In Egypt today most people are concerned with getting bread to eat. Only some of the educated understand how democracy works -Naguib Mahfou, Egyptian novelist
(Thanks to Jean-Philippe de Tonnac for posting these timely words by Naguib Mahfouz!)
Watching the Arab Spring Revolution, it makes me wonder about the impact of food on politics, especially bread. It made me think of their classic breads, basic sustenance that suggests cultures that are enduring, imaginative, and rich.
My closest experience to Egypt comes from visiting Istanbul, where I quickly grew to admire the local pide or pizza vendors. Working with just a stove and small island to prep, along with a long peel to feed the dough into the ovens, I remember wanting to ask them if they would teach me. Their output was consistently delicious.
Thinking about their baking this weekend, I decided to see if I could replicate some of them. Below are shots of some of the creations. They turned out well. It's worth a try on your own.
What intriguing about pide and lahmacun ( a spiced meat paste on pide dough), are the flavorful toppings and the oddly attractive shapes. The pizzas are not your usual rounds. Rather they are oblong, shaped like a canoe with folded edges holding the filling.
Lahmacun, on the other hand, is a round meat pie that is covered and baked. The various toppings can be whatever you like, but traditionally it's sumac-smothered onion slices. Or sometimes it is topped with coriander and parsley.
Finally there is the versatile and wonderful "khubz Za'atar," a flat bread from the Levantine. A variation of pide, it's a close cousin to pizza, and a great wrap or dipping bread.
Brushed with oil and scattered with the heady zataar spice, it's either baked on a stone or a pan.
It's also a great foil for my favorite lamb and beef kofte.