, and, they need to illustrate and detail them. As a volunteer parent, you are expeced to hear them out, help with ideas and suggestions if they are stuck and generally operate as a sounding board.

I must admit, this has to be the best volunteer stuff that I have done. Its a joy to sit with young minds, completeley unfettered by preconcieved ideas and notions and willing to let their imagination run wild, and, to hear their views and opinions!

Someone is writing a story about a bubble planet where there were bubble creatures, while another passionately describes a train journey through Germany and what the train was like. Another had a wonderfully descriptive account of how she and her friends played golf. Two aspiring screenplay writers penned new series for George Lucas to delight Star War fans with! And these were no small short notes, they were long, descriptive, and, beautifully detailed stories that were a pleasure to read!

Its so refreshing to be sitting with these young ones and hearing their take on life and events as they unfold. Their delightful priorities, their understanding of things around them, and their willingness to look beyond the obvious and take things at face value. I guess plenty of lessons for us adults to learn from them, to be able to think breaking free from all that is a given...