Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The kitchen princess

Kitchen princess Amira Shanab reveals her secrets for hosting healthy and successful Ramadan Iftar and Sohour parties to Ghada Abdel-Kader

“I put my own touch to my recipes and do my best to make them tasty, easy and quick at the same time,” says Amira Shanab, a famous expert on Egyptian cuisine. Travelling also adds to Shanab’s practical experience. “In addition to finding out about new recipes, I also join workshops in every country I visit,” she says. 

Though Shanab has only been cooking professionally for the last five years, she has become a very well-known figure. She entered the world of cooking by chance. “The whole thing started when I was broadcasting my programme Amira Fel Matbakh (Amira in the Kitchen) on YouTube, and one of the main food channels saw it and contracted me to make a TV food programme,” she said.  

Shanab reveals some of her kitchen secrets on how to throw successful Iftar or Sohour parties during Ramadan. Don’t exaggerate by cooking large amounts of food that will overface your guests, she says. “At the end you’ll find yourself throwing leftovers in the trash.”

Before going to the trouble of choosing recipes for the menu, the hostess should consider whether any of her guests have food allergies or dietary restrictions. “By doing this, you’ll make your guests feel more comfortable and more likely to enjoy eating their meal,” she says. 

It is better to prepare a week before. “Make a list of all the ingredients you’ll use,” she says, remembering to serve a full-course meal that includes appetizers, soup, salads, a main course, desserts, juices, and tea or coffee. “Varied menu items can satisfy all tastes,” she adds.

Determine the quantity according to the number of guests. “Moderation is the key word. Too much food will likely find yourself with tons of leftovers and too little will make your guests find not enough to eat.”  

To set a beautiful Ramadan table, Shanab gives her etiquette tips. The first thing to consider is how many guests there are. This will depend on the capacity of the room where the guests will be seated. If there are a great many people, it may be better to do an open buffet.  

Serving food on the dining table means using the same arrangement for a full-course meal, starting with soup and appetizers, then salads, the side dishes, main course and dessert.  Each course requires its own plates or bowls and silverware. 

If there are children, the hostess should make special preparations. If they are older in age, they can sit with their parents, but if they are very young they will need special seating.

A hostess can also create a beautiful, simple décor for Ramadan by using traditional khayameya fabrics for the dining table, lantern table, and ceiling decorations. “There are lots of designs on the market. The decoration should be simple and elegant, and the colours should match.” 

Shanab also shares some of her easy-to-make recipes for Iftar banquets with Al-Ahram Weekly readers:

Lisan al-asfour (orzo pasta) with celery


¼ kg lisan al-asfour

1 cup chopped celery 

1 cup carrot cubes  

2 tbsp butter

Black pepper, salt

4 cups soup stock

Method: Fry the lisan al-asfour in some butter until it is a golden colour. Then add the carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper and stir. Mix well, add the soup, and leave until fully cooked.  

Vermicelli soup with almonds


1 pack of dried vermicelli (250g)

2 cups of chicken broth


Black pepper



½ cup of peeled almonds


Method: Place the vermicelli in a pot with oil and butter and stir. Add the cardamom and cinnamon and mix well. Add the chicken broth and salt and black pepper. Leave to continue cooking. In the meantime, toast the almonds in a pan for few minutes. Then ladle the hot soup into bowls and sprinkle with toasted almonds as a garnish.

Duck with green wheat (ferik)


6 pieces of boiled duck

Duck broth

2 cups soaked green wheat

Chopped onions 

Chopped green pepper 

Salt and black pepper 

Cardamom powder  


Tomato paste 

Garlic crushed


White honey 

Toasted almonds or pine nuts

Method: Put the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions, salt, and black pepper and stir well. Add the green pepper, cardamom powder, cinnamon and crushed garlic. Add the green wheat and duck broth and stir well. Leave to continue cooking. For the duck, mix the tomato paste with honey, oil, salt, black pepper, cardamom powder and cinnamon. Rub the duck with the mixture and cook in the oven until it is done and of the desired colour. Spread the green wheat beneath it with a sprinkling of roasted almonds and pine nuts and place the duck on a serving platter.

Aubergine salad with halloumi cheese 


1 cup aubergine slices

Sliced halloumi cheese 

1 cup watercress

½ cup red onion rings 

For the salad dressing:

Olive oil

Lemon juice 

Pomegranate molasses

Minced fresh garlic cloves

Salt and black pepper


Method: Place the aubergine slices in a serving bowl and garnish with watercress and then add the halloumi cheese slices and onion rings. Mix the ingredients for the dressing and drizzle over the salad. Serve cold. 

Aish al-saraya (Egyptian palace bread) 


1 cup sweetened condensed milk

3 cups sugar 

3 cups powdered milk

Melted butter

10 pieces of white bread toast without crusts

4 tbsp corn flour (starch)

1 tsp saffron powder


4 tbsp crushed pistachios


Method: Melt the butter in a pan on the stove. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin with butter. Put the bread in the tin and brush the rest of the butter over the bread. Leave it in the oven for three minutes to toast. Put the sugar and water in a pot on the stove, add saffron powder and stir well. Pour this mixture over the toasted bread until it becomes very soft and tender. Add the rest of the water to the powdered milk and add the corn flour. Mix them with the sweetened condensed milk. Remove the bread from the heat and let it cool. Then add the syrup and spread a layer of clotted cream over the top. Sprinkle with pistachios nuts as a garnish.

Konafa with mahallabiya (milk pudding) dates 


1 kg konafa 

2 cups softened butter 

Powdered sugar (as desired) 

1 litre fresh milk  

1 kg cream 

1 cup corn flour (starch) 


Cardamom powder  

Seedless dates (broken into halves)

Sugar syrup 

For the garnish:  

Whipping cream
Soft crushed pistachios

Method: Mix the butter and sugar (as desired) with the konafa and then put on the stove and stir until it turns golden in colour. Warm the milk with the cream, sugar and cardamom. Dissolve the corn flour, add to the milk mixture and whisk well. Then add the dates. Put a layer of konafa as a base onto a platter and drizzle a little sugar syrup over it. Then throw in the mahallabiya with the dates. Add another layer of konafa to cover the filling. Top with fresh whipped cream and sprinkle with pistachios.

Carob with caramel

1 cup crushed carob
1½ cups sugar
Carob pods for serving

Method: Place the sugar in a saucepan on a medium-high heat until it turns to caramel. Add the carob and stir well. Add water and leave to boil. Pour the mixture through a strainer and garnish with carob pods to serve.

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