I don't think I've mentioned the fabulous spice palette I discovered that Egyptian cuisine uses: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and allspice - as savory spices in meat and veg dishes. OMG is it fabulous. Our first hint was - of all things - the airline food. They came out with this choice: chicken or beef. I took the chicken, knowing if I ate it at least I wouldn't get sick. Took one bite, and did a double take.
Cinnamon. In ... the veg? the rice? the chicken? Well... yes. But.. something else too. So I spent the rest of the meal trying to figure out precisely what the flavors were. The rice was simply rice... with cinnamon. We talked to some people in Egypt, and they told us that these were spices they use for meats, veg... but not necessarily sweets. Honey and nuts, sure - but cinnamon? Nah, that's for meat, fish!
Once home, I tried to duplicate the flavor. Simply added cinnamon to rice - and it worked! I'm not a big fan of rice, but that was a whole different flavor.
Tried it in my veg bits too: tomatoes, onion, garlic, spiced pepper, olive oil. Cooked that down into this lovely jam, then added some nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. A bit of allspice powder. And you've got to try it, because the smells? They make you want to just dive into the pot. I managed to stay out of it, and added in eggplant, some potatoes and another onion. Let that cook low and slow for a long time. With the rice and some grilled salmon? Totally yummy.
Breakfasts in these fancy hotels offered an interesting array: beans for breakfast - but not the British kind, more like... these firm, red (but not kidney) beans in a mild but flavor-filled sauce and Egyptian/country bread. I discovered that country bread was my favorite - it's like a yeasty pita. Very tasty. And stuffed vine leaves, falafel, yogurt. A wonderful dish of some kind of white cheese mixed in with tomatoes. The cheese was something between creme fraiche and feta, which sounds just odd but is just amazing. Fresh dates. Then the whole American array of sweet pastries, cereal. The British palette: broiled tomatoes, fried potatoes, fried eggs, boiled eggs, limp toast. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables. Fruit drinks to die for: strawberry, mango, kiwi, melon juice (pureed fruit, nothing else). Orange juice freshly squeezed. Every glassful.
Lots of little salads: babaganoush, tahini, fresh tomatoes with Egyptian feta, they couldn't find a salad we didn't love. Tabouli of all sorts. And I ate waaaaay too much, but it was all so good, and there were some many things to try.
So next time you make your favorite savory dish... try some nutmeg and cinnamon instead of oregano. Or even in addition to; you'll be amazed.