North African Spicy Fish

Chreime is a North African dish made from a firm white fish, such as grouper, amberjack, sea bass, grey mullet, carp or even the dreaded rat of the lake, Nile perch. Here in Israel it is typically served for one of the major Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashana or Passover, but it can really be served any time.

This is another dish that I have been wanting to make for a long time, but always thought I had to buy expensive fish to make it with. I had some Nile perch in my freezer that I had been dreading to make something with, and I say dreading because it is really not my favourite fish, but my husband seems to like it.

Nile perch is considered to be the rat of the lake because it will eat all of the other fish around it. It is one of the largest freshwater fish and reaches a maximum length of nearly two meters (more than six feet), weighing up to 200 kg (440 lb). It has a rather strong flavour, so this recipe was perfect to cover the fishiness of this fish. The other great thing about Nile perch is that it is inexpensive and easy to find at every Israeli supermarket, so it is perfect for the strange and stressful times were are all living in.

The recipe I used called for 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Now, I love spicy food, but I was too chicken to make it with that much cayenne, so I used 2 teaspoons. Next time, I will use 3 teaspoons. And if you are not crazy about caraway, well too bad, it is the secret weapon in this recipe, so don’t omit it.

Mr. BT and I really enjoyed this dish and I will definitely make it again. I would like to try it with grouper or sea bass sometime, but Nile perch definitely worked.

  • 1 kg 2lb 2oz white firm fish (grouper, amberjack, haddock, cod, sea bass, grey mullet, carp or Nile perch), cut through the bone into thick slices or use thick fillets
  • 1/3 cup oil don't waste extra virgin on this
  • 10 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 tablespoons Moroccan or good quality Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon or less cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  1. Heat the oil in a large shallow pan. Add the garlic and spices and fry over high heat while stirring until the oil becomes aromatic. Add the tomato paste and stir until blended. Add the water and cook with a covered pot for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the fish to the sauce, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. If the sauce does not completely cover the fish, turn them halfway through the cooking.
  3. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Serve with couscous.

Winery Hopping on the Judean Wine Trail

Last Friday, Mr. Baroness Tapuzina and I drove to the Judean Wine Trail with our good friend Mimi from Israeli Kitchen. Mimi and I decided to both write about the trip, as a kind of joint venture, and you can read her colorful aspect of the trip on her blog which is linked in the previous sentence. We are planning to do these joint blogging adventures from time-to-time.

Mimi is a great person to bring on wine hopping adventures because she is an amateur winemaker herself and I can attest that she produces some very nice and in some cases some very interesting wines. We just opened her delicious Tomato wine, which is a nice crispy wine that is excellent with fish and chicken. We are also great fans of her fruit wines, made from apricots, peaches, strawberries and other fruits. These are not dessert wines, they are fruity white wines that are a compliment to any meal.

The Judean Hills has become home  to one of Israel’s most important wine producing regions, stretching from the coastal plain to the Jerusalem Hills. Over the years, more than 25 wineries have consistently proved that they produce wines that are able to compete with the best in the industry world-wide, winning awards both locally and internationally.

I love driving along the winding roads with their lovely forests and vineyards. The wide curves and narrow turns carry you into deep valleys and along steep hillsides, as panoramic vistas spread out all around you. It really reminds me of our trip to Provence, except that a lot of the hills are planted mainly with pines, instead of the original mixture of trees (for example, oak, pine and chestnut) that were mainly deforested up to the 19th century.

Our first stop was to Tzora Vineyards Winery, founded in 1993 by Ronnie James, which is located in Kibbutz Tzora. This winery, which produces about 60,000 bottles of wine a year, was the first boutique winery in Israel to use all the grapes from their own vineyards, instead of buying grapes from elsewhere.

We tried several of their wines:

  • Giv’at Hachalukim Rose 2007
  • Judean Hills 2006
  • Single Vineyard Shoresh 2005
  • Dessert Wine – Or 2006

Giv’at Hachalukim means “Pebble Hill” and is named for the alluvial pebbles that have been washed down by the seasonal rains over thousands of years and which capture the suns heat during the day and release it to the soil at night, adding quality to the grapes.

I really enjoyed their fruity & floral Giv’at Hachalukim Rose, and the fruity & spicy Single Vineyard Shoresh, which is made with Merlot grapes.

Kibbutz Tzora was founded in 1948 by former Palmach members. Its name was taken from the Biblical Book of Judges (13:25); “And the spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Tzorah and Eshtaol.” One of the mainstays of the kibbutz economy is Tzora Furniture Ltd., which began in 1957 as a metal factory.

The kibbutz is beautifully landscaped.

The next winery we visited was Mony Winery, which is  located on the grounds of the Dir-Rif’at Monastery at the top of the hill above Tzora, and is owned by the Artoul family, an Arab-Christian family originally from the Galilee town of Mghar. The monastery’s church, is famous for having  “peace”  written on the structure’s ceiling in 340 languages.

Visitors can taste and purchase the vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as its olive oil, olives, honey, and goat cheese. We tried their kosher and non-kosher Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines. We preferred the non-kosher wine.

The winery is named for Dr. Mony Artoul who tragically died of a heart condition in 1995.

The winery is located in tunnels dug 120 years ago by clergy from the church. One tunnel stores the wooden casks and the second tunnel houses an enormous table around which festive events for up to 50 people can be held.

We had planned to visit the Katlav and Seahorse wineries, which are in neighboring moshavim in the hills further towards Jerusalem, but they were both closed. Both of these wineries produce excellent wines.

After our unsuccessful trip to Seahorse winery, we decided it was time to stop for a picnic at a little picnic ground laid out at the entrance to Moshav Bar Giora (the whole of Israel is dotted with picnic areas like this with picnic tables rough-hewn from the local trees). Our picnic consisted of Mimi’s delicious vegetable soup, basil bread sandwiches with natural peanut butter and apple & pear jam, potato chips, olives and cucumbers.

We didn’t get to go this trip, but one of Mr. Baroness Tapuzina’s and my favourite wineries in this area is Flam winery. It is set back from the road among olive groves, in an ochre-stuccoed building that could have been lifted straight from Provence or Tuscany, apart from its modern architecture.

Golan Flam, one of the two brothers who runs the place, was born in Stellenbosch, South Africa, while his father Yisrael, who was the wine-maker of Carmel, was studying there, and wine has flowed in his veins ever since: he did his first degree at the Hebrew University’s agriculture faculty in Rehovot, went on to a second degree in oenology at the University of Piacenza in Italy, carried on learning on the job at Greve in Chianti (poor chap), worked for a couple of years at Hardy’s in South Australia, and went on from there.

Okay, don’t tell Mr. Baroness Tapuzina, but another reason I love this winery is because Gilad is a good example of a handsome Israeli man.

Golan and Gilad founded the winery in 1998 at Moshav Ginaton, a few miles from Ben-Gurion airport: then, like now, they bought their grapes mainly from farmers in the villages of Kerem Ben-Zimra and Dishon in the central Galilee; they also buy from farmers at Karmei Yosef and other vineyards in the plain west of Jerusalem.

We like most of their wines, but our favourite is Flam Classico, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.

Now all we need is a pretext to go on another trip.

Open Sesame

When Mimi of the Israeli Kitchen blogged about tehina biscuits in an Arab pastry shop in Tsfat, I remembered that I had a recipe for them in Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food. I happened to have all of the ingredients in the house, so I made them. They are a little different from the ones Mimi blogged about. This recipe puts the icing sugar on the dough before you bake them and the ones in Mimi’s picture are rolled in icing sugar after they are baked. The cookies are easy to make and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. A little piece of halva-like heaven.

Tehina Biscuits
  • 250 g 9oz butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup raw tehina
  • 3 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 10 g 2 teaspoons baking powder
For dusting:
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy. Lower the speed and add the vanilla, cinnamon, salt, orange zest and tehina. Mix to a smooth consistency. Add the flour and baking powder until the dough is smooth. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  3. Mix the icing sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Take pieces of dough and form balls the size of large olives. Roll the balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and place on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. The cookies should remain light colored. Don't move them to a cooling rack until they are completely cool because these are delicate.
  4. Store in an airtight jar.

Duck, Duck, Goose!

Saturday evening I invited a colleague from Germany and another friend to join us in our Sukkah for a festive meal. Several weeks ago I saw a special at the supermarket on kosher goose legs imported from Hungary and decided to wait for a special occasion to cook them.

I had never cooked goose before, so I asked on Daniel Rogov’s site if any one had a recipe. Daniel provided a recipe for goose with orange sauce and another one for goose with raspberry sauce. I happened to see frozen black currants at the supermarket and decided to make Sauce Cassis. It was a perfect complement to the goose. If you don’t keep kosher, you will presumably add butter to the sauce to thicken it, but I used a little goose fat instead. I served it with crushed basil & garlic potatoes and green peas, and the dinner was delicious. My friend Carol, made a lovely apple and pear crumble for dessert. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it.

Goose with Sauce Cassis
For the goose:
  • 4 goose legs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1-1/4 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1/2 cup Madeira or port wine
  • 1/4 cup Creme de Cassis
  • 1/4 cup black currants fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 piece of orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons goose fat
For the goose:
  1. Rub legs well with garlic and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Brown the legs in a hot frying pan until brown on both sides. Roast on roasting pan with a rack in a 200C (190F) oven for 35 minutes per kilo (15 minutes per pound).
  2. When the legs are done, remove them from the oven to rest.
For the sauce:
  1. Combine stock and all of the other ingredients, except for the goose fat, in a saucepan and cook until it has reduced by half.
  2. When the goose is ready, remove the excess fat from the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons, and add the remaining liquid to the sauce. Add the 2 tablespoons of goose fat and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Reheat the goose legs and serve with a generous amount of sauce on top of the goose.

Our First Sukkah

My wonderful husband built our first Sukkah. We got the poles and part of the Sukkah covering for free. The rest of the covering was from some canvas cloth that we had never used. And, we collected reeds, bougainvillea and tree branches for the rooftop. It is so beautiful, it reminds me of a chuppah (wedding canopy). It really brought me to tears when I saw the finished product because I have wanted to have a Sukkah ever since I moved to Israel. I missed decorating the Sukkah that my great-grandfather built. We used to hang fruit from the walls. I have such wonderful memories of that. Now we have started our own tradition.

I will be blogging about a special Sukkah adventure and a special meal on Sunday. Instead of the usual Challah, I decided to make a bread I had never tried before, Corsican Basil Bread. We planted some very fragrant basil that I have been meaning to add to bread dough for quite a while. This bread is very easy to make and the result was fantastic, although I should have put in a little more basil to accentuate the taste.

The recipe calls for the basil to be put on top of the bread and I decided to mix it into the dough. The recipe also said to make a puree, but the mixture was more minced than pureed.

Corsican Basil Bread
Servings: 1 kilo loaf (2lbs)
  • 500 g 1lb white bread flour
  • 25 g 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 cup + 2-1/2 tablespoons water warmed to 26C (80F)
  • 2-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Puree the basil and olive oil in a blender or a food processor.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and water. Mix well, incorporating the salt at the end. Then mix in the basil puree.
  3. Knead the dough for about 20 minutes. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  4. Punch down the dough and form it into a round ball. Place the dough on a baking tray covered with a towel and let rise for approximately 1 hour at room temperature.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C (440F). Just before baking, score the top of the bread with a sharp knife.
  6. Reduce the temperature to 190C (380F) and throw a small amount of water onto the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned.

613 Red Jewels

The pomegranate originated in Persia and has been cultivated in Georgia, Armenia and the Mediterranean region for several millennia.

Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. For this reason and others, many Jews eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah. However, the actual number of seeds varies with individual fruits. It is also a symbol of fertility.  Some Jewish scholars believe that it was the pomegranate, not the apple, that was the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden.Pomegranate is one of the Seven Species (שבעת המינים, Shiv’at Ha-Minim), that are mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8 as being native to the Land of Israel.

In Christianity, pomegranates are found in many religious paintings. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.

According to the Qur’an, pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise. According to Islamic tradition, every seed of a pomegranate must be eaten, because one can’t be sure which seed came from paradise.

I adore pomegranates and hope to have my own pomegranate tree one day. I love to eat the seeds, drink pomegranate juice and cook with pomegranate molasses. It can be used in savory and sweet dishes; it is so versatile. It is a staple in my kitchen.

I have been wanting to make pomegranate curd for some time, but never found the right time to make it. So, I made tartlets for Shabbat dessert. It a lovely creamy curd and you can definitely taste the tartness of the pomegranate. I will probably cut the sugar to 1/3 of a cup next time.

The curd is such a lovely ruby color.

Pomegranate Curd Tart
For the curd:
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 200 ml 1 cup pomegranate nectar
  • 5 egg yolks beaten well
  • 100 g 1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
For the crust:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 113 g 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp milk
For the curd:
  1. In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and pomegranate juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick like sour cream.
  2. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Whisk the butter into the mixture until it has melted. The pomegranate curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately with plastic wrap by placing the wrap directly on the curd and refrigerate until cool.
  3. Tart Crust
For the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light. Beat in flour, salt, and milk, until mixture is moist and crumbly (it should clump together if you press it between your fingers). Put dough into a 22cm (9 or 10-inch tart pan) and press it up the sides, making sure the layer on the bottom is even.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is set and firm at the edges. Cool.
  4. Fill the cooled tart shell with pomegranate curd and bake in a 180C (350F) oven for 15 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator for a 1-2 hours. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on the tart just before serving.

Erev Yom Kippur 5769

Erev Yom Kippur dinner at my parent’s and grandparent’s house was always a multi-course affair. It was really no different from the festive multi-course meal we had for Rosh Hashana. Since moving to Israel, I realized that these massive meals did not help with the 25 hour fast. In fact, they made it much more difficult. So, we had a two-course meal.

I deboned chicken quarters by removing the the pelvic bone, thigh bone and half of the leg bone. If you buy your meat from a butcher, you can ask them to do this in advance. Otherwise, it is really not that difficult to do. I then stuffed it with a Syrian meat and rice mixture called, Hashu. It is typically used as a filling for kubbeh or lamb shoulder. It has a lovely aroma of allspice and cinnamon with a hint of hot paprika. I used sweet paprika this time, because it is better to have blander food before you fast. It is an easy main course to prepare and would be elegant enough for a dinner party. But, to add a little more elegance to the meal, you could stuff cornish hens.

For those of you who fasted, I hope it was an easy one for you.

Chicken Quarters stuffed with Hashu
For the chicken:

4 chicken/thigh quarters, deboned by removing the pelvic bone, thigh bone and 1/2 of the leg bone

2-4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

String to tie chicken

For the filling:

500g (1 pound) lean ground beef

1/3 cup short-grain rice (white or brown)

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup water

Soak rice in cool water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with your hands. Add the meat mixture to a frying pan, add water and start breaking the meat in to small pieces. Cover until the rice is cooked through for approximately 10 minutes. Let cool.

Deboned and Ready for Stuffing

Stuffing with Hashu

Tied with a Silcone Tie

Ready for the oven

Fill the chicken with approximately 1/4 cup of the meat mixture and fold the chicken meat over the mixture and tie with cooking twine (I used silicone ties) to enclose the stuffing. Put seam side down and drizzle each chicken quarter with pomegranate molasses.

Bake at 180C (350F) for 1 hour.

Yom Kippur 5769

I am still trying to finalize my menu for the pre-fast meal on Wednesday afternoon. I don’t want to over do it.

For erev Yom Kippur:

  • Roasted chicken quarters with Hashu filling (Syrian ground beef, rice and pine nuts)
  • Steamed green beans
  • Fruit salad

For break-the-fast:

  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Baba Ganoush

About 1 hour later, we will have:

Mr. Baroness Tapuzina and I hope that you have an easy fast. Gmar Chatimah Tova (May you be sealed in the book of life).

A Honey of a Dinner

We had a lovely time with my family in Jerusalem for Rosh Hashana. When we came back, I decided to continue the New Year’s celebration and make another special dinner for just the two of us. I know that I have blogged a lot about beef here, but we are really not big beef eaters: we eat a lot more fish and chicken. However, I found a nice reasonably priced piece of beef shoulder, which believe it or not, I have never cooked before.

I started looking at recipes and none of them really turned me on. I didn’t want to do the standard carrot, potato, and onion pot roast. Finally, I found a recipe called Boeuf a la Mode, which sounded like beef with vanilla ice cream. Actually, it is a quick and easy recipe that doesn’t require long hours in the kitchen. The spices gave a nice subtle flavour to the fork-tender beef. I served it with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli.

I also made a creamy and delicious honey-thyme ice cream from The Cook and Gardener cookbook. I made it with Israeli citrus honey and a touch of Provencal chestnut honey that I brought back from our trip to the South of France and Provence a couple of years ago. It gave it a nice smokey flavour. The thyme was not overpowering, but you can definitely taste it. I really loved this ice cream and it was an excellent compliment to the honey cake I made.

Honey-Thyme Ice Cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup citrus honey
  • 2 teaspoons chestnut honey optional
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 16 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Milk & Cream Infused with Thyme
  2. Heat the milk, 1 cup of cream and the honey in a heavy saucepan just before it begins to boil. Take off the heat immediately; add the sprigs of thyme and let it steep for about 30 minutes.
  3. Strain the milk mixture, place it in a clean saucepan, and bring the milk mixture to simmer over medium heat.
  4. Honey-Thyme Custard
  5. n separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture; return to same pan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across (do not boil). Strain into another medium bowl; chill covered until cold.
  6. Process chilled custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to container; cover and freeze.

Honey-Thyme Ice Cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup citrus honey
  • 2 teaspoons chestnut honey optional
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 16 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Milk & Cream Infused with Thyme
  2. Heat the milk, 1 cup of cream and the honey in a heavy saucepan just before it begins to boil. Take off the heat immediately; add the sprigs of thyme and let it steep for about 30 minutes.
  3. Strain the milk mixture, place it in a clean saucepan, and bring the milk mixture to simmer over medium heat.
  4. Honey-Thyme Custard
  5. n separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture; return to same pan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across (do not boil). Strain into another medium bowl; chill covered until cold.
  6. Process chilled custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to container; cover and freeze.
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