welcome to whatever this is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

City Chicken - Berlin

Even though I'm not in Berlin right now, sometimes I can't help but think about my beautiful around the corner Sunday night takeaway: City Chicken.

Look at it:
It doesn't look like much, does it?

But it's awesome. An entire rotisserie chicken, FULL OF FLAVOUR for only 5 euros.  And they have amazing hummous, pita bread, chips, garlic mayo, should you be so inclined.  I have to admit, part of the allure is that this place is within approximately 2 minutes from my flat in Neukolln. But... there are 3 others like it, and yet Rodders and I just keep coming back to this one special place. Now, as a foreigner who lives in Berlin part-time, or full-time but on a short-term basis? I can honestly say that when you are going to City Chicken, you're not just going for the food, but for the experience. Now, maybe living in Cairo has made me crave crowds and chaos while in orderly Germany, but Roddy loves it just as much, if not more so, than I do.

We often get it to take away, but in the summer they have outdoor seating which is quite lovely as well. But when you walk in, it's so crowded, everybody's speaking arabic, you don't know where to go. You find the back of the line which feels like it doesn't move, but suddenly you're near the front. People push through to pick up orders they probably called in, but you feel territorial, 'is that guy cutting the line? who does he think he is?'.  Actually, the first few times you go, you think you're going to be forgotten, especially when you have a language barrier and are not used to being aggressive with people, but the next thing you know, there's a big sweaty man is yelling at you (maybe in german, maybe arabic, i don't speak either so it doesn't matter?) asking what you want. And there's a sense of relief that you're getting your food.

R-man and I take it home, savor it, plan on making sandwiches the next day with it but it really never lasts until the next day, and then I make a delicious stock with it.  Everytime people have come to visit us, we've gone to City Chicken, and they adored it.

If you're in Berlin...go there.

City Chicken
Sonnenallee 59, 12045 
Berlin, Germany+49 30/6248600

Wekalet Fabric Market - Cairo

What a trip to the fabric market I had last night!! My dear dear bff Jenn is getting married in October. While I'm in Cairo, we thought it would be an exciting and economically advantageous idea for me to get the fabrics to decorate the barn in which they're getting married at a market here!  And it is!

My friend Heather generously decided to accompany me on this adventure. Partly due to curiosity, partly due to concern for Jenn as Heather thinks I have a mild case of color blindness..I really don't know what she's talking about!

Anyway. It was beautiful! This market is full of life, yet not nearly as chaotic as Attaba market, which is basically like 50 large department stores exploded in the center of Cairo and landed in this compressed space with like, 10 000 employees. But this post is not about Attaba, it's about Wekalet!!

 It's located in Boulak, just north of the 15th of May/ 26th of July bridge, with 26th of July forming its southern border and the Corniche forming it's western border. Link to a map of approximately where it is.

The colours of all the fabrics are beautiful, and I think it must be where a ton of people get their wedding dresses made, they have so many beautiful sparkly, sequinned fabrics. In itself, this market would be great to just go to and have a little walk, like if you went to Khan el Khalili market, then wanted some "real" cairo, but Attaba was a bit too... "real", is one way to put it. Also, it's super cheap, cheaper than Attaba.  On that note, I was looking for cheap fabrics, and they basically ranged from 10 LE per meter (USD 1.75), to 200, depending on what you wanted. I took some photos to send to Jenn:

It was a good time, and I'm going back tonight to purchase!

Also, I bought a pair of white linen pants for 30 LE (USD 5.00), and 2 sports bras for 15LE each (USD 2.50).

Not bad for a Wednesday night, eh???

Zucchini and Feta SOUP

So, living in Cairo right now, I eat a lot of zucchini. Don't get me wrong, I loves me a good zucchini, but, much to Rodney's chagrin, I need a lot of variety in my meals. Although strangely I could eat tacos, lasagne, pizza, enchiladas and a good indian curry in a rotation by themselves for all 3 meals for.. I don't even know how long. I would guess 8 weeks, but really, I've never tried. For fear of becoming obese mainly. If I had superb metabolism? Well, it would become a whole different ballgame.

Anyway. The other night I decided I needed to turn those zucchinis into something a bit different, a bit zippier. So that even though you KNOW you're eating zucchini, you don't really feel like it... you feel me?

The result was this scrumptious looking photo:

whooooops. I didn't take a photo.  Do you want to know the reason I haven't taken photos? Really? Because I haven't told Maya and Biniam that I'm blogging because I'm scared that that means I think I'm so awesome that I have so much to share with the world. SO. If they don't know I'm blogging, then how do I take photos of the food we're eating without being noticed? This is a challenge that I will tackle.

Here is the recipe for the soup:

4 zucchinis (the ones I used were about 12cm long?)
1 med-large potato
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 small personal sized container of plain yogurt
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
2 cups soup stock (I used vegetable stock, but to each his/her own!)
salt and pepper! (I LOVE salt and pepper. I want to make salt and pepper soup or something)


you just chop up those onions, it doesn't matter if they're roughly chopped because it's all getting blended! Heat a little bit of EVOO as Rachel Ray says, and toss the onions into the saucepan. Stir and cook, add chopped garlic. same thing, then chopped zucchini and potato...and salt and pepper!! Saute that around for a few minutes. Add the stock and let it all just cook and come together in the pot, like a magical stew.

After a long time, check to see that the potatoes and zucchini are soft, then blend it all up into a beautifully smooth puree type thing. Mine was a bit thick so I added more stock.(water actually, but that sounds bad so let's say I added stock.

Then put it back in the pot, add the feta and yogurt and there you have this beautifully photographed soup!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cold rice noodle vegetable salad with tangy Gado Gado sauce

Well! Last night I made it to the gym!! hooray. well, at least it was hooray until 1) the gym guy tells me i really need to be coming everyday and 2) I ran into a friend JUST as i stepped off the treadmill and she asked me why I sweat so much and get so red in the face.  ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. anyway.

I got home and heated up some zucchini feta soup I had made the day before, just for this very occasion of arriving home at 9pm and starving.  It was really good, maybe I'll post the recipe!! Anyway, determined not to have to get street foul for lunch again, I decided to make a beautiful little noodle salad with a peanut sauce for all of the family to take to work for lunch.  AGAIN... I have no photos. Why? because it was so late at night and I was tooooooooooooooooooooo tired. But I will likely be making this very thing again next week, so...I will post then.

Anyway, here I am at work, sipping on my grape-mango-orange smoothie typing up this blog again, so I better hurry before I miss a deadline or something.

Also, can I just say that although this summer has been VERY kind in terms of heat compared to last summer in Cairo...it's just too sweaty here these days. Which makes cooking hard.  We have air conditioning in our living room and Maya and Bini's bedroom only, so you can imagine how hot the kitchen gets.  Although I don't think people usually have air conditioning in their kitchens, do they? I'm not sure.  Anyway. THE RECIPE!! Also, if anyone in the world anywhere ever comes across this blog, can you tell me if it's basically useless to write a recipe post with no photo? does anyone try recipes anymore unless there's a mouthwatering photo? i mean, it doesn't really matter, this blog is more for me than anyone else, (which is good considering i'm the only one that accesses it!) I was just a-wonderin!

Oh, and note I made this for 3 hungry peoples lunch... so just adjust as necessary!!

Cold Rice Noodle Vegetable Salad with TANGY Gado-Gado sauce

1/2 head of beautiful romaine lettuce
1/2 red pepper, sliced
3 hard boiled eggs
1 carrot, julienned (julienning carrot is dangerous for my thumbs, but i don't like thick carrots in salad)
2 small-medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/3 package of vermicelli rice noodles, cooked in hot water for 5-7 min

Gado Gado Sauce

1 cup peanuts
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 tsp chili powder (fresh chilies would have been better, but I didn't have any!)


Make the Gado Gado sauce by blending all the ingredients together.  Add more water/peanuts depending on if you want it thicker or thinner. I used less water because I was assembling the salad the night before and I didn't want the romaine to get all soggy. Then toss the sauce in with the cooked noodles. I gave the noodles in sauce a quick run in the wok (I'm lying, I don't have a wok I used a frying pan. But I pretended it was a wok), to bring out the flavor of the peanuts, because I think I should have roasted them before.

Then I assembled like this: romaine, topped with noodles and sauce, topped with vegetables and the hardboiled egg roughly chopped.

Can I just tell you that I know that this isn't a real GadoGado sauce. But, I'm only here for a few more months and I just can't go buy fish sauce because it's too expensive and I won't use it often enough! The rice vermicelli noodles were a splurge this month...I mean, this is Cairo, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Blackstone Bistro in Cairo, Egypt

So, since I just decided I would do my first restaurant review, why not start with my favorite breakfast in Cairo? I think this place opened slightly pre-revolution, it definitely wasn't here when I left Cairo in September.

Blackstone Bistro
22 Taha Hussein Street 
Anyway, I went to this place with my dear Maya, who raved about the breakfasts, specifically their eggs benedict.  Well, it was a Saturday and we are generally pretty lazy on Saturdays so when we wandered in at 4:30pm, it made sense that they were no longer serving breakfast...this isn't Sunday in Berlin afterall!! I ordered a burger and Maya ordered a quiche and a salad.  All were AMAZING.  My burger really hit the spot.  The next time we went we made it for breakfast and we all ordered the eggs benedict. So good. I order them every time I go back, which has been probably 3 times in the last 5 weeks. I can't say for sure if it's because their eggs benedict are particularly amazing, or the fact that I haven't found them anywhere else, but let me tell you, they make me happy!

Prices are exactly what you'd expect for a restaurant in Zamalek that serves British/American style breakfasts...does that help? :)

Their iced coffees are good, but I would say not better than Crave next door... ooops, I hope that's not rude.

WOAH, what happened? I'm in Cairo!! Eggplant-couscous marinara

Well, I have neglected you little blog.  In some kind of whirlwind adventure, I find myself writing from my office in Cairo, Egypt where I am supposed to be working. I'm here for a short term contract...well, it was supposed to be short-term, but now it's looking a little longer term than originally planned. I think I might just finish out 2011 here! I am missing Berlin and my dear Roddy, but for now I am happy in this new adventure.  Not only a living and working adventure, but a cooking one too!! The cooking adventure is this: I am trying to buy locally grown produce. Locally as in the region, not necessarily Egyptian, but I generally shop in the street markets, so I just guess it's local?

The challenge is creativity.  There are a few key items that I can buy that always look good and fresh: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions. Peppers a lot of the time. I can honestly say that I've eaten more eggplant and zucchini in the last 2.5 months than I usually do in a year. Anyway, I wasn't blogging because I just haven't been super inspired... until last night!

I started out trying to make an eggplant rollatini thing, but using the recipe I found on VeggieBelly. I really love her blog! Anyway, obviously I can't cook like her, and my friend Heather and I improvised a little bit. The eggplants I bought were too short, (and I cut them too thick..ooops!) to roll. So we kind of made this eggplant couscous lasagne type thing, which was sooooo good, if I say so myself. I feel like since I had help, I"m not being completely arrogant.

Anyway, I only decided to blog this on the spur of the moment, so if I wanted to capture it on photo I would have to take pictures of the insides of Heather and my bellies.  SICK.

Here is the recipe, for those daring people out there who don't need a photo to be tempted into making something!!

Eggplant-Couscous Marinara


Marinara Sauce
1.5 onions
5 garlic cloves
10 tomatoes (or 1-2 cans of tomatoes)
Italian spices (mine are unlabelled!! so I'm guessing they were oregano and thyme..:)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar
1/2 -1 cup water

2 cups couscous
4 cups water
1/2 cup feta type cheese (it's not feta that I used but my arabic is crap and it tastes like a cousin of feta)

2 eggplants
3/4 cup grated cheese


I started with the marinara sauce. I didn't chop things too finely because I knew I would be blending before I added it to the mixture. If you're not blending, chop finely.  Start with some olive oil, add onions and then garlic, then tomatoes and spices/sugar and simmer for as long as it takes you to make everything else, adding bits of water as it gets thicker. When everything else is finished, blend er up!!

The couscous can be made at anytime, just boil the water and add it to the couscous in a pot or bowl. Leave it until all the water is absorbed, then fluff it up. Cut up the feta family cheese into chunks, or crumble, and stir into couscous.

Slice the eggplant into slices, to your desired thickness, and pan fry in a tiny bit of olive oil. Fry them like burgers, so that each one has it's place in the pan, and so you'll have to do a few batches.

THEN. Assemble.  Spoon a small amount of sauce in a pan. Depending on the size of the pan (I used one that was WAY too big), you can have one layer of each, or more lasagne like, with a few different layers. Anyway, it goes eggplant, couscous, marinara sauce. Then grated cheese on top.



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