I can’t say that I really know my way around the kitchen, and attempts on my part to venture inside require courage of which I have very little. Fears of gas ovens exploding or hot water scalds are magnified in my mind by my own personal neuroses. Cooking was like high school math, all Greek to me.
Recently, the Ramses Hilton has started cooking classes for those – like myself – who wish to overcome their kitchen phobias or zest up their cooking repertoires. Led by Dimitrios Koutsonikolas, executive chef at the Ramses Hilton, the class had me speaking in Greek – Greek cuisine that is.
Hosted at their restaurant Window on the World on the 36th floor, the cooking class started off with a magnificent view setting the background to a beautiful light breakfast buffet of pastries and fruit
Chef Dimitrios was going to prepare lunch for us under our very own eyes.
Under the Greek theme of the class, the chef provided us with an intimate introduction to the cuisine of his homeland.
Starting off with Taramosalata, the meze style dip of cod fish roe was prepared with the right ingredients and spices. It was followed by Garides Grecolimano; a shrimp casserole with tomato and feta cheese. For the main course there was Arni Fricassee, a lamb stew with egg lemon sauce, and for dessert a treat familiar to us but finished with an original twist, Loukoumades (dumplings with honey and cinnamon, known in Egypt as lokemet el-qady or zalabia).
It was a beautiful setting to learn dishes that were close, but very different, from the traditional dishes that one prepares in Egypt.
Greek food has heavily influenced Egyptian cuisine, but often times, the Egyptian ingredients result in vastly different flavors.
For example, Egyptian lamb tends to have much more fat, and this leads to a scent that is not pleasing to most palettes. Greek cuisine works with a leaner lamb, and Chef Dimitrios used imported lamb to prepare his stew.
The whole concept of a stew is foreign to Egyptian cuisine, yet Chef Dimitrios prepared one that was hearty in its flavors, perfect for both summer and winter. Making use of lettuce leaves, oddly enough, their flavors too came out to speak as each mouthful of soft lamb was later savored during lunch.
Loukomades, seeped in sugar syrup, can be quite detrimental to one’s waist line. Chef Dimitrios sprinkled honey and cinnamon on the Loukomades, resulting in a dessert that was pungent in terms of both taste and smell. Due to the spice and honey, it made for a much healthier treat.
Greeks and Egyptians are so similar. Chef Dimitrios reminded me of an uncle who also liked to cook with much humor and warmth for the family.
He not only understands the palettes of Egyptians and what they will or will not enjoy, but the very struggles one also encounters trying to source difficult ingredients in an inconsistent market.
With an affable sense of humor, he led us over two hours through the various processes of blanching lettuce, creating a difficult sauce and making the loukomades yeast fritters amongst others. And in the midst of all that, he fielded questions and queries from attendees.
Chef Dimitrios hopes to create new themes for the monthly classes, and was musing with attendees about the possibility of doing an Indian themed class come June.
The skilled Chef is obviously capable of venturing in and teaching the secrets of many of the world’s cuisines.
For those wishing to attend the next class, please contact the Public Relations department of Ramses Hilton on: 02 2394 6965. A charge of LE 200 covers the cooking class, a light breakfast before hand and lunch after the demonstration.