Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

As the weather get warmer here, I like to start lightening up the dishes. My husband just returned from a two week trip where he only had fish, so I had to make a chicken dish before he started growing scales and gills. After the first successful attempt at making a hamin, I decided to try a summer recipe from Sherry Ansky’s Hamin cookbook.

This recipe just calls for chicken legs, israeli couscous, onions, and water, which sounded too bland for our taste, so I kicked it up a notch and added garlic, slices of butternut squash, Hungarian paprika, and ras el hanut. The dish was delicious and the sweetness of the butternut squash was a perfect addition. This dish can be made overnight or you can cook it for 4 hours and serve it on Friday night like I did. The best part of this dish is that you line the pan with parchment paper, so there is easy cleanup; no muss and no fuss.

Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

Serving Size: 4 to 6

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

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 small butternut squash

1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

6 whole cloves garlic

2 rounded tablespoons Hungarian paprika

1 rounded tablespoon ras el hanut

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

500g (1lb) Israeli couscous (ptitim)

4 cups of water and another 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 100C (200F) for overnight cooking or 150C (300F) for 4 hours cooking.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly brown. Add the whole garlic, paprika, ras el hanut, salt and pepper; stir for a couple of minutes. Add the Israeli couscous and lightly toast it, stirring constantly. Add the water, cover, and cook the couscous for 8 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, cut the butternut squash in half vertically, keeping the peel on, and seed it removing all of the stringy parts. Then, cut the squash horizontally into 6mm (1/4 inch) slices. Set aside.

Line a large clay pot, or other large roasting dish that has a cover, with parchment paper. Place half of the couscous mixture in the bottom of the pan, patting it down to make sure you have an even layer, and then add a layer of butternut squash slices. Add all of the chicken on top of the butternut squash, and then layer with rest of the butternut squash. Place the rest of the couscous mixture on top and add the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the pan and cover tightly with the lid.

Place in the oven and cook overnight or for 4 hours at the higher temperature. Invert on a platter for presentation.

Shavuot Ideas – Fresh Corn Pudding

Planning a dinner party can be quite daunting, but it helps if you are the “planning type” like I am. I was a meeting planner, by profession when I lived in the States and was responsible for planning meetings, conferences, and special events for anywhere from 10 to 10,000 attendees. My parents and grandparents also entertained a lot, so I learned everything I know about dinner party planning from my Dad and paternal grandmother who both loved to host grand gourmet dinner parties. So, planning this dinner for 11 was not a problem for me.  Here are a few good tips:

  1. Plan the menu before anything else and try to make sure that each course is a good marriage for the next.
  2. Check your wine stash or cellar and liquor stash or cabinet to see if you need to purchase a few more bottles.
  3. Make sure that your oven and Shabbat hot plate (if you have one) will be free for each course you need to make at the last minute or for those courses that need to stay hot before serving.
  4. Check that you have enough plates, silverware, glassware and serving pieces.
  5. Check that the tablecloth you want to use is ironed and doesn’t have that annoying wine stain from the last dinner party.
  6. Don’t overdo on the hors d’œuvre or your guests won’t eat your star attraction, the main meal.

Of course, it always helps to have a partner in crime and Mimi is a great friend, and a great co-hostess to work with. She was gracious to offer her home for the event and allowed me to share her kitchen with her. Her account of the “behind-the-scenes” is hysterical and quite accurate. There was a lot of swearing and “oh, I forgot to put that on the plate” going on in the kitchen.

For our main course, Mimi and I served beautiful fresh sea bass fillets that we bought from my favourite fish mongers, Dubkin Brothers. Mimi made the marinade, which was made with fresh herbs, lemon juice, and hot chilies. It was cooked perfectly and tasted good, but I would have preferred it to be spicier. We erred on the side of caution because some people do not like or cannot tolerate spicy food.  Mimi posted the fish recipe on her blog, Israeli Kitchen.

To accompany the fish, we served fresh, steamed green beans and I made individual fresh corn puddings that are made with corn cut from the cob and quickly pulsed in a food processor, fresh herbs, and a little fontina cheese for an added kick. This can be served as a first course, a vegetarian main course, or as we served it, as an accompaniment. I really like this dish, it is not too heavy and is best made with the sweetest, freshest corn you can find. I would have loved to have made it with Silver Queen corn, but sadly we do not have that variety here in Israel. I have heard that Silver Queen is all but a dying variety in the States, which is very sad because it is a sweet and creamy variety of corn. It was the best corn to use for everyone’s southern favorite, creamed corn.

Fresh Corn Pudding

Serving Size: 8

6 ears fresh corn, shucked

1/2 cup double (heavy) cream

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

50g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cool

3 large eggs, beaten lightly

2-3 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs: sage, thyme and chives

1/4 cup grated Fontina or other sharp, good melting, cheese

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and butter eight 1/2-cup ramekins.

Cut the corn off the cobs and place in a food processor. Pulse the corn about three times, until you have a very coarse mixture. Do not pulverise it!

Put all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the corn, and mix thoroughly. Ladle the mixture evenly into the ramekins and place them in a baking pan just large enough to hold them. Place the tray in the oven and add enough hot water to reach halfway up sides of the ramekins.

Bake the corn puddings in the middle of oven for 50 minutes, or until tops are slightly puffed and golden and firm to the touch. Remove ramekins from water and cool slightly on a rack for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges of ramekins and invert each pudding onto a serving plate.

Chili and Chocolate

I am not a big Mexican food eater, mainly because I do not like avocados and refried beans. I know that Mexican food is so much more than that; I just haven’t taken the time to learn more about Mexican cuisine. One dish I have made before is chicken mole which is made with a sauce that contains Mexican chocolate and chilies. I have used chocolate in savory dishes before and find that it adds an extra creaminess to the dish.

It is very difficult to find the ingredients you need to make Mexican dishes in Israel, and I had to improvise when I decided to make something with the kosher corn tortillas I bought at my parent’s local supermarket a few months ago. I found a very interesting recipe for cheese enchiladas that I had to try. I had to find a way to make the red mole without compromising too much on the taste using ingredients that are ready available here. I could not find dry mild chili powder, so I used sweet paprika, some cayenne pepper that I brought back from the States, and a whole, seeded red chili pepper. Believe it or not, it worked. It tasted like what I remember having in a restaurant, but I would like to make it next time with Oaxacan Mole which is amazing stuff. I have no idea where I will find dried guajillo chilies and dried epazote here to make the recipe. I guess I will have to wait until my next visit to the States.

The other problem we have here is that I cannot buy Monterrey Jack or Muenster cheeses. I have never seen them at any cheese shop or cheese counter in Israel. So, I decided to buy Fontina as a substitute, which was expensive, but was perfect for this dish. Next time, I will try making it with Gouda or Edam, which are less expensive alternatives.

Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Corn and Red Mole

slightly adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

For the enchiladas:

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 Tbs olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 1/2 cups grated Jack or Muenster cheese (I used Fontina)

2 cups soft goat cheese

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper

12 corn tortillas

For the red mole:

1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1 1/4 teaspoons each of anise seeds, cumin and dried oregano (I omitted the anise seeds because I didn't have any)

2 /12 Tbs olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup ground sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small red chili, seeded and minced

1 oz 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or Mexican chocolate

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (omit if you use Mexican chocolate)


1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp white wine vinegar


For the enchiladas:

Cover the raisins with warm water and set aside. Brown the pine nuts in a dry skillet and set aside. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the same skillet and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat to soften, then add the corn and cook for a couple of minutes more depending on whether the corn is fresh or frozen. Drain the raisins and put in a bowl with the pine nuts, onion and corn mixture, 1 cup of Fontina, the goat cheese and the cilantro. Mix everything thoroughly and add salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the tortillas briefly in olive oil, drain them on a paper towel, and fill them with the cheese mixture. Roll them and place them seam-side down in a baking dish. Make the mole. At this point, you can refrigerate the enchiladas.

For the red mole:

Toast the seeds and oregano in a dry skillet, then remove to a plate as soon as they smell fragrant. Grind in a mortar. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently for about for minutes, or until onion is brown on the edges, then add garlic and ground spices and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat, let the pan cool for a minute, then stir the ground chili into the onions along with the water. Return to the stove and bring to a boil, stirring slowly but constantly so that the chili doesn't burn. It will thicken as it cooks, so add a little water if it gets too thick. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted. Simmer for ten minutes, then stir in the vinegar to bring all the flavors together. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 190C (375F). Pour the mole sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkle with the rest of the Fontina and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta Keeps the Vampires Away

Well, not really, but fresh garlic on your front porch does!

This past Friday I went to Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem with two foodie girlfriends, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and Sarah from Foodbridge. We had a great time exploring the market finding all sorts of goodies to try. I came home with fontina, mahleb, pear cider from Normandy, a loaf of currant and walnut bread, artichokes, and 6 kilos of braided fresh garlic. I thought Mr. BT was going to kill me for buying so much garlic, but his Hungarian side was pleased as a peasant in the countryside. I thought my car was going to smell like a Romanian kitchen, but it wasn’t too bad, or maybe I just like the smell of garlic. We hung the beautiful braid on our shady front porch to dry.

I am always looking for quick dishes to make during the week and I had some ricotta and spinach I bought to use during Passover, but never got around to using. So, I used them to make a very quick, light and delicious Italian dish called Malfatti. It is a Tuscan dish made with ingredients that are used to fill ravioli. In fact it was probably concocted when someone had made too much ravioli filling. There are various versions of this dish, including one served with a brown butter and sage sauce, but I served mine with a tomato and fresh garlic sauce. They are like little soft pillows in your mouth, but without having to pick the feathers from between your teeth.

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta

Serving Size: 4 to 6 serving as a light main course and 6 to 8 a

(Spinach and Ricotta Malfatti)

500g (1lb) ricotta

2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

100g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

1/4 cup semolina, plus more for shaping

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese

Put a teaspoon of semolina into a narrow wineglass. Drop in a ball and swirl until it forms an oval. Repeat. (You may need to add more semolina) You can freeze them at this point.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the malfatti and cook until they float, about 8 minutes. (If frozen, 10 minutes.) Drain malfatti and place on plates or in a flat bowl. Serve with tomato sauce or a brown butter and sage sauce, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

We have had a lovely Pesach with family and friends. We went to a powerful and moving play at the Susan Dellal Center for Dance and Theatre in Neve Tzedek, called Silver Spoons. It is performed by members of non-profit group called Knafayim (‘Wings’). This organization provides an opportunity for artistically talented people with special needs to train to be actors, dancers, musicians and artists.

The play is about a group of actors who are mentally disabled, mainly with Down’s Syndrome. Each actor tells a true story about themselves, some of them quite disturbing, such as the women who spoke about being raped. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered for their courage and their amazing talent. But, the most important thing you walk away with is that they just wanted to be respected like any other human being. They have dreams just like you and me. They dream of being a professional dancer, a taxi driver, an actress,  and a bride. I think everyone in Israel should attend the wonderful play and more importantly help this organization realize their dream of  having a center for the arts.

For the final evening of Pesach, I made a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, roasted lamb shoulder with baby artichokes. I marinated the lamb for over 24 hours in red wine, fresh herbs, cinnamon and white wine vinegar. Mr. BT is a very happy man tonight. I hope that you all had a lovely Pesach or Easter celebration with your family.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

Serving Size: 6

2.5kg (6lbs) lamb shoulder, cut into 4 very thick chops, about 1/2kg (1.5lbs) each

2 medium carrots, cut in 2.5cm (1-inch) chunks, (about 2 cups)

2 medium onions, cut in large chunks (about 3 cups)

1 cinnamon stick, 7.5cm (3-inches) long

6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

4 small branches of fresh rosemary

8 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh za'atar

1/2 teaspoon coarsely black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups light chicken stock

12 baby artichokes


Trim most of the fat from the chops, leaving only a very thin layer on the outside surface. Put the meat in a large bowl with all of the ingredients except for the stock and the artichokes. Toss well to distribute all of the seasonings, and submerge the meat in the marinade. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn the meat occasionally.


Heat the oven to 180C (350F). Arrange the meat in a roasting pan, spread the marinade all around them, and pour in the stock. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast for 3 hours, basting and turning the meat every 30 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the oven up to 200C (400F).

Cut the artichokes in half, removing the choke and place them in the pan. Put the pan back in the oven, cover with foil, and cook for another hour or until the lamb is tender. Serve with the pan juices.

Mina de Maza

I hope everyone that had or went to a seder last night enjoyed themselves. My macaroons and Mr. BT’s haroset were a hit at our family seder. Tonight I made matza balls and a Sephardic meat pie that is found in Egyptian, Turkish, Balkan, and Italian Jewish homes. One of my colleagues suggested that I make a Mina for Passover. I had never heard of it and when he sent me the recipe I knew I had to try it. It is not difficult to make and I made it this evening, but you can make it ahead and heat in the oven before serving.

I slightly adapted a recipe from Janna Gur’s  The Book of New Israeli Food. It called for pine nuts, which I love, but they were 30NIS/8USD for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) at the supermarket and I couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for them. Frankly, I have never seen them priced so high. I also wanted to make it with ground lamb, but at 169NIS/46USD a kilo (2lbs), I told the butcher “thanks, but no thanks”.

I added walnuts in place of the pine nuts and ground veal in place of the lamb. It was still delicious and I think I prefer the walnuts in this dish. I will definitely make this next Passover.

Mina de Maza - Matza Pie

Serving Size: 8


8-10 matzas

1/2 cup olive oil, for brushing


4 tablespoons oil

2-3 medium onions, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

700g (1-1/2lbs) ground beef or lamb

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

4 eggs

1-2 medium new or white potatoes, cooked and mashed

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, roasted

1/2 cup fresh parsley

3/4 cup chicken stock

Soaked Matza

Dip the matzas in a bowl of cold water for a minute. Wrap the matzas in a moistened kitchen towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.

Fry the onions in the oil until they are golden. Add the garlic and the meat and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice and remove the pan from the burner. Cool slightly, and add the eggs, mashed potatoes, walnuts and parsley. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

Mina de Maza

Grease a 24cm/12inch diameter round baking dish. Brush the wet matzas on both sides with a little olive oil and arrange 4 or 5 on the bottom, draping enough over the sides to later cover the filling. Spoon half of the meat mixture into the baking dish and flatten. Cover with a layer of matzas and top with the remaining half of the meat. Fold the matza draped over the side of the dish to cover the filling and brush with oil.

Mina de Maza

Place an additional matzo on top and brush with oil, too. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, ladle the soup over the pie, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Cool slightly and invert on a plate before serving.

Chicken with Cashews for a Weary Traveller

I have been abroad with Mr BT for the past several weeks visiting our family and old friends. It was a bittersweet trip home because I had to deal with the grim reality of a parent with Alzheimer’s. It is hard to watch my father, still in the prime of his life, who taught me about the world, cooking, art, music, and computers, slip away. The good news is that he is happy every day and I can’t ask for anymore. We also went to visit my 92-year-old mother-in-law in London and went to the beautiful Bevis Marks synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Great Britain, for Shabbat and Purim services. This is the synagogue that some of my ancestors attended and I was able to pray by candlelight as they did so many years ago.

As soon as I organize my photos, I will report on a couple of restaurants we went to in Atlanta.

I am still getting over my jetlag and only feel like making dishes that are quick and made in one pan. I think the best dishes for one pan are Chinese stir-fry and Chicken with Cashews is one of my favorites. I like to make it spicy and gingery, so I usually add 2 teaspoons of ginger to the recipe. I substituted green peas in place of the green peppers adding them at the last minute so they would not be overcooked.

Chicken with Cashews

Serving Size: 4

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1kg or 2lbs)

1 egg white

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Pinch white pepper

1 large green pepper

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons chili paste

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

For cornstarch mixture:

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Cut chicken breasts into 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces. Mix the egg white, cornstarch, soy sauce, and white pepper in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Cut the bell pepper into 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces and cut the onion into eighths. Mix the cornstarch, water and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the wok on high. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and tilt the wok to coat the sides with oil. Add the cashews and stir-fry for about 1 minute or until the cashews are light brown. Remove from wok and drain on a paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the chicken turns white. Remove the chicken from the wok.

Add 2 more tablespoons of vegetable oil and tilt the wok to the coat the sides with oil. Add the onion and ginger; stir-fry until the ginger is light brown. Add the chicken, bell pepper, Hoisin sauce and chili paste; stir-fry 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Sprinkle the mixture with the cashews and green onion and serve.

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.

Roasted Chicken stuffed with Freekeh

Serving Size: 4 to 6

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rice Paper Wrapped Salmon with Sauteed Mushrooms

Serving Size: 2

The Salmon:

2 (250g or 1/2 lb) salmon fillets, boneless and skinless

4 large round sheets rice paper

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

The Soy-Mustard Vinaigrette:

1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cut chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauteed Mushrooms:

1/2 lb mixed mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salmon wrapped in rice paper

For the Salmon:

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Soak two sheets of rice paper, one at a time, in warm water for 20 seconds. Place the sheets on top of each other and place one fillet of salmon in the middle. Wrap the rice paper around the salmon like an envelope. Repeat with the next two sheets of rice paper and salmon fillet. Set aside.

Mix together the soy sauce, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the thyme and parsley. Set aside.

Place the oil in a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the two fillets of salmon and saute for about 4 minutes on each side, until the rice paper is lightly browned or crispy to the touch.

For the Mushrooms: Trim the ends off the mushrooms and cut them in half, depending on size. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the white wine and reduce adding the butter to create a silky delicate sauce. Add the herbs to the pan and remove from the heat.

To plate, place a fillet on top of a bed of mushrooms. Sprinkle the soy-mustard vinaigrette on top of the salmon.


Creole Orange Rice

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 medium navel orange, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup rice

2 cups water

Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Sprinkle the salt and cayenne on the onions. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, cover and cook the rice for 20 minutes.

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.

Cranberry Bourekas

Yield: 10 to 12

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

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.

Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.

Cranberry-Apple Bourekas

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.

Cranberry Bourekas

Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.

Cranberry Bourekas

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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