Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Chickpea Puree and Hot Mint Sauce

Roasted Lamb with Pureed Chickpeas and Hot Mint Sauce

The most iconic food of Pesach, the Jewish festival celebrating the Children of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, is usually thought of as matza, the flat crispy unleavened bread that Jews eat for the entire week of the festival instead of normal bread and which its consumers either love or hate. But in reality, the most important culinary icon of this festival is roast lamb, commemorating the lamb’s blood that the Children of Israel were ordered to paint on their doorposts in order to ensure that the Angel of Death ‘passed over’ their houses during the tenth and most dreadful plague, the slaying of all the first born sons of Egypt. And as soon as the newly liberated Jews had set up the Tabernacle, the mobile predecessor of the Temple in Jerusalem, they started sacrificing an unblemished lamb on the anniversary of the Exodus, a sacrifice that had to be eaten that very night together with the matzot that they had baked in a hurry when they fled from slavery.

Today, there is no Temple in Jerusalem and so Jews no longer sacrifice animals on festivals: the only people who continue to sacrifice lambs on Passover are the Samaritans, a small group who are probably descended from the biblical Jews taken into slavery by the Assyrian empire in 772 BCE and who practice a more ancient form of Judaism. But Jewish traditions die hard, and the ancient Temple services continue in modified form to this day, whether through prayer services or, in the case of Pesach, through the symbolic place given to a burnt lamb bone on the Seder table, where every Jewish family annually recreates both the Exodus and the Temple service that celebrates it.

The lamb bone, over-roasted in the oven to symbolise the lamb roasted on the altar, is usually replaced for reasons of convenience and price by a chicken or turkey bone. But it is still raised for all the participants in the meal to see, and referred to as the ‘Pesach,’ the sacrificial lamb; and it is common for Jews, especially those of Middle Eastern origin to actually have roast lamb as part of the feast. In fact, it is not unusual, especially in more religious families, to buy a baby lamb on the hoof a week or two before the festival and have it slaughtered specially for the occasion: I have even seen a lamb being led on a leash up one of the main roads in Jerusalem a few days before Pesach, unaware of its planned role in the annual Jewish psychodrama of national liberation. Modern consumer culture has, of course, taken over in Israel and so people usually buy their lamb shoulders or quarter lambs from the supermarket or butcher; and now that imported lamb has become common, it has become much more popular on the festival table.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have roast lamb on the Pesach table this year, as we were guests. So we made up for it by making our own to celebrate the last day of the seven-day festival, which commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea. We had two frozen quarter-lambs in the freezer, and one of them, which fit the roasting pan perfectly, turned into the following culinary wet dream (see below). The recipe was not authentically biblical, but taken from one of the books of the celebrated Spanish restaurant in London, Moro. However, since the Jewish influence in Spain was so strong for centuries, and still persists in all sorts of subtle ways, it is arguable that this is an original Jewish recipe, not least because the chickpeas on which the lamb was served are a staple part of the Middle East diet. The cavolo nero that was served on the side, however, wasn’t especially authentic: I needed to use some from the garden before it turns into a tall tree.

Roasted Quarter Lamb

Corderro con Garbanzos y Salsa de Hierbabuena

Serving Size: 4 to 6

(Lamb with Chickpea Puree and Hot Mint Sauce) From Casa Moro: The Second Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark

1 shoulder of lamb, about 1.6 - 1.8 kg (3.5 - 4 lbs)

Sea salt and black pepper


4 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2 medium red onion, finely grated

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

To serve:

1 quantity Chickpea Puree (see below)

1 quantity Hot Mint Sauce (see below)

Place the lamb in a large roasting pan. If you are using a shoulder, score the surface very lightly 1-2mm deep in a 1 cm criss-cross pattern to help the marinade penetrate the meat.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together except the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and rub all over the meat. Now add the olive oil (it can prevent the acidity of the lemon and vinegar from penetrating the meat), and leave to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours, turning occasionally, or in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Cook the lamb for a minimum of 3 hours, adding a small glass of water (125ml or 1/2 cup) to the pan after the first 30 minutes and each subsequent hour. Baste the lamb every 45 minutes. To test if the lamb is ready, insert a wooden skewer in the centre: if the meat is soft and has a lot of give, then it is done. Let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Chickpea Puree

Serving Size: 4 to 6

450g dried large chickpeas

Pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Half a medium onion or 1 head of garlic

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1-1/2 rounded teaspoons cumin seeds, roughly ground

30 threads saffron, infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl, cover with cold water, add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and soak overnight.

Drain the chickpeas, rinse well, and place in a large saucepan with the half of an onion or 1 head of garlic. Cover with 2 liters (2 quarts) of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, skimming off any scum, and cook for 1-2 hours or until soft and tender. Drain the chickpeas, saving about 1 cup of cooking liquor. You do not have to remove the skins on the chickpeas.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and puree the chickpeas until quite smooth. Add enough cooking liquor or water so they are similar to wet mashed potato. Set aside.

Just before serving the lamb, in a medium saucepan, heat up the olive oil over a medium to high heat and add the onion, garlic and cumin. Fry, stirring until the onion and the garlic are evenly golden brown. When ready, add the chickpea puree and the saffron infusion. Simmer for 5 minutes and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, sprinkled with the chopped parsley.

Hot Mint Sauce

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Do not worry if the mint becomes discoloured; it is just the action of the vinegar.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 tablespoons finely chopped mint

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Sea salt and black pepper

Place a small saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Add half of the mint and all of the cumin. Fry for another minute and then add the vinegar. Simmer for 30 seconds more and remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining mint and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over the lamb.

Algerian-Style Slow-Cooked Lamb Neck

Passover is the time where you can find better deals on lamb here in Israel. Lamb is very expensive here, but for me Passover just isn’t Passover without at least one lamb dish. I found a good deal on lamb neck at a local supermarket and had the butcher cut it into slices. The neck is one of the fattier parts of the lamb, but it is a cheaper cut and perfect for slow cooking. Get the butcher to trim as much fat off as he can. Luckily, the neck I picked out had already been trimmed.

I found an interesting recipe using the Algerian spice palate: cinnamon, chili flakes, cardamom, ginger, clove, fennel, caraway and curry. I am not sure curry is part of the Algerian spice palate, but the dish was fragrant, slightly spicy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Traditionally, this is served over couscous, but for Passover I served it over rice. It would also be good over polenta in the fall or winter.

Here are a couple of other recipes for lamb neck:

Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew

Slow-Cooked Lamb Neck with Pomegranate, Garlic and Ginger

Algerian Lamb Neck

Algerian-Style Slow-Cooked Lamb Neck

Serving Size: 4

Adapted recipe from Williams-Sonoma

8 slices of lamb neck

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

500g (1 lb.) yellow onions, diced

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

4 cardamom pods, skins removed

Pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoon mild curry powder

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 (800g or 28oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 bottle dry white wine

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 lb. carrots, peeled and coarsely diced

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and coarsely diced

Preheat an oven to 180C (350°F).

Generously season the lamb neck with pepper. In an ovenproof deep sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until nearly smoking. Working in batches, browning the neck slices, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.

Add the remaining olive oil, onions and garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring, until the onions are tender and translucent. Add the ginger, cardamom, saffron, chili flakes, cloves, caraway, fennel seeds, cinnamon, curry, salt, almonds and raisins. Sauté, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, wine, orange zest and orange juice, and stir to mix well. Add the lamb neck and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer the pan to the oven and about 2-3 hours or until the lamb neck is almost falling off the bone.

Add the carrots and fennel bulb after the stew has cooked for an hour. Serve over rice (for Passover), couscous or polenta.


Ringing in 2011 with a Gourmet Dinner

New Year's Eve 2011 Dinner

New Year’s Eve, Mr BT and I celebrated our anniversary and 2011 with a gourmet romantic dinner. Our anniversary was actually the day before, but I had more time to prepare a lovely meal on Friday, so we had an anniversary/Shabbat/2011 special meal.

Last week, I found two beautiful goose breast fillets and some very large bright yellow quinces. I thought these would be two perfect ingredients for a romantic anniversary dinner. I made goose breast with a quince and red currant sauce, roasted butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes and potato, and steamed broccoli. For dessert, I made a luscious quince tarte tatin. All washed down with the perfect anniversary wine: Saslove Winery’s Marriage 2009 wine, which is made of three varieties of grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Syrah.

This year, Mr BT and I will be searching for a home to call our own. Something we have dreamed about for a long time. I hope that 2011 is filled with more foodie adventures that I can share with you. And, I hope that all of your hopes and dreams come true this year.

Mr BT and I wish you all a very happy, healthy, peaceful and delicious 2011.

Goose Breast with Quince and Red Currant Sauce

Caramelised Goose Breast with Quince and Red Currant Sauce

Serving Size: 2

Butternut Squash, Jerusalem Artichokes and Potato

For the vegetables:

180g (1 cup) butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes

180g (1 cup) Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into cubes

180g (1 cup) roasting potatoes, cubed

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper

Goose Breast

For the goose:

2 goose breast fillets, about 200g (7oz) each

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 piece of fresh ginger, about 2 1/2 cm (1 inch), minced

For the sauce:

1 medium poached quince, diced

1 shallot, minced

4 tablespoons port

1 piece of fresh ginger, about 2 1/2 cm (1 inch), minced

100ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine

1 strand of fresh red currants or 1/4 cup of thawed and drained fresh-frozen

1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Place the butternut squash, Jerusalem artichoke and potato on a baking tray in one layer. Sprinkle the fresh thyme and massage in the olive oil until the vegetables are coated evenly with the thyme and the oil. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast them for 15-25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

After the vegetables are ready, preheat the oven to 220C (425F).

Season the goose breast with salt and pepper. Heat a dry pan over medium-high heat. Sear the goose, skin-side down, until golden. Turn the breast over and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the honey, mustard and ginger to the pan, and baste the goose a few times. Transfer the goose to a roasting pan with a rack and roast in the oven for 5 minutes. Do not overcook. The goose should be slightly pink in the center.

Meanwhile, add the quince and shallot to the pan in which you seared the goose, keeping the goose fat in the pan to help thicken the sauce. Add the port to deglaze the pan, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half. Add the ginger and the white wine, return to the boil and simmer to reduce again. Season with salt and pepper, and add the red currants and chives.

To serve, place the roasted vegetables on the center of the plate, slice the goose breast and place on top and pour the sauce on top of the goose.

Quince Tarte Tatin

Quince Tarte Tatin
by David Lebovitz

The is one of the best tartes Tatin I have ever had and Mr BT thought so too. It is not too sweet and really shows off the quince.

Chicken with Clove, Cinnamon and Chestnuts

Chicken with Cloves, Cinnamon and Chestnuts

Today, with a heavy heart Sarah, Miriam, and I shut down Flavors of Israel. It was a project that we were all very excited about, but work and other things interfered with us devoting as much time as we needed to devote on the website. I haven’t talked about my professional life on the blog, but I do have a demanding full time job in the software industry. This really only leaves me with the weekend to find exciting and interesting food-related adventures to write about and photograph. In my case, maintaining two websites was more than I could handle. But don’t worry, we are all still great friends and plan to continue collaboration in the future. The most important thing is that we all still have our own blogs, with different flavors of Israel; and I intend on still showing you the beauty and bounty, dear readers, of the country that I found love and grown to love, my home, Israel.

Enough with the tears now…

I hope that all of my Jewish friends and family are having a nice time in their Succahs, enjoying family time. David and I spent the first night with a lovely couple in our Moshav.

I already showed you the light dessert I made for the pre-fast dinner for Yom Kippur. The main course was a delicious Spanish dish that originally called for pheasant and pancetta. Since we don’t have access to pheasant here, I made the dish with chicken and did not substitute the pancetta, which you can substitute with smoked goose.

Chicken with Clove, Cinnamon and Chestnuts

Serving Size: 4 to 6

(Pollo con Clavo, Canela y Castañas) Recipe adapted from Moro: The Cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 teaspoon Piment d'Espelette - Basque Red Chili Pepper

6 whole cloves, roughly ground

1 x 400g (14oz) tin plum tomatoes, drained, broken up

1 large chicken, cut into 8 pieces

300ml (1-1/4 cup) dry white wine

200g (7oz) chestnuts, boiled, fresh or vacuum-packed, cut in half

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

In a large, deep frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, brown all sides of the chicken pieces and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining olive oil, and add the onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves and cinnamon, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add the thyme, paprika and cloves, and stir well for a minute, then add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken to the tomato mixture and then add the white wine. Reduce the heat and simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 20-40 minutes. Then add the chestnuts and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Goose with Shallots and Clementines

We had a lovely long holiday weekend  which ended with celebrating my birthday. For Shabbat, I made a lovely, fragrant meal of slow cooked goose legs with shallots and clementines, which have just started showing up in the market. This dish is rich and fork-tender. I served it with a herb roesti that Mr BT made and steamed Brussels sprouts. A perfect dish for a sweet new year.

Goose with Shallots and Clementines

Goose with Shallots and Clementines

4 goose legs

200g shallots , peeled

6 whole cloves garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

400ml (1/2 quart) vegetable stock

1 tablespoon clear honey

Juice 1 lemon or lime

4 small, firm clementines , peeled

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Heat oven to 190C (375F). Place the goose legs on a raised grid in one layer in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the goose legs and set aside. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the goose fat or olive oil into a large, wide pan (reserve the remainder of the goose fat).

Add the shallots and saute until just starting to colour. Add the ras el hanout and the garlic cloves and mix well. Add the stock, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Add the goose legs, cover tightly and cook over a gentle heat for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the goose fat or olive oil in a frying pan, add the clementines and fry until they are glistening and starting to brown. Add to the pan with the duck and cook for a further 25 minutes until the goose is fork tender. Sprinkle the goose with sesame seeds before serving.

Chicken with Pasta

We’re having a heatwave.
A tropical heatwave.
The temperature’s rising,
It isn’t surprising,
We’re having a heatwave.

Okay, I changed the last line…

It is really hard to be motivated to cook in this heat right now, but I am trying to make things that I can either make ahead of time or make something that doesn’t require me to be in the kitchen for too long. This pasta dish looks time consuming, but you can make the chicken stock ahead of time and freeze it.

Hope everyone is staying cool and enjoying the last dog days of summer. It is time to start planning for the holidays and I will be posting some Rosh Hashana ideas in the coming days and weeks.

Chicken with Pasta

Chicken with Pasta

Serving Size: 6

by Dr. Eli Landau and Haim Cohen

1 whole chicken

1 bundle of herbs (10 sprigs parsley, 10 sprigs dill, 2 bay leaves, 5 sprigs thyme)

2 carrots (1 chopped and 1 whole)

2 onions (1 chopped and 1 whole)

5 black pepper corns

3 juniper berries

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Flour, for dredging

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of rosemary, chopped

2 sage leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon thyme, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup green peas

1 kg penne, rigatoni, gemelli or other short hollow pasta

For the stock:

Remove the wings and necks from the chicken and place in a medium size pot with the herbs, the whole carrot and the onion, black pepper corns, juniper berries and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour and a half. Discard the vegetables and herbs, and set aside the chicken pieces. Dissolve the tomato paste in the stock and set stock aside.

For the chicken:

Remove the fat that is on the inside of the chicken cavity and chop it coarsely. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into eight pieces, dredge them lightly into flour, and set aside. Put a half a cup of olive oil and the chopped chicken fat in a large dutch oven or deep frying pan with a cover on medium-high heat. When the chicken fat begins to dissolve, place the chicken pieces in the pot, in small batches, and brown on all sides. Set the chicken aside.

Put the chopped vegetables (carrot, onion and garlic) in the pot and saute for three to four minutes. Add the chopped herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme) and continue stirring for two more minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and stir. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot. When the wine evaporates, add enough chicken stock to cover, bring to a boil, lower the fire, season with a little salt and black pepper, stir once and simmer uncovered. Every so often, add a ladle of stock and stir. The cooking time will be an hour and a half to two hours, at the end of which the stock will be gone and the dish will be dense and nicely browned. Add the green peas at the very last minute and cook until heated through.

Cook the pasta al dente in lightly salted water according to instructions on the package; drain. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Place the chicken with its sauce on top, stir gently and serve.

Salmon with Spicy Citrus Soy Sauce

The hot weather does not inspire me to stay in the kitchen very long, so I have been making light, quick meals for dinner, and Mr. BT has been making nice big salads that include the home-grown lettuce of which he is very proud. This past Shabbat, I made a lovely fish dinner with salmon in an Asian citrus sauce over soba noodles. I served it with steamed asparagus and sauteed mushrooms.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, which is wheat-free and gluten free, and can be served hot or cold. The Bretons make crepes with the flour and the Russians make Blini. It is also a good honey plant that produces a rich, dark honey. The buckwheat hulls are used to fill upholstery and the groats are now used to produce gluten-free beer.

I like to serve the soba noodles warm and sprinkle a little sesame oil on them just before serving.

Salmon with Spicy Citrus Soy Sauce

Serving Size: 2

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

Juice of small lemon

Juice of small orange

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon chili paste

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 salmon fillets

Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Place the salmon fillets in a frying pan with a little oil over medium heat. Add the sauce and cook until the salmon is still slightly pink in the center. Serve over soba noodles or brown rice.

Garum – Roman Ketchup

While perusing in my new favorite cookbook looking for something interesting to do with the fresh salmon I had just ordered, I found an interesting sauce for fish called Garum. When I asked Mr. BT if he would like this sauce, he yelled out “GARUM? Do you know what that is?!” I said no and he explained that it is an ancient Roman fish sauce made from stinky, rotten fish. I gasped and said, this recipe is a very watered-down version with olives and 4 anchovies. He said, “ok, how bad can that be.”

So, in my curiosity about the history of cuisine, I found out that garum is the ancient Roman ketchup. They put it on everything, and I mean everything! I found a recipe for Pear Patina, an ancient Roman dessert, that called for garum. I guess that is where the expression, “he puts ketchup on everything” probably came from, replacing ketchup with garum.

Historian Brian Fagan, an archaeologist, author and professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara wrote this about garum in his fascinating book, Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and Discovery of the New World:

Roman cooks placed great emphasis on sauces and flavors, but none was more ubiquitous than garum–fish sauce. The modern equivalent would be tomato ketchup or Tabasco sauce, utilitarian products used to enhance all manner of dishes, both lavish and prosaic…today’s global cuisine provides an equivalent to garum in readily available Asian fish sauces (such as nuoc nam, nam-pla). There were many garums (also known as liquamen) so there was no universal recipe, much depending on the catch at hand.

There were hundreds of recipes for garum, few of which survive, for each manufacturer–each fishing family–had its own favorite blend. The third-century writer Gargilious Martialis gives an example in his De medicine et virtue herbarum:

“Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a container, whose inside is sealed with pitch, with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs, possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others in a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat the layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.”

This modernised garum is neither rotting nor stinky and is a delicious sauce for most firm fish. You could serve it with hot or cold fish.

Garum – Roman Ketchup

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Recipe from Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark

200g olives, a mixture of firm green and black/purple, stoned

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano

4 salted anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sweet red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Finely chop the olives and place them in a bowl. Add the garlic, herbs, anchovies, and vinegar. Mix well and add the olive oil. Add black pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve over a grilled firm fish.

Chicken with Garlic, Pinenuts, Raisins and Saffron

It is very rare that I buy a cookbook and want to make 90% of the recipes in the book….very rare. So, when Moro: The CookbookDavid Lebovitz recommended all three Moro cookbooks, I had to check them out. It took me about 2 minutes to decide to purchase all three:

Moro is a restaurant in London that specializes in Moorish cuisine, which has Moroccan and Spanish influences. It is owned by Sam and Sam (Samantha) Clark, who met at the River Cafe, married, and went on a three-month honeymoon in their camper-van to Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara desert. When they returned with a slew of ideas, they opened Moro in 1997 and have been enticing customers with their delicious offerings ever since.

So far, I have made two recipes from this cookbook and I can’t wait to make more. Even though there are some seafood and pork recipes in the cookbook, you can easily replace them with fish, lamb, beef, or chicken. There are also quite a number of vegetarian recipes in all three books, especially Moro East, which is based on the allotment they had at the famous Manor Garden Allotments, which were unfortunately bulldozed in 2007 to make way for the 2012 Olympics. The allotments were started in 1900 and had 80 plots which were owned by a diverse ethnic population. Some of the recipes in Moro East were inspired by the Clarks’ allotment neighbors from Turkey and Cyprus.

For Shabbat, I made a delicious chicken dish with saffron, whole garlic cloves, raisins and pinenuts. The sauce is creamy with a subtle hint of saffron. It is very important that you use high quality saffron for this dish. I served it with a Persian short-grained brown rice mix of herbs, pistachios, almonds, and raisins, and French green beans. It is easy to make and could even be made a day ahead.

Mr BT was in heaven over this dish. Now I have to convince him to take me to the not cheap (!) Moro restaurant next time we go to London.

Pollo Al Ajillo con Piñones y Pasas y Azafrán - Chicken with Garlic, Pinenuts, Raisins and Saffron

Serving Size: 4

From Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark

6 tablespoons olive oil

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1 medium chicken, cut into eighths

150ml (2/3 cup) light white wine or fino sherry or half white wine and half sherry

50 threads saffron, infused in 7 tablespoons boiling water

100g (2/3 cup) golden raisins, soaked in warm water

75g (1/2 cup) pinenuts, lightly toasted

Salt and pepper

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic, fry until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (pepper only if using kosher chicken) and place the breasts, skin-side down in the pan. Cook on both sides until the skin is crispy and a deep golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.

Add the white wine or sherry and the saffron in its liquid to the pan, shaking the pan until the oil and the wine are emulsified. Reduce to a simmer and cook the chicken legs and thighs for about 15 minutes. Add the chicken breasts, garlic, drained raisins, and pine nuts. Season with additional salt and pepper, and cook with the cover on for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the breasts are fully cooked.

The sauce should have the consistency of single cream. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or reduce the sauce if it is too thin. Serve with rice or roasted potatoes and a salad or a green vegetable.

Trains and Balkan Water Börek

I used to love to go to the train station in my hometown. My father would take us there every once in a while to see the trains and we would always try to get there early so he could put a penny on the rails and have the train run over them. As soon as the train was safely out of harm’s way, he would retrieve the misshapen pennies for us to take home as souvenirs of our adventure.

So when I found out that the Tel Aviv municipality had painstakingly renovated an Ottoman-era train station, now unoriginally called HaTahana (The Station) near Neve Tzedek, I couldn’t wait to go and see it. And I must say, they did a beautiful job with the restoration.

The train station was inaugurated in 1892 and was the first railway line in the Middle East. The rail line went from Jaffa to Jerusalem and the length of the journey took 3-1/2 to 4 hours. The line was eventually extended to Lod and Haifa, and in 1921 the train travelled to Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya, Egypt, approximately 160km (100 miles) from Cairo. The station was closed in 1948 and only reopened as an entertainment complex this year.

There are several restaurants and cafes to choose from to sit and have a leisurely coffee with your favorite someone, such as Cafe Tahana in the original railway building.

Or sit on the roof of Shushkashvilli Beer Bar and Tapas, which is in a beautiful old Arab house that stood in the neighborhood called Manshiya, built by the Turks in 1892 to house Egyptian laborers working on the new railroad.

The Wieland Villa, built in 1902, was owned by a German Templar named Hugo Wieland, who built his home and a factory building and agricultural materials next to the railway station with the intention of shipping the goods throughout what was then Palestine and around the Middle East. The family remained in the house until the 1930s when they left and eventually moved to Australia.

HaTahana also has some lovely boutiques and art galleries in the surrounding stone buildings that will appeal to all sorts of shoppers.

The train tracks are quiet now, but HaTahana is abustle with people enjoying the lovely cafes, restaurants, art exhibitions every Thursday evening, and the real reason Mr BT and I got up early to go there: the Orbanic market, which is the new organic farmers market, open only on Fridays.

After visiting the old Ottoman station, I was inspired to make a Water Börek, which is a cheese or meat bureka, made with boiled warka leaves. Instead of going to all the trouble of making my own warka, I bought Moroccan cigar wrappers at the supermarket. Since most of my readers in the US and Europe will not be able to find cigar wrappers so easily, you can use egg roll wrappers. You can serve this for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a light supper with a big salad.

Water Börek - Su Böregi

Serving Size: 6 to 8

1 pkg (500g or 1lb) Moroccan cigar wrappers (thawed) or large egg roll wrappers

100g butter, melted or 1/4 cup olive oil

250g (1/2lb) Bulgarian or Greek Feta

1 log of plain goat's cheese

1 egg

1 cup fresh parsley or 1/2 cup parsley and 1/2 cup dill, chopped

2 green onions, sliced thinly

Several grinds of black pepper

Butter a 22cm (9 inch) deep-dish pan.

Mash the feta and goat's cheese together until well combined. Add the egg, parsley, green onion and black pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

In a large pot of boiling water, place one cigar sheet or egg roll wrapper in the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Scoop out the sheet with a wire mesh skimmer and place in the pan. Don't worry if you can't straighten the sheets out, just try to smooth a few out so they will go up the sides of the pan. Repeat until you have one layer of the sheets.

Brush butter or olive oil on the sheets and cover with half of the cheese mixture. Place another layer of boiled cigar sheets, brush them with butter, and add the rest of the cheese mixture. Place a final layer of cigar sheets, fold over any sheets that are hanging off the side of the baking dish, and brush with butter. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly brown. Serve hot or a room temperature.

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