Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1293, (28 April - 4 May 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1293, (28 April - 4 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Entre Nous: Celebrating Sham Al-Nessim

Let’s talk about better living! Our interactive family corner aims to expand our lifestyle horizons with practical little pearls of wisdom from the editor and input from our readers

With the spirit of spring in the air and the festive season at hand, Egyptians are celebrating the traditional national holiday of Sham Al-Nessim or “smelling the breeze”.

Sham Al-Nessim does not originate in either Christianity or Islam, and is celebrated by almost all Egyptians —Christians and Muslims alike — on the Monday following the Eastern Orthodox Easter, the precise date of the festival varying each year. On the day, families get together and fill the country’s green areas, coastal cities and parks with a festive spirit.

While its date is determined by the Christian holy day, the spring celebration goes back almost 4,500 years to the time of the pharaohs, when it was called shamu, or the “renewal of life”. It marked the start of the spring festival, when the ancient Egyptians believed that the day and night hours were equal. It is also said to mark the beginning of the agricultural year.

Like all major festivals, Sham Al-Nessim is associated with special foods. Egyptians still keep the ancient tradition of eating coloured boiled eggs, spring onions, lupine beans or termis, lettuce and green chickpeas, along with smoked herring, sardines, and melouha, a kind of salted fish similar to feseekh.

Here are some homemade recipes for delicious foods associated with Sham Al-Nessim.

Lupine beans, or termis:
While they are gluten-free, rich in essential minerals like iron and calcium, and protein, lupine beans are extremely bitter. Therefore, they require lots of soaking.
- Soak 250 g (1 1/2 cups) of dry lupine beans in cold water overnight or for 24 hours.
- Remove the water and put the beans in a pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil.
- Remove the dark foam on top of the water while the lupine beans simmer.
- Boil for about two hours or until tender, then drain the boiled lupine beans.
- Transfer to a big bowl and soak in fresh water for at least five days or until the bitter taste has rinsed out. Change the water at least once every day or more if possible.
- Bite into one of the beans to taste it. If it’s still bitter, this means it’s not ready. Once you find the lupine beans are edible, without any bitter aftertaste, put them in an airtight container covered in fresh water.
- Add about three tablespoons of salt or more according to taste. Store in brine in the fridge for about two weeks.
- To eat the beans, rinse in water if they’re too salty. Add lemon juice and/or ground cumin and red chili to taste.

Green fenugreek sprouts, or helba:
These contain various nutrients but are particularly rich in fibre, protein and iron. The sprouting process enhances the nutritional content and digestibility of the fenugreek.
- Wash two to three tablespoons of fenugreek sprouts to remove any dust.
- Soak in water for about two hours. Rinse and spread the seeds evenly to form a thin layer in a narrow-hole colander.
- Cover completely with a clean wet cloth and avoid piling the seeds on top of one another.
- Spin the seeds in the colander and keep the cloth wet until the sprouts reach the desired length.
- Rinse and drain two or three times. Eat the sprouts fresh or store in the fridge for one to two weeks.

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