P is for Patience and Passover

Spring has sprung all over Israel. Almond trees, hollyhocks and other indigenous wildflowers are all in bloom. And spring means we have moved our clocks forward and are now frantically preparing our homes for seven days of Passover, which starts tomorrow night. A time where we have to get rid of every little speck of bread, flour, etc. that may be still hanging around the house. It is a holiday where you need a lot of patience; something that I have a lack of, I must admit. Yes, Mr. BT, I really am admitting that I, Baroness Tapuzina, am impatient.

We are going to be spending the seder with my cousins and so I don’t have to prepare a full seder this year, which is a good thing since I have spent the last several days coughing up both lungs. Yes, my body picked the worst time to have an upper respiratory infection. The good news is that this evening is the first time I haven’t had numerous coughing fits, so I think I am on the mend.

Mr. BT spent a good portion of the morning making his top secret, often imitated, but never duplicated, unbelievably delicious haroset. If the Pharoah had tasted this, he would have let our people go for the recipe, but I fear that Mr. BT wouldn’t have given it up. Would you believe that he won’t even let me watch him make it? And, I am the one who educated him about other haroset than the standard Ashkenazi ones.

I was tired of making the same almond flour-based cakes that I make every year, so I decided to challenge myself and make something I have been wanting to try for years, but was afraid that I wouldn’t have the patience to make them successfully: the French macaroon. I know, I am crazy to make something new for something as important as the Seder, but I really needed the challenge. What I didn’t need was a challenge when I felt like crap, but I had already bought the ingredients and I knew my loving husband would help me, wouldn’t you honey?

So, I read every blog post I could find about making macaroons. Some said to stay away like the plague (they didn’t say which one of the ten), others said after the 9th try you will get them right and don’t make the batter too thick or too thin. But, I didn’t let them scare me.

One of the most important things you must have to make a macaroon is a scale. It is very important to have exact measurements for this recipe. Scales are relatively inexpensive now. I purchased a nice digital scale for 55NIS/10GBP/15USD.

I cracked four eggs the day before I made the macaroons and let the egg whites “rest” in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Some people let them sit on the counter for 24-48 hours, but I was not too keen on leaving them out even though it is still cool enough to do that here. Every post, including Pierre Herme’s recipe, says that you should use old egg whites, meaning ones that have not been separated the same day you make the biscuits.

The other important part of making the perfect macaroon is to have feet on the outside of the biscuit. My macaroons did not have happy feet or any other kind of feet. I guess that will happen on my 9th try. And there will be another try. I must have my feet.

The macaroons turned out okay and surprisingly they did not try my impatience.  No, they don’t have happy feet and some of them wouldn’t come off the silpat, but I was able to salvage 40 out of the 70 I ended up making. I filled them with Rosemarie chocolate filling that I purchased at one of my favorite cooking shops, Touch Food.  I am presenting these macaroons as a gift for the host and hostess, instead of serving them as dessert for the seder.

We want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful Pesach. And also Happy Easter.

Chag kosher v’sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr. BT

P.S. – Keep checking the blog. I am going to make a few new dishes during the week.

French Macaroons

Yield: about 25 filled or 50 unfilled

225g icing sugar

125g ground almonds

125g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs, but do weigh it out)

A few drops of lemon juice

25g caster (granulated) sugar

Food coloring of your choice (follow directions on box)

Place the egg whites in a bowl and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Bring them to room temperature before you start making the macaroons.

Put the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Stop halfway through and loosen any bits that may have clumped in the bottom of the processor bowl.

Sift the almond mixture into a large mixing bowl several times, removing any of the chunky almond bits in the sifter.

Put the room temperature egg whites into a clean metal mixing bowl and whisk until they start to hold their shape. Add a few drops of lemon juice, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar in two lots until the whites form stiff peaks. Finally, whisk in the food coloring until well combined.

Mix one-third of the whites into the dry ingredients. Then tip the rest of the whites on top and, gently fold them in with a spatula, using a figure-eight motion. It will be stiff at first, but it will gradually loosen. You want it to be smooth and glossy, but not too liquidy. The texture is very important and tricky to judge: when you fold the mixture, it should form a ribbon on the surface. Too runny, and you’ll end up with flat crisps; too stiff, and it’s meringue.

Take your piping bag, fitted with an 8mm plain nozzle and fill the bag with the macaroon mix. Then turn up the sides and twist to seal the mixture inside to get rid of any air so that when you squeeze the bag, a solid stream of mixture comes out of the nozzle.

On about three baking trays that have been lined with silpat liners or parchment paper, pipe a round, 2cm-diameter (1-inch) blob (by squeezing the closed end of the bag). Lift the nozzle sharply to finish the blob. Repeat, leaving about 2cm (1-inch) around each one to allow for spreading (they should spread to about 3cm (1-1/2-inches). Continue until all the mixture has been piped – you should have about 50-60 blobs in all.

If any of the macaroons have nipples, smooth them gently with a wet finger. Let the macaroons rest for 45 minutes. This helps them to form a smooth shell when baked. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130C (260F) fan (or 140C/280F).

Bake the macaroons in the middle of the oven, one tray at a time. After 5 or 6 minutes, they should start to rise, forming a lacy collar around the bottom. Cook for a total of 12-15 minutes – don’t let them burn. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the trays. You should then be able to remove them gently by moving the silpat liner away from the macaroon. If not, carefully ease off with a knife.

Pair macaroon shells of similar size and sandwich together with 1-2 tsp of the filling of your choice. Eat immediately, or keep in the fridge for a day to enable the flavour of the filling to enhance the macaroon.


Passover Preparations 5770

Spring is in the air and that means it is time to start preparing for Passover, which begins at sundown on 29 March. I am not going to be doing a lot of preparation this year, but I have gathered a few interesting recipes for you to consider for your own meal. First, here is a link to all of my Passover recipes from the last several years.

I have to say that I now feel the impact of Gourmet magazine’s demise. They always had a lovely Passover/Easter issue with lots of new ideas. Nevertheless, here are a few ideas I found for you:

Reminder: I eat kitniyot, so don’t be surprised by the rice and legume recipes.

Hallaq (Persian Haroset)

Lemony Asparagus Soup

Kubat Halab (Kubbeh made with ground rice)

Leg of Lamb stuffed with Haroset

Slow-Braised Short Ribs with Spinach

Chicken and Lentil Tagine

Mina del Pesach

Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies

Almond Cake with Cardamom and Pistachio

Tu Bishvat Fruit & Nut Bars

We went to a lovely memorial service for my cousin who died on Tu Bishvat and in his blessed (z”l) memory his synagogue planted a almond tree in their garden. I can’t wait to see the beautiful almond blooms next spring. I really miss my cousin Michael: his wonderful laugh, his boundless knowledge, and his dry sense of humor. He was there for me when I needed him and I feel a deep void when the holidays come around.

I have written about the origins of Tu Bishvat before and I always try to make a dish with dried fruits and nuts in observance of this minor holiday. I decided to make very simple, but delicious fruit and nut bars from the seemingly endless supply of dried fruits and nuts that are sold daily in every shuk and supermarket around the country. The recipe looks a bit strange because you will think that there can’t possibly be enough batter to bake into bars, but it works, and the brown sugar does not make the bars sickeningly sweet.

Fruit and Nut Bars

Yield: 16 bars

1/3 cup of flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup cranberries

3/4 cup dates, pitted and cut into quarters

3/4 cup prunes, pitted and cut into quarters

1 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with aluminum foil and set aside.

Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and mix with a fork. Stir in the brown sugar, walnuts, pecans and dried fruit. Mix with your hands making sure that the fruit and nuts are coated with the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg and the vanilla with a whisk or stick blender until pale and thick. Add the egg mixture to the fruit and nut mixture and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter. Spread into the prepared pan, pressing to even it out.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool the bars on a wire rack and use a sharp knife to cut into squares.


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.

Root Vegetable Hamin

Serving Size: 6 to 8

Adapted from a recipe in Hamin (in Hebrew) by Sherry Ansky

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

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.

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.

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.

Root Vegetable Hamin

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.

Preheat the oven to 90-100C (195 - 212F).

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.


Holiday Stollen

It was my turn again to bring goodies for my team’s weekly Kabbalat Shabbat. Since my turn fell on Christmas Eve and given the fact that none of us celebrate Christmas, I thought I would do something unusual and make a typical German Christmas fruit cake that no one on my team had ever seen or tasted.

Stollen is something that is very familiar to me because my family would eat it along with lebkuchen, speculaas, and my grandmother’s famous butter cookies for Hannukah and the end of the year family celebrations. My grandmother never made a stollen at home, but she always received one from family friends in Germany. I thought it would be fun to make one. Now I know why my grandmother never made it and only served it once a year. It is an absolute calorie bomb! Only make this if you are giving 99.9% of it away as I did. Of course, you are welcome to eat as much as you want, it is absolutely delicious, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you about your growing hips.

I think most of the team liked it because they are still talking about it this week and asking me when I am going to bake another one.

I would like to wish all of you a very Happy Holidays and a Peaceful 2010 from the Tapuzina baronial dynasty.

Holiday Stollen

Yield: Makes 2 loaves, each about 700 grams (1 1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup black raisins

2/3 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries

1/3 cup dark rum

1 cup almond halves, lightly toasted

1 package active dry yeast (25g fresh yeast)

1/2 cup milk, at room temperature

4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved

450g (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup chopped candied ginger

1/4 cup chopped candied orange

1/4 cup chopped candied lemon

2 cups icing sugar


The night before baking, put the raisins, cherries or cranberries, and rum in a small bowl.


Put the almonds with 1/4 cup water in another small bowl. Cover both and let sit overnight at room temperature.

Stollen Starter

The next day, in an electric mixer with paddle attachment, set on low speed, make the starter by mixing the yeast with milk until dissolved. Add 1 cup flour and mix until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 2 minutes. Transfer the starter to a lightly greased bowl, cover with oiled or buttered plastic wrap, and let rest for 40 minutes at room temperature.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and set on low speed, mix the remaining 3 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, lemon zest and vanilla seeds. With the motor running, pour in 1 cup of melted butter. Mix at low speed for 1 minute, then add the egg yolk. Mix until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute more. You may have to add a little milk if the mixture is still too dry.

Divide the starter into 3 pieces and add it to the mixing bowl, 1 piece at a time, mixing at low speed until each addition is thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes after each addition. After the starter is absorbed, mix the dough on a medium speed until glossy, 4 to 5 minutes.


Add the almonds, candied ginger, candied orange and candied lemon, and mix at low speed until combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the raisins, cherries, and rum, and mix until combined, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Stollen Dough

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the fruit and nuts are well mixed into the dough rather than sitting on the surface, and the dough is smooth and glossy, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 1 hour to let rise slightly, then knead it once or twice, cover with plastic and let rest for another hour.

Shaped Stollen

Divide into two equal pieces and shape each into an oval loaf about 20cm (8 inches) long. Stack two rimmed baking sheets on top of each other, lining the top sheet with parchment paper. Place the loaves on top and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the loaves to rest for 1 more hour at room temperature.

Baked Stollen

About 20 minutes before the rise is completed, preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Remove the plastic wrap and bake for about 1 hour. The loaves should be uniformly dark golden brown and the internal temperature taken from middle of each loaf should be 88C (190F).

Stollen covered in Ginger Sugar

Meanwhile, mix the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 2-1/4 teaspoons ground ginger in a small bowl. When stollen is done, transfer the top pan onto a wire cooling rack (leave stollen on pan). While still hot, brush the stollen with the remaining 1 cup of melted butter, letting the butter soak into loaves. Sprinkle the ginger sugar on the tops and sides of the loaves. When the loaves are completely cool, cover loosely parchment paper or foil and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, sift 1-1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar over the loaves, rolling to coat the bottom and sides evenly with sugar. Wrap each loaf in plastic and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 days before sifting the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar over the loaves before serving.


Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken for Hannukah

I used to be quite active in several food forums like eGullet, but I started having problems when I posted a recipe or a link to a blog post where I had changed the recipe slightly due to kashrut issues. People started arguing with me about how the recipe was no longer authentic, such as my mother-in-law’s chicken paprikàs recipe. She is 100% Hungarian and the recipe doesn’t contain sour cream, so I was very annoyed when someone who claimed to be half-Hungarian told me not once, but three times that the recipe was not chicken paprikàs, that is was pörkölt and that I couldn’t call the dish paprikàs because it didn’t have sour cream in it. I have another recipe for pörkölt with slightly different ingredients, and frankly didn’t have the patience to argue with him other than to tell him that I would like for him to tell my 92-year-old mother-in-law Holocaust survivor,  a tough woman who survived two Gestapo interrogations, that her recipe was not authentic. Why can’t kosher versions of a national dish also be authentic, especially when they are made by a native of that country and they were made by generations of Jews while they lived there?

My family has always made variations of a dish, especially when the dish called for pork, such as bacon or sausage. For example, frijoles negros (black beans). The recipe my father made called for pork knuckle, so he used to make it with beef kielbasa sausage. A lot of cooks in Eastern Europe and France would substitute smoked goose for bacon in dishes that called for a smokey pork flavour. Does it change the taste from the original? Probably. But one could argue that the kosher version is also original.

When a meat recipe has a dairy ingredient, I do not replace it with a non-dairy substitute. I really dislike non-dairy creamers,  while rice and soy milk are usually too sweet to substitute. So when I found another Ad Hoc recipe for Thomas Keller’s famous fried chicken, I had to think long and hard if I wanted to make it because it called for buttermilk. I read a couple of kosher sites that suggested substituting coconut milk with lemon juice, but I was afraid that the coconut taste would be a more than subtle flavour additive. I decided to replace the regular flour with self-raising whole wheat flour and dip the chicken in water. I know that this altered the recipe significantly because the crust was not as crunchy, but it was partly my fault by not double-dipping the chicken. I should have first dredged the chicken in flour, then the water, and then again in the flour. I only did a single dip. However, even with all the changes I had to make, the chicken was delicious and I will make it again. Next year, though, I will use half the salt because there is already enough salt on a kosher chicken. The lemon brine tenderizes the chicken and also adds a nice flavour from the thyme and rosemary. The flour mixture is just peppery enough.

Ad Hoc Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken

Serving Size: 8

Adapted recipe from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

3-3/4 liters (1 gallon) cold water

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

12 bay leaves

1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

3 large rosemary sprigs

1 small bunch of thyme

1 small bunch of parsley

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

Two 1-1/2 kg (3-pound) kosher chickens

3 cups whole wheat self-raising flour

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish

In a very large pot, combine 1 liter (1 quart) of the water with the salt, honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Cool completely and stir in the remaining 2-3/4 liters (3 quarts) of cold water. Add the chickens, making sure they are completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces. Make sure you keep the chicken on the bone to ensure moistness.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne. Put cold water in a medium size bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the water, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

In a very large, deep skillet, heat 2.5 cm (1 inch) of vegetable oil to 165C (330F). Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 71C (160F), about 20 minutes. Drain the oil from the chicken on paper towels, and keep warm in a low oven while frying the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.


Sgonfiotti di Castagne (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

If you have been following me for a while, you know by now that I like to try something different each year for Hannukah as well as other holidays in the Jewish calendar. Most of the time they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out so great. Usually I don’t blog about the disasters. I tried making pumpkin fritters for the first night of Hannukah. They smelled great, they looked good, but they tasted like fried goo. Thank goodness I had a lovely gargantuan fresh mango for Plan B.

I had bought chestnut flour a while back and kept forgetting to make something with it. I found all sorts of interesting recipes only to find out they tasted terrible. Either they were dry and tasteless or wet and gooey. I found an Italian recipe for chestnuts puffs and thought I would give them a try. The worst that could happen was that I will never buy chestnut flour again.

The dough did not rise very much and I didn’t have high hopes on the dough puffing up at all, but lo and behold, the dough did work. The taste is very interesting, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. They have the faint sweetness of fresh chestnut. Mr BT loved them. They are not very sweet, they almost taste like a fried graham cracker, but not. I am still on the fence about whether I really like them or not, but buying more chestnut flour is a great excuse for going to Umbria on another holiday. Maybe I do like the puffs after all.

Sgonfiotti di Castagne - (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

Yield: Approximately 40 puffs

1/2 cup warm water

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1-1/4 chestnut flour

1/4 icing sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil

Mix the warm water and yeast in mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup of chestnut flour, the icing sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In the mixing bowl, add the remaining 3/4 chestnut flour, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, butter, egg, and salt. Beat at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 45 minutes.

Heat about 7cm (3 inches) of oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough to 3mm (1/8-inch) thick. Cut rounds using a floured 38mm (1-1/2 inch) round cutter.

Fry the rounds, about 10 at a time, turning once until puffed golden, 30 to 45 seconds. Drain on a paper towel. Dust with the reserved chestnut-sugar mixture and serve warm or a room temperature.


Assyrian Inspired Hannukah

I know I should have made something Greek for Hannukah if I wanted to make something from the relevant ancient enemy of the Macabbees, but I couldn’t find anything that sparked my interest. So, I decided to make an Assyrian dish. They did conquer Israel in 772BC and scattered the tribes throughout the Middle East. But don’t worry, I don’t harbor any bad feelings towards the Assyrians. They are our brothers and still speak a variation of the language of my forefathers, Aramaic. The Assyrians have been Christian for almost two thousand years and make up a small, persecuted, minority in Iraq; many of them fled during the period since the fall of Saddam Hussein because of the violence between the different Muslim factions in Iraq.

Mr BT forgot that we would not be eating at home on Thursday and had taken out some ground beef from the freezer. So, I had to figure out what Hannukah inspired dish I was going to make with ground beef. I didn’t want to make kebab or stuffed vegetables like I normally do. I remembered that I had seen recipes for potato patties stuffed with ground meat, but was always afraid that they would be lead bombs in the stomach. But, in the spirit of Hannukah, I decided to give it a try. Potato patties are eaten in a variety of countries, using a variety of spices or no spices at all. The Russian version are quite bland, while the Algerian and Iraqi versions are quite flavourful. I decided to make a fusion version from Algerian and Assyrian recipes for potato patties filled with minced beef or lamb. The potato exterior is from an Algerian recipe and the meat mixture is Assyrian.

Mr BT calls this type of cooking “Con-fusion” cooking. Con, as in Congress, the opposite of progress. Okay, I know, stop with the bad jokes and get back to cooking.

The potato chaps were surprisingly light and full of spicy goodness. The spices are quite subtle, so make sure you taste the meat before making the patties. If you want to see a good step-by-step pictorial of how to make them, see Mimi’s photos from Israeli Kitchen.

Chag Hannukah Sameach from Mr BT and Baroness Tapuzina!

Potato Chaps or Potato Kibbeh

Serving Size: 4-6 as a main course

Potato Mixture:

1kg (2lbs) white potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

2 eggs

1 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Meat filling:

1/4 kg (1/2lb) lean ground beef

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup canola oil or oil of your choice

Flour for dredging

Cook potatoes in water, until tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add eggs, onion, garlic, salt, turmeric, cinnamon and parsley.

In a frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the ground beef, parsley, pine nuts, and all of the spices. Cook until the meat is cooked through. Set aside to cool.

Moisten your hands with water, and take a couple of tablespoons of the potato mixture, flatten it in the palm of your hand. Place 1 tablespoon of the the meat mixture in the middle. Carefully bring the sides of the potato over the meat mixture. You may have to add a little more of the potato mixture to the top of the patty. Close the patty and flatten it. Moisten your hands in cold water before you make each patty. Place the patties on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Dredge the patties lightly in flour before frying.


Erev Yom Kippur 5770

I think my grandmother (z”l) would have been quite shocked by my erev Yom Kippur menu. It was definitely not the usual family fare. But, I have finally realised that we shouldn’t have a heavy meal before the 25 hour fast. It is just not healthy. So, I collected some interesting recipes for the meal.

I found a very interesting Iraqi fish dish that was adapted from a 13th century Baghdadi cookbook called Kitab al-Tabikh.

Al-Baghdadi’s Kitab al-Tabikh was for long the only medieval Arabic cookery book known to the English-speaking world, thanks to A.J Arberry’s path-breaking 1939 translation as `A Baghdad Cookery Book’ which was re-issued by Prospect Books in 2001 in Medieval Arab Cookery. For centuries, it has been the favourite Arab cookery book of the Turks. The original manuscript is still in Istanbul, and at some point a Turkish sultan commissioned a very handsome copy which can still be seen in The British Library in London. – From Amazon.Com

The recipe called for 1/2 cup of sumac and I was a bit skeptical, but the dish was outstanding. I used a large drumfish, called  מוסר in Hebrew or Mussar, which is a nice firm, meaty fish that was perfect for this dish. The Iraqis probably made this with a type of carp that is found in the Tigris river called Mangar.

I only stuffed one fish for the two of us, so I have enough stuffing left over for one more fish.

Baked Fish with Sumac Stuffing

Serving Size: 4

(Samak Mashwi bil Summaq) From A Baghdad Cookery Book (Kitab al-Tabikh) by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Baghdadi

1 to 2kg whole fish, such as drum fish, barramundi, grey mullet or gilt-head sea bream (you may need 4 fish, depending on the size)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Sumac Stuffing for Fish

For the stuffing:

1/2 cup sumac

1/4 cup fresh za'atar or thyme

1/2 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin, and cinnamon

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

About 3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 220C (450F).

Place all of the stuffing ingredients in a food processor and process into a paste, as pictured above. Add more water, if needed.

Cut 2 to 3 diagonal slits in the fish and rub the oil and the turmeric on the outside and inside of the fish. Stuff the fish with the sumac mixture and close the incision in the fish with kitchen string, tooth picks, or the silicon ties as shown in the picture above.

Place the fish on a roasting rack and bake in the second level of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Cooking time will vary according to the size of the fish.


Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash and Olives

My husband is not a big fan of ptitim (in Hebrew and maghrbiyya  in Arabic) or what the rest of the western world calls Israeli couscous. I have been trying to convince him to let me make it, so when I found an interesting recipe on Epicurious, I decided to push him a bit. He said ok. I found some whole wheat ptitim at the supermarket and I could have bought spelt ptitim, but I didn’t want to scare him off too much. This dish calls for preserved lemon which I like very much, but I didn’t have any at home, couldn’t find any in the olive sections of two different supermarkets, and didn’t have time to make any. So, I decided to add some lovely tart Tsuri olives instead that I cracked and pitted. The sweetness of the butternut squash with the tartness of the olives and the crunchy pine nuts and the fragrant hint of cinnamon gave a wonderful texture and taste to this dish. It was a perfect accompaniment to the fish and the salad I made. I think I have converted Mr. BT.

Janna Gur’s Carrot and Date Salad

I am in love with this carrot and date salad. I do not like tzimmes in any shape or form, but I really loved this dish. It calls for fresh dates which I have never cooked with.

Fresh dates are high in vitamin C. They are also a special food for Rosh Hashana. Moroccan Jews dip a medjhoul date in anise seeds, sesame seeds and powdered sugar to “mark the new year that is beginning as one of happiness and blessing and peace for all mankind.”

The crunchy dates and the cooked carrots were perfect together. And the silan (date honey) did not make the dish too sweet. I will definitely make this again.

The finishing piece to this meal was the semifreddo I made the day before. This is a very easy dish to make and would be perfect for any dinner party. I recommend using a strong-tasting honey such as chestnut, eucalyptus, thistle, or heather. The rosemary was quite subtle, so I will steep more rosemary in the milk next time. You need to factor in the cream that you will be folding in later. It will mute the honey and rosemary flavor.

Chestnut Honey, Rosemary, and Goat's Milk Semifreddo

Serving Size: 8

2 cups goat's milk

3 sprigs of rosemary

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup chestnut honey

Pinch of salt

2 cups heavy cream

Put the goat's milk in a heavy saucepan and heat until the milk is steaming, but not boiling. Turn off the heat and add the rosemary. Let it steep for 45 minutes. Taste the milk to make sure that it has a significant rosemary taste. If not, let it steep for another 20 to 30 minutes.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks, honey and salt together.

Strain the milk mixture and place the milk in a clean heavy saucepan. Reheat the milk on medium heat, but do not boil. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into yolk mixture; return to same pan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves a path on back of the spoon when a finger is drawn across (do not boil). Strain into another medium bowl; chill covered until cold.

When the custard is cold, whip the cream to soft, thick peaks. If the cream is added when the custard is still warm, it will melt the cream.


Yom Kippur 5770

I am still trying to finalize my menu for Yom Kippur on Sunday afternoon. I will be updating this post over the next few days.

For erev Yom Kippur:

For break-the-fast:

  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Baba Ganoush

About 1 hour later, we will have:

  • Keftes de Prasa (Leek patties)
  • Keftes de Espinaca (Spinach patties)
  • Carrot and Date Salad

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

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