Freekeh Friday at Shuk Ramle

Two Fridays ago Mr BT and I went on a lovely nature walk near Uriah (from the sordid tale of King David, Uriah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheva) with Sarah from Foodbridge and Mimi from Israeli Kitchen. I learned that you can stuff cyclamen leaves just like grape leaves. I saw wild asparagus, zaatar, fennel, borage, a mastic bush, which is used to make chewing gum and is also used in ice cream, and navel wort, which Mimi uses as an ingredient in the amazing moisturizer that she makes. We did not pick any of these plants because most of them are protected by law, but it was fun learning about them. I can’t wait to go on another walk with them.

After the walk, Mr BT, Mimi, and I went to the town of Ramle (derived from the Arabic word Raml, meaning Sand), founded around 716AD.

A geographer, el-Muqadasi (“the Jerusalemite”), describes Ramla at the peak of its prosperity: “It is a fine city, and well built; its water is good and plentiful; it fruits are abundant. It combines manifold advantages, situated as it is in the midst of beautiful villages and lordly towns, near to holy places and pleasant hamlets. Commerce here is prosperous, and the markets excellent…The bread is of the best and the whitest. The lands are well favoured above all others, and the fruits are the most luscious. This capital stands among fruitful fields, walled towns and serviceable hospices…”

Ramle is no longer at the peak of its prosperity, and in fact is now one of the poorer cities in Israel, but it should be proud of its ancient architecture, such as the Pool of Arches, pictured above, which is an underground water cistern, currently under restoration. Also known as St. Helen’s Pool and Bīr al-Anezīya, it was built during the reign of the caliph Haroun al-Rashid in 789 AD (the early Islamic period) to provide Ramle with a steady supply of water.

The shuk is rich and vibrant showing off our beautiful produce and the multi-cultural diversity of the city.

The stalls are full of interesting vegetables and greens that grace local kitchens. The purplish root vegetables, on the left in the picture above, are purple carrots. When carrots were originally brought to Europe from Central Asia, they were in fact purple and yellow, not the bright orange color we know nowadays, which was developed in the Netherlands in the 17th century. The green-eyed Arab woman selling them, who must have been a great beauty when she was younger, was so happy that we knew what they were. She also sold beautiful fresh peas that I have not seen since I moved here. I bought some and we savored every morsel.

Mimi and Sarah had told me about the Bukharan baker who sold traditional Uzbeki flatbread. I had seen a travelogue a couple of years ago about Uzbekistan, which showed a local baker making flatbread stamped with beautiful geometric designs. Apparently, women used to bring their loaves to the local baker and put their own unique design on the bread so that he would know who to give them back to.

The baker in Ramle puts lovely floral and Star of David designs on his bread. We bought a couple of steaming hot ones to take home.

They also make lovely round challot.

Ever since Mr BT and I ate at Ezba in Kfar Rama, I have wanted to make a dish with freekeh and I had the great fortune to find some at a Halal butcher shop in Ramle. The shop was very nice and sold all sorts of interesting items to cook with. I thought about recreating the dish we had at Ezba, but I decided instead to stuff a chicken with freekeh. To offset the smokiness of the wheat, I added dried sour apricots that I soaked for 20 minutes in hot water and also added toasted pumpkin seeds for a little added crunch. The dish was delicious and the dried apricots really went well with the freekeh. I will definitely make this again. You could use cornish hens instead of a chicken for a more elegant meal.

I served the chicken with the purple carrots that I tucked in under the chicken. The roasted carrots were sweet and delicious with more carrot flavour that their orange cousins. I thought the carrots were going to be solid purple, but when I cut into them, a beautiful yellow and orange sunburst revealed itself.

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Roasted Chicken stuffed with Freekeh
Ingredients
  • 1 roasting chicken 2kg (4lbs)
  • 1-1/4 cups freekeh
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots soaked in warm water
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds toasted
Instructions
  1. Soak the freekeh in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes, skimming off any debris that floats to the surface. Change the water twice and drain well in a colander.
  2. Cook the freekeh, uncovered, in a medium sized pot of salted boiling water, stirring and skimming occasionally, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes; drain well in a colander and transfer to a bowl.
  3. While the freekeh is cooking, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onions, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent. Add the coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper. Cook stirring for a minute more and add the onion, dried apricots, and pumpkin seeds to the freekeh. Set aside until the mixture has cooled completely.
  4. Stuff the chicken cavity with as much stuffing as you can and tie the legs together with string. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the chicken. Place the remaining stuffing in the bottom of a small roasting pan and place the stuffed chicken on top. Brush the chicken with olive oil and bake 180C (350F) oven for 1 hour or until the chicken is completely cooked and is a nice golden brown.

Hamin – Slow Cooking for the Soul

Israeli Hamin, North African Shahina and Dafina, Iraqi Tabit, Yemenite Taris, Hungarian Solet, Kurdish Matfunia, Ladino Haminado, German Shalet and Eastern European Cholent or Chulent are all words for a Shabbat slow-cooked meal that has been made since at least the 12th century and possibly as far back as ancient Egypt in many households except my own. Whatever you choose to call it, hamin originates from the ban on lighting a fire or cooking during Shabbat, since these are considered to be forbidden forms of work. However, it’s permitted to start something cooking before Shabbat starts, so provided the heat is kept low enough, it’s possible to start cooking the hamin on Friday afternoon and have a nice tender slow-cooked meal for lunch on Saturday.

I had never heard of this dish until I moved to Israel. I remember my grandmother telling me how she and my great-grandmother would make challot at home and take them to the village baker to bake on Friday morning, but she never mentioned making this stew and my great-grandmother, who died when I was 19 years old, never made it for Shabbat, so I have to assume that this dish was as unfamiliar to my family as was gefilte fish.

Growing up in the Deep South, baked beans, pinto beans, and blackeyed peas were all readily available, but not a very popular staple in my house. My mother loved all of these, but I always thought they were disgusting. So when I saw cholent for the first time, it reminded me of refried beans or baked beans, two dishes that I really disliked. I tried it once at the house of one of my relatives in Israel, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat it again. However, one day I was discussing my dislike of cholent with Mimi of Israeli Kitchen and she told me that there are many different types of cholent, some without beans, that I should try.

I started doing some research and found that there are Sephardic versions that use chickpeas, bulgar, rice, and even couscous instead of the European versions that use white beans (also called navy beans) or barley, like the ones used in cassoulet. The Ashkenazi ones used beef, goose, and duck while the Sephardic ones used beef, lamb and chicken. This dish is supposed to be a complete main course in one pot, so it also can contain stuffed goose necks, chicken necks or stomach.  If you are Ashkenazi the stuffing is likely to be some variation of flour, bread crumbs, chicken, goose or duck fat and potatoes; if you are Sephardi, it is more likely to be minced meat and rice flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and allspice.

The hamin may also may contain dumplings. Kurdish Jews make a cracked wheat and semolina dumpling that is stuffed with minced beef or lamb; Moroccan Jews serve a large fragrant dumpling made with a mixture of ground nuts, minced lamb, mince beef and bread crumbs, flavoured with sugar, black pepper, mace, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

For my virgin hamin, I found an interesting recipe from the master chef of cholent, Sherry Ansky, a food writer who is passionate about this slow-cooked dish, so much so, that she devoted an entire book to the subject, punctuated by stories from her own life about the role different types of hamin and cholent had played for her. I chose to make a root vegetable hamin with asado or short ribs and goose drumsticks. This recipe does not contain the dreaded bean nor the much loved slowed eggs that I also loathe. I started by browning the meat and the vegetables in a large frying pan and then did the next stage of cooking in a large soup pot, and only after that moved all the ingredients to a very large clay pot, but if you have a large enough Dutch oven or Pojke, then you can just do the whole job in that one pot. You should cook this for about 20 hours, including the one hour it cooks on the stove top.

Since I never prepare a heavy Shabbat lunch, I decided to make this Thursday night and serve it for Shabbat dinner. It is a bit unconventional, but it worked for us. This hamin is delicious and I have been converted. I am going to wait a few weeks, but I would like to try another hamin. I see an Iraqi Tabit in our future or maybe one with pitim or maybe one with pasta……

Don’t plan any activities after lunch because you will probably be too heavy and bloated to even move from the table.

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Root Vegetable Hamin
Adapted from a recipe in Hamin (in Hebrew) by Sherry Ansky
Ingredients
  • <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/baronesstapuzina/4266930944/" title="Hamin Ingredients by swisskaese on Flickr">Hamin Ingredients
  • 2 kilos 4lbs veal or lamb osso buco (I used short ribs)
  • 1 kilo goose drumsticks
  • 10 whole shallots peeled
  • 2 heads of garlic unpeeled, cut in half
  • 3 to 4 celery stalks chopped
  • 2 celery roots
  • 2 parsley roots
  • 4 to 6 small turnips
  • 1/2 1lb kilo Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 -3 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2-3 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 medium tomatoes chopped or 250g crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 6 to 7 potatoes peeled and cut in half
  • 2-3 small sweet potatoes optional, instead of some of the potatoes, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • Water to cover
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut the turnips, celery root, parsley root and Jerusalem artichokes into large cubes. Place the root vegetables and celery in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Brown the meat and goose drumsticks, in batches, on all sides, and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Add 2-3 more tablespoons of oil, reduce the heat to medium and saute the whole shallots for 3-4 minutes. Add all of the root vegetables except for the potatoes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to ensure that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the paprika, cayenne, black peppercorns, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and stir a little more.
  4. Root Vegetable Hamin
  5. Then return all of the meat to the pot and stir everything together. Pour on enough boiling water to just cover all of the ingredients and add the thyme, bay leaf, sage, and rosemary. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and cook for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Preheat the oven to 90-100C (195 - 212F).
  7. Add the potatoes and garlic, add a little more salt to taste, cover the pot tightly and put it in the oven until lunchtime the following day.

Happy 2010!

The first year I moved to Israel I invited a few friends over to my flat for a nice New Year’s dinner. I bought sparklers and really bad champagne in  Shouk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. A few minutes before midnight we went out to my rooftop terrace, lit the sparklers and started yelling out “Happy New Year!”. Much to my chagrin, a neighbor yelled out of his window “Sheket!”, which means “shutup!” I never really celebrated New Year’s Eve again.

New Year’s Eve is not celebrated in Israel like everywhere else. Religious Jews do not recognize it as the new year because the start of the new year in the Jewish calendar is Rosh Hashana, which falls during the early autumn. So, even though you will see people celebrating in restaurants, pubs, and discos around the country, most people do not celebrate it.

Mr BT and I had a quiet dinner at home.

I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to cook on Thursday, so I had to find some dishes that I could make quickly, but were gourmet. I found an interesting salmon recipe from Chef Eric Ripert, who is chef of the famous Michelin three-star restaurant, Le Bernardin. I have never eaten there, but I have seen him on few cooking shows and his dishes always looked delicious. The recipe called for the salmon to be wrapped in phyllo pastry, so I went to the supermarket to buy a package of phyllo the day before. I took the box out the night before and when I came home to start cooking I discovered, to my annoyance, that I had bought puff pastry! The dessert I was making also called for phyllo, so what was the Baroness to do?! I improvised, like any good chef would do. I had a package of rice paper wrappers that I hadn’t used yet. I had Mr BT check on the internet if rice paper would crisp up like phyllo, and he reported that it was crispier than wonton wrappers. So,  I  replaced the phyllo  with the rice paper and it was a huge success. The dish is light and delicious and I will definitely make it again. We began the meal with a steamed artichoke with aioli, then I served the salmon on a bed of sauteed mushrooms with a side of Creole Orange Rice. The rice is spicy with a nice hint of fresh orange. It was perfect with the salmon.

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Cranberry Bourekas
Servings: 10 to 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cranberries fresh or frozen
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup Granny Smith apple peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel
  • 1 package puff pastry
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with silicone and set aside. Put the cranberries and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Drain them, discarding the liquid and return the cranberries to the pan.
  2. Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.
  3. Cranberry-Apple Bourekas
  4. Unroll the puff pastry and cut strips about 5cm (2 inches) wide. Place a rounded tablespoon of the cranberry mixture near the bottom edge of the puff pastry.
  5. Cranberry Bourekas
  6. Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.
  7. Cranberry Bourekas
  8. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bourekas are golden. The bourekas make leak slightly during baking. Transfer the bourekas to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

 

Print
Cranberry Bourekas
Servings: 10 to 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cranberries fresh or frozen
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup Granny Smith apple peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel
  • 1 package puff pastry
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with silicone and set aside. Put the cranberries and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Drain them, discarding the liquid and return the cranberries to the pan.
  2. Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.
  3. Cranberry-Apple Bourekas
  4. Unroll the puff pastry and cut strips about 5cm (2 inches) wide. Place a rounded tablespoon of the cranberry mixture near the bottom edge of the puff pastry.
  5. Cranberry Bourekas
  6. Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.
  7. Cranberry Bourekas
  8. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bourekas are golden. The bourekas make leak slightly during baking. Transfer the bourekas to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

I wanted to make individual cranberry strudels for dessert, but I didn’t have any phyllo, so I decided to make bourekas instead. Mr BT suggested that I serve them to guests and not tell them what is inside. I would say that I didn’t have time to make dessert and thought we could have a savory dessert instead.

Print
Cranberry Bourekas
Servings: 10 to 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cranberries fresh or frozen
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup Granny Smith apple peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel
  • 1 package puff pastry
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with silicone and set aside. Put the cranberries and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Drain them, discarding the liquid and return the cranberries to the pan.
  2. Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.
  3. Cranberry-Apple Bourekas
  4. Unroll the puff pastry and cut strips about 5cm (2 inches) wide. Place a rounded tablespoon of the cranberry mixture near the bottom edge of the puff pastry.
  5. Cranberry Bourekas
  6. Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.
  7. Cranberry Bourekas
  8. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bourekas are golden. The bourekas make leak slightly during baking. Transfer the bourekas to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
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