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Bill's Batatas in the forno

An Egyptian classic of Batatas fi-lforn and Roz bi-l-shi'riya from Dyna Eldaief's The Taste of Egypt: Home Cooking from the Middle East , perfect for cold winter days where you want a low effort dinner.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Makes: Enough for 2-3 people. (half the original)



500g potatoes

1-2 tomatoes

1 small onion

1/2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter

500g topside or shin of beef, cut into pieces (we used stewing beef)

70g tomato paste

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground pepper

250ml tomato sauce or passata

320ml water


1/2 tbsp ghee or butter

a small handful of crushed, dried vermicelli noodles

200g jasmine or basmati rice

250ml water

125ml chicken/vegetable stock

pinch of salt

1. Layer it up

Get the oven nice and toasty for your incoming stew by preheating it to 180°C.

Peel and thickly slice your potatoes and onions. Slice the tomatoes but without peeling. Add them all to a large baking tray in one layer.

Melt the butter or ghee in a pan, add your beef and fry until brown all over

Once the meat is nice and brown, add the tomato paste, allspice and seasoning and fry for a further minute - coating the beef in the flavour.

Next add the passata (or chopped tomatoes) and water to the pan. Stare into the sauce mirror and ask yourself when your reflection will show who you are inside.

Bring to a boil and then pour the sauce over the waiting potato, onion and tomato layer. Assure that the meat and potatoes are well covered by their saucy blanket, if more than half of them are uncovered add some more water

(This needs some more liquid, those poor beefs are going to get too crispy!)

Pop in the oven for 2 hours, but check in and after an hour and a half to see if there's sufficient liquid, if not add some more - and if the meat is browning too much give it a turn.

2. Rice to meet you

While you're waiting that last half an hour, it's time to start on the rice!

Heat the ghee or butter in a saucepan and fry the vermicelli noodles until they are lightly browned - careful not to over do it! They can brown quickly

Next add the rice, and stir continuously for the next few minutes to coat the grains in all the buttery goodness. Careful once again to not let the grains burn.

Add the water, stock and salt (if you think it's necessary)

Bring to the boil and stir a little to evenly disperse those grains. Once the water is boiling, DO NOT TOUCH THE RICE. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and step away like you've just put a precarious brick on the top of a Jenga pile. Let it simmer gently for 20 minutes. Once it's done you should see little tunnels formed on the surface where the steam has escaped

Note the little tunnels in the rice (and the big tunnel on the left from taste testing)

3. Let's eat

Now it's the moment you've been waiting for - eating! Make sure to share with your fellow diners, via video chat or in real life à la Magician's Assistant

Serve with vegetables or salad as you so wish

Dink and sink with your guest gaspers!

Food for Thought

Lizzy says: "Where to start with what some of our readers have described as "the best recipe we've ever done"? It was very carb positive, which I am always on board with, and it was slow cooked, which always leads to a more intense flavour. However, I went a little off recipe and used stewing beef, which shrunk to a ¼ of its initial size, until it looked like Nesquik cereal. I also didn't add in enough liquid, so it was dry like the Egyptian desert. On top of that, I didn't add enough water to the rice so it stayed weird and crunchy despite 10 extra minutes of cooking. I give this a 4/10 (the low score is down to my own incompetencies really)"

Kate says: "After having this dish I can safely say I am ready for Autumn and stew Sundays. It was like a big hug in a bowl, proper comfort food with 3 different carbs - what more can you ask for! I think next time I would use the suggested cut of meat, my choice of 'stewing beef' was rather chewy. But otherwise a new firm favourite for me in the winter months, and the rice would be a winner just on its own. 8/10 "

6/10 Gasps


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