We celebrate the world’s best comfort food by asking chefs and food writers from diverse backgrounds to talk about the dishes they love.


Here, the head chef at Ombra in London shares an Egyptian recipe from his childhood, inspired by his parents.

See Mitshel's Full Madame's recipe.

Mitshel's Favourite Dish

Growing up in Milan, Mitshel Ibrahim did everything he could to avoid helping in his parents' restaurant. 'They almost used it as a punishment if I was getting bad grades,' he laughs.

The Ibrahim's opened Il Piccolo Paradiso in the 1990s, less than a decade after arriving in Italy from Egypt, but nothing about the hard grin of restaurant life appealed to young Mitshel: 'Dad would open seven days a week and work all imaginable hours.' Mitshel was adamant he would never cook professionally.

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But, as he puts it, 'Guess what?' Fast-forward 25 years and Mitshel, now 34 and co-owner of Hackney's Ombra restaurant, is one of London's hottest chefs. 'Subconsciously,' he says, a love of food was clearly seeded in him at Il Piccolo, and, 'In the end, what I was trying to reject attracted me.'

It helped that Mitshel's first part-time job at Ombra a decade ago was such a fun reintroduction to hospitality. Then a bohemian cafe-bar serving a hip, artsy East London clientele, working there as a student was: 'like hanging out with your mates, then each month you get paid.'

Mitshel would later work in storied restaurants such as The Dairy and Clove Club before returning to Ombra in 2017, where his contemporary, produce-led Italian cooking turned it into a foodie destination.

At home growing up, the family ate a mixture of Italian and Egyptian dishes. 'My parents were from Zagazig, a rural province near Cairo. Moving to Italy was that classic immigrant thing of trying to find a better future. they lived in a small flat and worked hard - dad as a cook (I'd say 90% of Milk restaurants have North African staff) and, seven years later, they had their own restaurant.

'That was quite common then. When people emigrate – and I see it in myself a lot – they work extra hard, almost to make a point and provide a reliable future for their kids.

'For lunch, I'd go to dad's restaurant for pizza. Evening meals at home were sometimes Egyptian, sometime pasta. Mum would help dad in the day, then come home to look after my sister and me.

'I'm sure dad could do a couple go Egyptian dishes, but he learned to cook in Italy and, whenever we ate Egyptian food, mum cooked.

'At home, mum and dad spoke Egyptian Arabic and, every June, we' go to Egypt for the summer. Mum and dad had five siblings each and I had loads of cousins. We'd travel from Alexandria to Cairo, with everyone wanting to cook huge meals for us.

‘My grandma’s place on my mum’s side was usually our base. Ful medames and falafel – in Egypt called tameya – were always present at breakfast. Both are made using dried, rehydrated fava beans. In ful (pronounced ‘fool’), fava are stewed with cumin, parsley and garlic, and mashed into a chunky purée with lemon juice and tahini.

‘In Cairo, it’s common to see street vendors carrying idra – special pots with a narrow neck used to prepare and serve ful. They’re not doing it because it’s cool or street food. It’s part of the culture, walking around shouting out whatever the offer is that day.

‘Tameya are as delicious, if not more so, as chickpea falafel. Greener, fluffier, moist, often coated in sesame seeds so there’s another crunch there, and perfectly seasoned. Whenever I walk past a place using fava beans for falafel I can smell it – it’s very recognisable. Roadside stands in Egypt sell tameya at most hours. People will meet up at 3am in a café or shisha bar to play dominos, and late-night snacking on falafel is a standard thing.

‘Back in Milan, mum would save time-consuming Egyptian dishes for special occasions, such as birthdays. For example, molokhia isn’t something she’d start on a Tuesday night. ‘This slow-cooked broth is made using a leaf (jute mallow) that when boiled has an okra-like viscosity – a gloopy, gelatinous richness. You can eat it with rice or as it is, and it’s considered Egypt’s national dish. I like it very garlicky and not too runny. Molokhia is very close to my heart.’

Five key Egyptian ingredients

Dried fava beans

‘Always in the cupboard to prepare ful or tameya. Ful is one of Egypt’s most famous dishes. Each household has their own way of preparing it, with varying spice levels and maybe coriander, tomatoes or both.’

Grape vine leaves

‘In Egyptian Arabic, mahshi refers to stuffed vegetables, from rolled cabbage leaves to stuffed aubergine. Vines leaves are used a lot. Sausages aren’t a thing in the Middle East. Instead, people use vegetables as casings.’


‘Olive oil might be used to finish ful medames or salads, but samna, a clarified butter like ghee, is commonly used for frying. My grandma always had a pot of samna ready in her kitchen.’


‘The red lentil soup shorbat adas is a popular, affordable dish, and lentils are part of koshari, probably Egypt’s most famous street food. It’s a warm dish of rice, lentils, pulses and pasta with sauces, fried onions and dukkah. Many places assemble it in front of you from mountains of those ingredients.’


‘Used in the tomato and lamb stew bamia, often served as an alternative to molokhia. Cooked okra is gelatinous and I don’t mind the texture, but I’m not as fond of the flavour.’


Discover more recipes...

Koshari recipe

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