Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Making perfect Egyptian cuisine

Chef Hala Fahmi shares her secrets for perfect Egyptian cuisine with Ghada Abdel-Kader 

Chef Hala Fahmi

“The Egyptian oriental cuisine reflects the Egyptian spirit,” says Hala Fahmi, the creator of mouthwatering dishes and authentic Egyptian food recipes. 

Many young people today are addicted to junk food, Fahmi warns, adding that they are leaving behind the old-fashioned Egyptian cooking style of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

“There’s a misconception among the new generations about Egyptian recipes. They believe they are too fatty, too high in calories, and cause obesity,” she says. But she believes that the nafas (breath) is the secret of the taste of Egyptian recipes.

“It is the love and patience that an Egyptian woman puts in when making food for her family that makes it taste so good,” Fahmi says, along with the special herbs and spices that add multiple flavours.

Fahmi today is a popular media chef and has several cooking programmes on TV. There is also Al-Baladi Youkal (Eat Baladi) on the Panorama Food Channel, the most highly rated cooking show according to Nile Sat ratings. There is also Beit Al-Eila (The Family Home) on the Tasty Food Channel, together with her latest, Sofra wa-Tableya (Sitting at Table), on the Sada Al-Balad Channel. 

In her programmes, Fahmi focuses on rejuvenating traditional Egyptian cuisine with modern twists and new techniques. “I have tried to make Egyptian food healthier, higher in nutrition, and simpler, while at the same time keeping the old flavours,” she adds.

She worked as a chef long before she became famous in the media. At first, she worked from home and through her Facebook page called Hala’s Kitchen, which specialised in catering for foreigners. Earlier, she had found herself knowing nothing about cooking, so “I started looking for culinary schools to teach me cooking and I read a lot of books on it,” she notes.

She also travelled abroad and took professional training courses. Today, her motto is that “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” 

Egyptian food relies on spices like cumin and coriander. “These two spices always come together and give a delicious oriental flavour to any dish,” Fahmi says. She shares some of her mouthwatering recipes with Al-Ahram Weekly readers:

Roasted leg of lamb with vegetables

Roasted leg of lamb with vegetables



A large leg of lamb on the bone

One kg of potatoes, cubed 

One kg of carrots, cubed

Half a kg of onions, cubed 

Half a litre of tomato juice

Four cloves of garlic 

A pinch of fresh celery and green coriander, chopped


For the dressing:

Half a cup of vegetable oil

Half a cup of water

Two tbsp lemon juice

Two tbsp vinegar

Three tbsp tomato paste

A dash of cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, dried and fresh rosemary, dried and fresh thyme, dried onion, dried garlic, meat spices, black pepper and salt. 



In a bowl, mix the dressing ingredients to make a thick sauce. With the tip of a sharp knife make deep scars on both sides of the leg of lamb. Using a brush, rub the lamb all over with the sauce and inside the cuts. 

Heat a roasting pan, add some oil, and then place the marinated lamb in the pan to sear it on both sides. Remove from the heat. Sautée the cubed vegetables, onion and garlic, and then add the chopped celery and coriander.

Pour the rest of the dressing over the sautéed vegetables and toss them until they are evenly coated. Place the lamb on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Pour the tomato juice and paste over the lamb and vegetables. Cover tightly with a double layer of tin foil to keep all the meat juices in. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and bake the lamb for two hours or until it is fully cooked. The vegetables will soak up the juices from the lamb to give extra flavour. Uncover the lamb and return it to the oven for few minutes to finish roasting. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve with white rice.

Okra tajine with meat

Okra tajine with meat



One kg semi-boiled meat in chunks

One kg green okra

Two tbsp oil or one tbsp butter

One litre tomatoes purée

Two tbsp tomato paste

Two cups meat stock 

Juice of half a lemon  

Salt & pepper

Two cardamom pods


For the tasha:

One tbsp oil

One tbsp butter

Three tbsp dried coriander 

One green pepper roughly chopped

Four garlic cloves minced

Two green and red chilis, finely diced


To make the tasha, mix the garlic chilis, and half the green pepper and coriander.



Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and place the empty tajine inside to heat. Heat the oil in a medium pan over a medium-high heat. Add the semi-boiled meat and cardamom pods. Sautée until the meat is brown. Add half the tasha and stir for two minutes. Add the tomato purée and paste. Let the sauce bubble up, and then add the okra and the other half of the chopped green pepper. Stir together for five minutes. 

Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. If the pot gets too hot, reduce the heat to medium till okra is almost done.  In a small pan mix the rest of the tasha ingredient with oil and butter over a medium heat. Let the tasha mixture cook for one or two minutes. Don’t brown the garlic. Pour the mixture on top of the okra and stir. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. 

Pour the okra mixture into the hot tajine and bake uncovered until the sauce thickens, the okra softens, and the top becomes nicely brown. Remove from the oven and serve with bread.

Balah Al-Sham (Sweet fried pastries)

Balah Al-Sham (Sweet fried pastries)


Two cups flour

One and half cups of water

Half a cup of oil

One tbsp semolina flour 

Three eggs

Vanilla extract

Grain Salt 

Grain sugar 



Place the water, oil, sugar, and salt in a pan until the mixture boils. Combine the flour with the semolina and add it to mixture and stir until the dough is softened. Leave to cool. Mix the eggs with the vanilla in bowl. Then add to the dough and stir gradually. Place the dough in a pastry bag and control the desired size of the dough by rubbing your fingers with a little oil. 

Place the finished pastries in cool oil and then fry the pastries on the stove. Place the hot pastries into the thick syrup, drain, and serve as desired.

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