Jan 312009
 

My father used to sing the Little Lamzy Divey song to us when we went on long driving trips to Florida. I used to love singing that song and it was always one of my requests. The lamb dish I made for Shabbat reminded me of the song.

Mr BT surprised me with dried sour apricots that he bought in a spice shop on Levinsky street in Tel Aviv. Levinsky street is filled with spice shops and delicatessens with delights from Turkey, Greece, Romania, etc. I love cooking sweet and savory dishes with sour apricots because they have a much stronger apricot flavour than Mediterranean apricots. I grew up using sour apricots and was very upset when it became more difficult to find them.

I had some lamb in the freezer begging to be cooked, so I decided to make a deliciously fragrant Moroccan tagine with dried sour apricots and olives. Even if I say so myself, the dish was a triumph.

I used Suri olives, which many people here call Syrian olives, that Mimi from the Israeli Kitchen gave me for this recipe. They are small green, bitter olives, with a large pit that are high in oil content and excellent for producing olive oil. The interesting thing about these olives is they are not Syrian at all, they are actually Lebanese and are named after the town of Tyre (Tzur in Hebrew). Over the years, the pronunciation changed, and it is now pronounced Suri, meaning Syrian in Hebrew. I love their crunchy bitter taste and they were a perfect choice for this dish.

The earliest machinery for crushing olives and the oldest surviving olive trees were discovered in Israel. The oldest olive oil jars, dating back to 6000 BCE, were found in Jericho.

Today, olive groves cover more than 200,000 acres, from the mountains of the Galilee to the Negev desert. The largest concentration of olive groves are in the north of the country. The average harvest for the production of olive oil is about 6,000 tons, but current consumption is double that amount, meaning that we also have to import olive oil, primarily from Spain, Italy and Greece.

Each of the main communities here: Jews, Arabs, Druze and Circassians, cultivate olives. Israeli olive oil is considered to be more aromatic, more strongly flavoured and full of character than the more delicate European olive oils.

Lamb Tagine with Sour Apricots and Olives

4 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder or neck, or 2-1/4 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long

Large pinch crumbled saffron

1-1/4 cups dried apricots, sliced

1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired

1/3 cup halved almonds, toasted

Cooked couscous, for serving

Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish

Trim excess fat off lamb. Put meat in a deep Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with the garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cumin. Rub spices and garlic evenly all over meat.

Thinly slice onions, then mince enough of them to yield 1/2 cup. Add minced onion to the pot with the lamb; reserve onion slices.

Place the pot over high heat and let cook, turning meat on all sides, until spices release their scent, about 3 minutes. You need not brown the meat. Add 3 cups of water to the pot (it should come 3/4 of the way up lamb), along with cinnamon and saffron. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot. Braise for 45 minutes.

Turn meat, then top with onion slices. Cover pot and braise for at least another hour and a half, or until lamb is very tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl, leaving broth and onions in pot.

Place pot back on the stove over high heat and add 3/4 cup apricots and the olives. Simmer broth until it reduces by a third and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and keep warm until serving. (Tagine can be prepared 4 days ahead; chill, then remove fat and reheat before serving.)

To serve, chop remaining 1/2 cup apricot slices. Put couscous in a serving bowl and top with almonds and chopped apricots. Pile the tagine in center of couscous and garnish with herbs.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/31/liddle-lamzy-divey/

 

Jan 282009
 

I think there are about 9 or 10 different varieties of dates grown here in Israel. Dates were always an exotic treat for me as a kid. My father made a delicious apple and date cake, and I would always sneak some of the dates to munch on. My favourite variety of dates is Medjoul, they are  luscious pieces of caramel in your mouth. They are so rich that I can only eat a couple at a time.

Babkas are dime a dozen here because of the Eastern European influence on baked goods, but this is the Middle East and there is definitely a twist on things. For example, I don’t think you would find a Babka filled with date filling in Russia or Poland, at least not thirty or forty years ago. Here you find them filled with halva and chocolate, date, chocolate, hazelnut or walnut filling.

This recipe produces a moist and not too sweet babka. I glazed this babka with orange syrup that I had from making candied orange peel. It was a nice added touch to the cake.


Date, Orange and Walnut Babka

Yield: 2 loaves

For the dough:

4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup, less one tablespoon milk or water

50g fresh yeast

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g (3-1/2oz) butter, softened or margarine

For Date, Orange and Walnut Filling:

1 cup date filling

(if you can't buy pre-prepared date filling, see below)

Grated zest of 1 medium orange

1 cup chopped walnuts

For syrup (optional):

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Prepare the dough:

Place all of the ingredients except the butter in a mixer fitted with a kneading hook and knead for seven minutes or mix and knead by hand. Add butter and continue kneading for five minutes. The dough should be shiny and very soft. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise to twice the original size.

Meanwhile mix the date filling and grated zest together and set aside.

Prepare the cakes:

Divide the dough in half and roll one piece on a well-floured surface to 20x30cm (9x12 inches) rectangle. Spread half of date filling on the dough and then sprinkle half of the walnuts on top of the date filling.

Roll the dough into a tight log, pinching either end of the log. Slice the log lengthwise and braid the two pieces together. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and tuck in the ends of cake so it fits snugly into the pan. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.

Allow to rise until doubled. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes until deep golden brown.

While the cakes are baking, bring the water and sugar to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Brush the hot cakes with the syrup. They will keep fresh wrapped in foil for 3-4 days or you can freeze them.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/28/grandmothers-cake/

Date Filling

Yield: 1-1/2 cups

1 cup chopped, pitted dates

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine both ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat about five minutes or until thick. Let cool before using.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/28/grandmothers-cake/

Jan 242009
 

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup”
Beethoven

Winter is a good excuse to make hearty soups, something that is true in my house. Mr BT is a world class soup maker. His repertoire includes: chicken soup, lentil soup, onion soup, vegetable soup and cauliflower soup. He always makes a big pot for us to enjoy throughout the week or he freezes some of it to enjoy whenever we want. As the lovely quote from Beethoven states, Mr BT puts his heart and soul in his soups. I am a lucky woman.

Like most of Mr BT’s creations, the recipe for this soup can vary according to what vegetables are seasonally available. You can also substitute lentils or barley for the chickpeas. You may find turkey soup a little unusual: Mr BT decided to start using turkey as a partial or complete substitute for the more common chicken because it has a stronger flavour and has much more meat that similar cuts of chicken.

Mr BT's Turkey and Vegetable Soup

Yield: 10 liters (2 gallons)

2 cups dried medium chickpeas

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

6 large cloves garlic, chopped

8 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced 6mm (1/4 inch) thick

1/2 head celery, dark green leaves removed, sliced

20 juniper berries

3 large sprigs fresh oregano

6 large sprigs fresh thyme

6 bay leaves

4 turkey wings, separated or 2 turkey necks, cut into 8cm (3-inch) sections

500g (1lb) beef soup bones

1/2 head white cabbage, cut lengthwise into six pieces and sliced

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

3 medium courgettes (zucchinis), quartered lengthwise and sliced

2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cut into small chunks

3 large tomatoes, cut into small pieces, keeping the pulp

3 heaping tablespoons of chicken soup powder mixed with a little hot water

The night before making the soup, place chickpeas in a medium sized bowl, add baking soda and cover with enough warm water to leave 4cm (1-1/2 inches) above the chickpeas.

Gently heat enough olive oil (not extra virgin) to saute the onions. Add onions and stir as they saute. After 10 minutes, add the carrots, the celery, juniper berries, thyme, oregano and bay leaves. Cover the pot and saute gently for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not stick to the bottom.

Add soup bones and turkey, and continue to saute gently for another 20 minutes, covered. Add the cabbage, and continue to saute, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.

Add water (hot, if you have a kettle) to within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the top of the pot, bring to a boil, and then lower the flame to a rolling simmer. Add the chickpeas. Leave to simmer for at least 2 hours.

Add the courgette, peppers, tomatoes and the soup powder mixture. Continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve piping hot.

This soup is better on the second and third day.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/24/all-you-really-need-is-soup/

Jan 042009
 

December 30th was my 2nd wedding anniversary and we decided to wait until the weekend to celebrate. I try very hard to keep politics out of my foodblog, but I will say that even though terrible things are happening around us, we still felt we should celebrate our anniversary by making a nice meal. We have postponed birthdays and other special events over the years, but decided that we could have a comforting and quiet meal at home. We hope that the fighting will stop soon and that we can find some way to make peace with our neighbors.

The meal that we made had an unintentional color theme of brown. Brown is really not one of my favourite colors, but in this case, it was represented by one of my favourite meats that I rarely have a chance to eat, lamb. The supermarket near my home has been running a special on lamb for the past month and it is such a great deal that we decided to buy some. The butcher explained that a meat company has bought large quantities of lamb on the hoof and is marketing the meat both through selected supermarkets and directly to hotels and restaurants, making it possible for us to buy young lamb at a great price.

We more or less followed a recipe from Nigella Lawson for “Moroccan Roast Lamb”. This recipe is very simple, you make a simple marinade that you rub on the meat and let it marinate overnight. The main ingredient of the marinade is ras al hanout, a spice that I have a love affair with and have used in numerous dishes that I have posted on this blog. It is such a versatile spice that you can use in both savory and sweet dishes.

We served this with a steamed artichoke and vegetarian brown rice maklouba (rice layered with courgette and eggplant), which is a layered rice dish that I made a while ago with chicken. For dessert, I made a chocolate and chestnut torte that was light and airy. It was a perfect meal to celebrate actually eight years with my partner for life. Mr. Baroness Tapuzina has brought a great richness to my life and I love him very much. Thank you for a very interesting eight years, here is to many more to come.

Moroccan Roast Lamb

Serving Size: 6

Adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

2kg (4.4lbs) lamb shoulder

2 tablespoons ras al hanout

Juice of two lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cups of red wine

Mix all of the above ingredients except for the red wine and make incisions all over the lamb shoulder. Using your fingers, push pinches of the mixture into the incisions and then rub the remainder of the marinade all over the meat. Place in a large freezer bag or some other covered container and marinate the meat in the refrigerator overnight.

Take the meat out the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Marinated Lamb Ready for the Oven

Heat the oven to 200C (400F). Place the meat in a covered clay pot or foil covered roasting pan, add the red wine and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160C (325F) and roast for 2-3 hours until falling off the bone. Drain the fat from the sauce and serve over the lamb.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/04/2nd-wedding-anniversary-dinner/

torta morbida di castagne e cioccolato

Rich Chocolate and Chestnut Cake
Torta Morbida di Castagne e Cioccolato
From La Cucina Italiana, December 2008
Serves 12

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