WHO ARE THE COPTS?
The Copts are an ethnic and religious minority group that is indigenous to Egypt, and to which I proudly belong. Most ethnic Copts are Coptic Orthodox Christians and represent 10% of the total Egyptian population.
On my food blog, Chez Nermine, I diligently talk, write, and explain all our deep rooted Coptic traditions to celebrate different feasts. In this particular post, I am writing about the food traditions of Coptic Epiphany Feast that falls on January 19th, thirteen days later than the Western one.
COPTIC EPIPHANY FEAST
On Epiphany day, which falls on January 19th, Copts remember the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river by John’s the baptist. The same day marks the end of the holiday season. So all Christmas decorations are taken down after the religious celebration is over.
Two days prior to the Epiphany feast, Egyptian abstain from eating dairy products and meat. The short fasting is broken over a celebratory meal that we will discuss in details below.
COPTIC EPIPHANY MENU
Egyptian celebratory dishes are a common denominator among Muslims and Christians in Egypt. Yet, There are three principal food items that should be present on every Epiphany Coptic table: Kolkas, sugar cane oranges and mandarins.
Planning my celebratory dinner table entails some serious planning, as Egyptian dishes can be elaborate.
Therefore I leverage the power of modern kitchen appliances to streamline the cooking plan. And yes, these devices do help a LOT!
Ahead of time, I like to create a spreadsheet with all the meals and break them down to steps, so I can identify the possible make-ahead parts of the recipes. For instance, the chicken broth and beef broth that goes into most of the feast dishes is made in advance and frozen until I am ready to use it.
Here is the glimpse at some of the dishes Copts like to serve on religious feasts.
Taro or kolkas (derived from the Latin name Colocasia esculenta) has a dark, stiff skin that belies a white, pristine flesh.
That esthetic contradiction between the skin and the flesh resembles the sinful nature of humans that hides the Christian soul before baptism. To cook it, the taro skin has to be peeled away and the flesh is immersed in hot soup which alludes to baptism. The greens mixed into the soup, such as the Swiss chard and cilantro, symbolize the new life of a Christian after baptism. For the recipe, click HERE.
RUZ BEL KHALTA
It is white fluffy rice, studded with golden raisins, toasted nuts and browned-to-perfection gizzards and kidneys. The Egyptian rice has the best balance of savory and sweet elements. Check the step-by-step recipe HERE.
Kabab Hala means “kebab in the Pot”. Unlike the common kebab that is typically grilled on charcoal, in this Egyptian recipe, the meat cubes (from the beef chuck cut), along with heaps of onions, are slowly cooked on the stove top, or in a slow cooker for little over two hours, or until the meat is fork tender, and the onions melt into a succulent velvety sauce.
This Egyptian stew is seasoned with a lovely assortment of warm spices such as allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, just to name a few. This is a low maintenance stew that will impress your family and guests. Find the recipe HERE.
ROLLED GRAPE LEAVES
This is a labor of love kind of dish. Every grape leave is rolled around aa mixture of rice and ground meat. In an attempt to create a lighter version, I created a recipe that calls for bulgur and ground chicken. Find the recipe HERE.
This dish is the closet kin to rolled grape leaves. It is an equally laborious dish, yet you can achieve the same flavor with a fraction of the amount spent on rolling each leave by trying my Cabbage Timable.
It is an easy peasy technique that will blow your mind.
“LAHMA BARDA”: ROASTBEEF
Lahma barda means cold meat. This Egyptian roast beef recipe is served cold and thinly sliced. It uses the beef tenderloin that is marinated over night, browned in sizzling ghee/butter and then baked for no less than three hours. Thanks to the sous vide invention, this recipe no longer calls for babysitting. God bless technology.
MACARONA FORN: Pasta – Red Meat Sauce Bake
Macarona Forn is an iconic Egyptian pasta dish that can make or break marriages! Egyptian women used to be judged based on their mastery of this to-die-for dish. In many ways, Macarona Forn is the hybrid of Italian lasagna and Greek pastitsio. It is penne cooked al dente covered with layers of spiced tomato sauce and cheesy white sauce.
KESHK: SAVORING PUDDING
Keshk is a succulent savory pudding that is made of basic ingredients: flour, yogurt, chicken broth, onions, garlic and little spices. It is a unique dish to the Egyptian cuisine. It’s complex flavors belies the simplicity of its ingredients and preparation.
The Final Table
In this video, you can have peak at my Epiphany table. I don’t cook all the dishes I mentioned above, yet I pick the dishes according to the dietary restrictions of my guests. Take a look at the video below and let me know in the comments if you recognize the dishes.
HAPPY COPTIC EPIPHANY!
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