Coptic church festival offers taste of Egyptian cuisine - The Buffalo News

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Coptic church festival offers taste of Egyptian cuisine

Jacklyn Iskander and her crew of helpers have already started the work necessary to give visitors a taste of Egyptian food at the annual festival at St. Mary and St. Moses Coptic Orthodox Church (350 Wheatfield St., North Tonawanda) on Sept. 5, 6 and 7.

The food includes kofta, sausage-shaped spiced beef meatballs that are grilled and served with rice and salad.

“Helpers come and help us make 200 pounds of beef into kofta – we call it the ‘kofta army,’ ” said Father Mark Iskander, Jacklyn’s husband and a priest at St. Mary and St. Moses church.

Kofta is ground beef that’s seasoned with puréed onion, cilantro, parsley, garlic, black pepper and more. “You mix it over and over to make sure the spices are all through the meat. What really helps the meat marinate is the juice of the onion,” he said, explaining that they’re puréed in a blender.

It’s marinated overnight. Then the cooks measure it out and roll it into elongated meatballs, which are lined in trays and frozen. At festival time they’re grilled and served in a sandwich ($8), or as part of a platter with rice and salad.

The event features dishes popular across the Middle East. There’s the kofta and shawarma, spiced sliced beef, and also a bunch of vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes, like falafel, which the Egyptians make with fava beans and bread for binder. There’s also koshary, a vegan dish that’s an Egyptian home cooking standard, Iskander said.

Koshary is a mixture of rice cooked with lentils, then layered with pasta, chickpeas, fried dried onions and a vinegary, garlicky tomato sauce. It’s $8 at the festival.

The event also includes sales of both pharaonic and Coptic Christian art and gifts and children’s activities. Call 515-8399 or visit

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