As the majority of Christians in Egypt belong to the Orthodox Coptic church Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January in Egypt equal to the 29th of the Coptic month Khiahk. Advent is observed for 45 days from November 25th to the night of January 6th and during these days people fast eating meat, poultry or dairy products.
Prior to Christmas all the churches and the Christian homes are decorated with Christmas trees, lights, and small mangers.
On the eve of Christmas every body goes to Church wearing new clothes as a away of enjoying the joy of the feast. The Coptic language is used in the church ceremonies and religious songs. In the majestic Cathedral of Saint Mark in Cairo the Pope of the Orthodox church begins Christmas ceremonies at 11 p.m. which are broadcast on television throughout the nation.
When the Christmas service ends people go home to eat a special Christmas meal known as fata which consists of bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat. On Christmas morning people in Egypt visit friends and neighbors carrying special kind of sweet called Kahk which is also eaten by Muslims when they celebrate the feast of Eid El Fetr after Ramadan.
As the way Egyptians celebrate their feasts they go out to enjoy the holiday in parks, cinemas and theatres.
Christmas in Egypt is a joyful occasion that is celebrated by Christians and well respected by Muslims
1 1/2 pound lean lamb meat without bones
2 medium onions, chopped fine
Fresh ground black pepper
6 c. plus 3/4 c. water, divided
1/2 c. rice
1/4 c. plus 2 T ghee or butter, separated
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 c. wine vinegar
2 rounds Khoubiz, toasted *
Cut lamb into 1 inch cubes and place in a large pot with 6 cups of the water. Bring slowly to a boil, skimming occasionally. Add onion, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender yet not falling apart. Meanwhile wash and drain the rice. In a medium saucepan boil one cup of water add 1 Tablespoon of ghee and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, than the rice. Bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat 15-20 minutes until tender.
Using a slotted spoon remove meat from cooking liquid. In a separate skillet melt 1 Tablespoon of ghee, add the meat and fry it a few minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside and keep it warm.
In the same frying pan used for the meat melt 1/4 cup of ghee over medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it begins to take on color. Remove skillet from heat. Stir vinegar into the skillet. Return to heat and boil a few seconds. Set this mixture aside.
Place 1 round of toasted khoudiz in a large casserole or soup tureen. Spoon some of the garlic mixture over the bread then add half of the cooked rice. Pour some of the soup broth over top of this. Place second round of toasted bread then the remaining rice. Place fried lamb cubes on top the fried lamb. Top this off with the remaining garlic mixture.
Pour the remaining soup broth over this. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Note: adding a clove to boiling water will help to cover the aroma of boiling lamb if desired.
* Flat Bread Or Khoubiz
( recipe is difficult to master, may be purchased at Middle Eastern markets)
1/2 ounce active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
8 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons oil
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water. Stir in the sugar. Set aside in a warm place. Leave it until it begins to rise up and foam. This will take about 15 minutes.
Sift the salt and flour together into a large, warm mixing bowl.
Form a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the yeast into the center. Gently mix the yeast into the flour. Mix by hand, adding small amounts of warm water if necessary.
Knead until this becomes a soft dough. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a floured pastry board and continue to knead until it is smooth and shiny. This will take about 15 minutes. Knead 2 tablespoons of oil into the dough. Roll into a large ball. Rub the remaining one tablespoon of oil over the surface of the ball. Return to the bowl. Cover with a moist cloth. Set in a warm place to rise. Leave it about 1 1/2 hours until it doubles in size.
Pre heat the oven to maximum heat at a minimum of 30 minutes before using. Punch down the dough. Pull the edges up to form another ball. Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead 2 minutes.
Divide into 8 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. On the floured board flatten each ball and roll with a heavy rolling pin into flat round shapes approximately 1/4 inch or 6mm thick. They should be about 12 inches in diameter. Place the flattened bread rounds on a lightly floured cloth. Cover this with another floured cloth set in a warm spot to rise again to double their size. This should take about 30 minutes.
Pre heat the baking tray in the oven for 5 minutes. Carefully rub the tray with oil.
Place one round at a time on the baking tray. Cook 5 - 9 minutes. The bread should swell in the middle and become a light brown in color. Remove from the oven and wrap in a clean cloth to keep moist. The swelling will disappear when the bread is removed from the oven. Continue this procedure with the remaining rounds.
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