By Amr Bassiouny
Along The Watchtower Guest Writer
This is a recipe I learned from one of the Bedouins of South Sinai, a kind fellow and a cook named Saleh.
If you’re travelling with a group, cooking a meal from scratch is a fun activity as people take up tasks and sit together, chit-chatting and socializing around the fire. If you’re alone, it’s still a good way to pass the time and hone up your cooking skills. As you finish and garnish the meal in the open, under the sun or stars, with minimum resources, a sense of accomplishment is sure to follow.
This is what you’ll need to get this meal done: Large potatoes, tomatoes, onions and chicken cut in quarters. You can add pepper, salt and cumin to add some taste as well as any other herbs or spices to suit your own taste. All the ingredients in this meal contribute to the cooking process, as the chicken contains fats/oils while the tomatoes, potatoes and onions contain water, and all the natural juices will mix and steam the chicken into tenderness. The juiciest ingredients are placed closest to the foil (tomatoes), as they will be the least damaged if burnt. Whenever you’re out in the desert cooking remember: Tomatoes = water. You can cook a whole pot of dry rice with just a few tomatoes.
1. Light a fire, burn as much wood as necessary at first to create as much coal as necessary.
2. Lay the foil flat on the ground, be sure to keep it clean of any sand.
3. Slice the tomatoes and onions in 1.5cm thick slices sideways in order to get the widest cut possible, while doing the same for the potatoes cutting them in a way to give the largest surface area.
4. Lay the tomato slices side by side, place the potato slices on top of the tomatoes, then the onion slices on top of the potatoes, and the chicken finally on top. Keep them neat in rows and just wide/long enough to be covering the chicken. Also, cut the tomatoes on the foil NOT in a different plate to avoid losing any of the water inside.
5. Next step is to cover the top of the chicken in the opposite order, first putting onions, then potatoes then tomatoes, and then sprinkle the spices/herbs on top.
6. Extend the foil on top of the dish, and wrap it in 2-3 layers while constantly tightening the sides in order to create a rectangular shaped wrap with the sides tightly closed. If it’s not tightly wrapped then you will lose the moisture and it won’t cook as well or be as tender and tasty.
7. Be sure not to put more than two chicken quarters at a time in each foil wrap, or else it will get too bulky and possibly break the layers of thin foil when you move it.
8. Put the fire out, place any unburnt wood on the side and keep the hot coal all together and flatten the coals out to create a little bed for the meal.
9. Place your meal on the coal and don’t touch it for 45 minutes, then carefully flip it over and leave it for another 45 minutes. It should take an overall 60-90 minutes depending on the heat of the coal.
10. Once the time is up, open up the foil and dig in! You don’t need plates or forks/knives, it’s best eaten with bare hands straight out of the foil.