Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries

Georgian food is not widely known, but it has a mixture of Eastern European, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern influences. They make dumplings like you find in Poland and Russian and  Khachapuri, which is similar to Turkish pide with kashkaval cheese. One of their famous dishes is chicken with walnut sauce and you will find numerous different recipes for walnut sauce. Some of them contain garlic and herbs, such as Satsivi,  and others contain red wine vinegar or pomegranate molasses, such as Bazhe.

I decided to make a delicious and easy Georgian kebab or meatball recipe. It contains dried sour cherries and walnuts. You can add pinenuts instead of walnuts, but I like the earthy taste of the walnuts. Don’t leave out the mint in this recipe because it really adds to the flavour of the kebab.

Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries

Serving Size: 4

7 ounces ground veal

7 ounces ground chicken

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup dried sour cherries, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted or toasted pinenuts

1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, lightly whipped

1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Georgian Kebab

Combine the veal and chicken in a bowl, then add the onion, garlic, sour cherries, pine nuts, paprika, allspice, and cinnamon. Mix well, then add the egg white and mix again. Finally, add the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small balls the size of golf balls. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then sauté the meatballs, a few at a time, turning occasionally, until cooked through and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Mishmish Kind of Day

The Hebrew word for apricot is mishmish. I think it is such a cute word and makes such a nice endearment. Okay, I know it sounds a bit silly, but I do love apricots and it is the beginning of the season here. I decided not to make a cheesecake this year for Shavout and made a apricot flognarde instead. I also carried the apricot theme for Shabbat and made a spicy apricot chicken tagine with chili, ginger, and rosemary. Dried sour apricots are the key to this tagine, so try to find them at your local store. They are called “California” dried apricots in the States.

Although I didn’t make a cheesecake for home, my company held a Shavuot cooking contest this past Wednesday, and I won second prize for my Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Confit. I was really chuffed over it. They had separate categories for savory and sweet dishes, and four people from my team, including myself, won first and second place in both categories. There are some real gourmets in my group.

I would like to thank everyone for the wishes of good health. Mr BT is on the mend and I am back to my old self.

I do not have a copy of the cookbook from which this recipe comes, but after making this delicious tagine I am tempted to order it. It has a nice balance of flavours and the addition of fresh basil at the end is an excellent foil to the sour apricots. I will definitely make this again.

Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary, and Ginger

Serving Size: 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 sprigs rosemary, 1 finely chopped, the other 2 cut in half

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 red chilies, seeded and finely chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

3kg whole chicken, cut into 4 pieces

3/4 cup dried sour apricots

2 tablespoons honey

1 (14 ounce) can plum tomatoes or whole tomatoes, with their juice

Sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

4 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded

Heat olive oil in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in ginger, onion, chopped rosemary, and chilies and sauté until the onion begins to soften. Stir in halved rosemary sprigs and the cinnamon sticks. Add chicken and brown on both sides.

Toss in the apricots and honey. Stir in plum tomatoes with their juice. Add a little water if necessary to ensure there is enough to cover the base of the tagine and submerge the apricots. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover with a lid and cook gently for 35 - 40 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle shredded basil over chicken. Serve immediately.

There was some lovely white asparagus for sale at the supermarket and I thought this would be an excellent addition to our dinner for Shavuot. I forgot to take a picture of the main course, which was trout stuffed with fresh sage, thyme and za’atar from our garden. I also added slices of young fragrant garlic and lemon slices. And to close the dinner, I made an apricot and thyme flognarde based on the lovely Limousin cherry clafoutis recipe from Paula Wolfert. Fresh thyme goes well with fresh apricots and lemon thyme would have even been better.

Apricot and Thyme Flognarde

Serving Size: 8

10 medium apricots, cut in half

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup flour, plus more for dusting

Pinch of salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 cup half and half

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

50g (4 tablespoons unsalted butter), softened, plus more for the dish

2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a bowl, toss the halved apricots with all of the sugar except for 1 tablespoon and set aside.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup flour and salt. Whisk in the eggs. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the milk with 3 tablespoons of the butter until the butter melts. Whisk the warm milk into the flour mixture just until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk and cream. Add the thyme, Cognac and vanilla, cover and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Butter a 22 cm (9 1/2-inch) deep-dish pie plate or a well-seasoned iron skillet and dust with flour. Place the apricot halves in a single layer in the pie plate, adding any sugar from the bowl to apricots. Whisk the batter again and pour it over the apricots.

Bake the flognarde just above the center of the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is just set and golden. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool. Cut into wedges, and serve.

Curry Roasted Chicken

Since my surgery, I have been trying to get back in the kitchen, but I have been working long days at work and so I haven’t had a lot of energy to cook. Most of our meals have not been special enough to blog about. Last Shabbat, I decided it was time to cook again. There was a whole chicken staring at me in the freezer and I knew that I wanted to try something new. I had a hankering for curry, so what better than curry roasted chicken. You can be very flexible with this recipe by using a curry and other spices of your choice. This chicken is even better the next day. You could easily make this dish the night before and pop it in the oven the next day.

Curry Roasted Chicken

Serving Size: 4

1 roasting chicken about 2kg (4lb)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

4 green cardamom pods

1 tablespoon medium madras curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 head garlic cloves separated and unpeeled, plus 6 cloves, peeled

2 tablespoons finely grated ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots , unpeeled and quartered

3 sticks cinnamon

1 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 230C (450F). Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place on a rack in a small roasting pan or baking dish. Set aside.

Spices for Curry Rub

In a small frying pan over medium heat, combine cumin seeds, nigella seeds, black peppercorns, coriander seeds and cardamom pods. Swirl until lightly toasted and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly; grind using a mortar and pestle. (To save time, or if you don't have equipment, use pre-ground spices and toast in pan 45 seconds.) Mix with curry powder, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. Add six finely chop peeled garlic cloves and combine with ginger and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub mixture over entire chicken.

Curry Roasted Chicken

Place the unpeeled garlic, shallots and cinnamon sticks inside the chicken cavity. Tie legs with kitchen string. Roast 30 minutes before basting with 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Roast 20 minutes more, then baste with the remaining 1/2 cup of broth. Continue cooking until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a knife and meat is no longer pink, about 1 hour and 15 minutes in total. Remove from oven and let stand for a couple of minutes.

Hainanese Chicken and Rice

I had some minor surgery last week and have to eat more delicate food for the next couple of weeks, so no matza for me. This will be the first time since I was about two years old that I am not eating matza during Pesach. It is a bit strange not being able to eat matza and matza ball soup, but it is all in the name of good health.

I was searching for a simple and tasty recipe I could have with my current restrictions and I came across a recipe for Singapore’s national dish, Hainanese Chicken. I never managed to have any when I was in Singapore, mainly because I was only there for two days and only saw the inside of the hotel I was staying at. To visit Singapore without eating this dish is a mortal sin. They usually serve it with a hot fiery red pepper sauce, but I had to keep it mild.

This is a delicate, yet very fragrant dish. I highly recommend it. And as a reminder, we are a kitniyot eating family.

Hainanese Chicken and Rice

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman

For chicken:

1-1/2 to 2kg (3 to 4 pounds) whole chicken


3 tablespoons of grated garlic

1 big knob of ginger, grated finely

1/4 cup peanut oil or canola oil

2 cups white (jasmine) rice

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

Ginger-Scallion sauce (recipe to follow)

Chopped fresh scallion or cilantro leaves for garnish

For garlic-scallion sauce:

1/4 cup minced (or grated) fresh ginger

1/2 cup chopped scallion

1 or 2 clove garlic, grated

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup peanut oil or canola oil

For chicken:

Trim the chicken of excess fat and cut into 4 pieces. Place about 10cm (4 inches) of water in a large pot over high heat.

Sprinkle salt on both sides of the chicken pieces and rub them with half of the garlic and ginger mixture. When the water boils, place the chicken in the pot. The water should just cover the chicken; add more water if necessary.

Bring back to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the chicken remain in the pot for 1 hour, covered. The meat should be opaque all the way through; if not, return to pot to a boil and cover again for another 5 - 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Put the oil in a separate pot over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining garlic and ginger, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and ginger are softened. Add the rice and stir, then add 4 cups of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer the rice on low for approximately 20 minutes. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces (optional) and rub with sesame oil.

For garlic-scallion sauce:

Mix the ginger, scallion, garlic and salt together in a heatproof bowl. Put the oil in a small saucepan or skillet over high heat until smoking. Carefully pour the hot oil over the ginger scallion mixture (Note: it will sizzle a lot). Mix well and serve or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Drizzle on some of the ginger-scallion sauce and serve over the rice. You can also serve the stock with some scallion in a small bowl on the side.

Pomegranate, Garlic & Ginger Lamb

Even though we have had a few cold and rainy days, it is definitely looking more like spring every day. More people are hanging out at our beautiful beaches. We had some friends visiting from the States and took them on a tour of the North.

We went to Caesaria,

the Carmel Forest and saw beautiful wild flowers,

and then a late lunch at my favourite fish restaurant, Uri Buri , in Acco.

I had a whole grilled gilt head sea bream with roasted vegetables and Mr BT had Baramundi with spinach puree and feta (pictured above), served with side dish of mejaddara.

The last package of lamb necks was staring at me in the freezer, so I decided to cook it for Shabbat dinner. I found a very interesting recipe on a foodblog called Habeas Brulee. The pomegranate and ginger were a perfect addition to the lamb. I couldn’t get enough of the sauce.

Slow Cooked Lamb Neck with Pomegranate, Garlic and Ginger

Serving Size: 4

Adapted from Habeas Brulee food blog

1kg (2.2lbs) lamb neck, bone in

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

An equal amount fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 cups red wine

1 to 2 cup water

4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 teaspoons cardamom

2 big pinches saffron threads

2 dried chilies

2 teaspoons honey

Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot dutch oven, sprinkle salt and pepper on the lamb neck pieces and brown on both sides. Remove the lamb from the pan.

Add the ginger and garlic, and saute for a couple of minutes on low, until the garlic and ginger is slightly softened, but not yet caramelized. Add the wine, water, and the rest of the ingredients.

Cover and braise over low heat for approximately 2-3 hours on a low flame, or until tender. Serve over rice or polenta.

Passover Preparations 2009

Spring is in the air and that  means it is time to start preparing for Passover, which begins on 8 April. 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 couple of years. And, here are some interesting ones for you to try:

Italian Passover recipes from Chef Chaim Cohen and Dr. Eli Landau

Kodredo Relleno al Forno (Roast stuffed lamb with egg/lemon crust)

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Almond-Mint Pesto (Omit the cheese from the recipe)

Syrah-Braised Lamb Shoulder with Olives, Cherries and Endives

Roasted Poussins with Pomegranate Sauce and Potato Rösti

Bolo de Amêndoa (Almond Torte) from David Leite

Walnut Date Torte

Baked Apples Marsala

I will add more as I find them.

Mimi at Israeli Kitchen is having a Pre-Passover Cooking Event. Email her recipes for your favorite Passover dishes – any variety, savory or sweet – and she will cook and blog about the most interesting ones. See her blog for more details.

Perfect Dish for a Cold and Rainy Winter’s Night

Israel depends on a rainy winter for its water supply for the rest of the year. We have had a serious drought here that no one is taking seriously. However, the last few weekends we have had a significant amount of much needed rain.

Rain and cold always demand hot and hearty dishes to keep us warm and cozy inside and out. There is a another sale at our local supermarket on lamb; this time the sale is on lamb neck. I don’t think lamb neck is readily available at supermarkets or butchers in most parts of the US and Canada, but you may be able to find it at a Halal butcher in larger cities with a Muslim population. If not, you could always use lamb shoulder. I don’t think you will have a problem finding it in Europe.

This lamb recipe was published in Haaretz newspaper a couple of weeks ago and is from a famous restaurant in Nazareth called Diana’s. It specializes in meat, especially lamb kebab that is chopped by hand, and seafood.

The seasoning of the lamb is more subtle than usual for middle eastern food: even though one tablespoon each of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon appears to be a lot,  this is for quite a large quantity of meat and none of the spices has a very strong taste to begin with. It is very important to let the meat cook on a very low flame for long enough to become really tender: in fact, if you can cook the meat (without adding the spinach) the day before and then cook it again for about 30 minutes (following the rest of the instructions) just before serving, it will be even better.

Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew

Serving Size: 4

4 pieces lamb neck with the bone, weighing approximately 350g (3/4lb) each

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Olive oil

8 whole shallots, peeled

8 whole garlic cloves, peeled

5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 kg (2 lbs) fresh medium size spinach leaves, stems removed, rinsed well and coarsely chopped

Mix the spices together. Lightly salt the meat and rub the spices on both sides of the lamb neck.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and saute the pieces of meat until they start to brown. Transfer the meat to a large pot. Saute the whole shallots and the whole garlic cloves and add to the pot with the meat. Pour in enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about an hour over a high flame.

Lower the flame and skim off the foam that has formed on top. Simmer for an additional two hours over a low flame until the meat is very tender.

Add the spinach leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a pan and saute the crushed garlic until golden. Add the garlic to the stew, mix and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over rice.

For dessert, I used a new carrot cake recipe that I hadn’t tried before. This cake is spicy, but not sweet at all except for the natural sweetness of the carrot, in spite of the fact that it calls for 1-1/2 cups of icing sugar. So if you like very sweet cakes, this one might not be for you.

Carrot and Walnut Cake

Serving Size: 10 to 12

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)

1 cup crushed walnuts

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup milk or water

6 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 170C (350F). Grease and flour one large tube pan.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together and set aside. Beat the eggs together with the spices for 5 minutes. Stir in the icing sugar and mix well. Beat in the vegetable oil and continue beating for 5 minutes.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk or water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the egg mixture. With a spoon stir in the carrots and the walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 170F (350F) for 1 hour.

A Date with my Honey

I use Silan, also known as date honey, as part of the yeast starter for the bread that Mr BT and I make every week. It doesn’t really impart any extra flavour to the bread, but I think it is a bit healthier than white sugar.

I was really tired of making the same chicken dishes I make all the time, so I decided to try an experiment using date honey. It has a slight taste of dates and can be spread on bread, mixed with equal parts of tahina and used as a spread, used on pancakes instead of maple syrup, etc. What I like about Silan is that it is not sickeningly sweet.

I mixed the date honey with oranges and grapefruits from the trees around the moshav. And for an extra kick, I added some chili paste and grated ginger. It made an excellent spicy barbeque sauce.

Spicy Silan, Citrus and Ginger Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 whole chicken, cut into eighths

1/2 cup date honey

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup grapefruit juice or lemon juice

1-1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated with a microplane

1 teaspoon chili paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Place the chicken in a baking dish. Mix all of the ingredients and pour over the chicken. Bake for 1-1/2 hours or until falling of the bone.

Serve with rice, couscous or quinoa.

Tu Bishvat – The Jewish Arbor Day

Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday in the Hebrew month of Shevat, usually sometime in late January or early February, that marks the New Year of the Trees (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות, Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot‎) or the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. It is customary to plant trees and eat dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree, which grows wild around the country, coincides with Tu Bishvat.

The origin of Tu Bishvat lies in the ancient Jewish taxation system, which was based mainly on the tithe of every farmer: The first tax was dedicated to the Levites, the men of sanctity and education; the second tithe was a means of securing the pilgrimage and strengthening national solidarity; and the tax of the poor was meant to safeguard, together with numerous other precepts (mitzvot), the social support system for the indigent of the land.

Only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the beginning of the Zionist movement that saw the Land of Israel as central to Jewish existence, did the holiday really become what we know it as today, the festival for planting trees or the Jewish version of Arbor Day.

This Tu Bishvat, I made two new dishes. For the main course, I decided to make Turkish köfte  or kebab as they are called in Hebrew.  They are basically small meat patties with grated onion, pistachios and spices. You will find a myriad of different variations of kebab. I served them with a tahina sauce and they were accompanied by a steamed artichoke and roasted potatoes with zaatar. I used Turkish red pepper flakes that have been roasted and rubbed with olive oil for this dish. They are not quite as hot as regular hot pepper flakes. This meat mixture can easily be prepared a day ahead and the dish is very quick and easy.

Köfte with Pistachios and Tahina Sauce
For the Köfte

1 ½ cups pistachios

340 g (3/4lb) lamb

340g (3/4lb) beef

2 medium onions, grated

2 tsp ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the tahina sauce

Make 2 cups

1 tablespoon ground cumin

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup tahina

¼ cup water

Salt to taste

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

Köfte with Pistachios

For the Köfte

Combine the meat, pistachios, onions, cumin, black pepper, red pepper and mix well. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Lightly knead parsley into the mixture. Roll into tablespoon size balls. Brown on a grill pan. Drain on paper and serve with tahina sauce.

For the tahina sauce

Whisk lemon into the tahina, gradually add water until smooth. Season with salt. Add the garlic, black pepper and nigella seeds. Keep at room temperature.

The second dish I decided to make was a traditional fruit cake called Gubana from the Friuli region of Italy and also from neighboring Slovenia. The version I made is a yeast cake, almost like brioche, that is prepared as if you are making puff pastry. The dough is very forgiving and not difficult to make. The only catch about this recipe is that it is time consuming. You must make the dough a day ahead. This cake is sublime; it almost melts in your mouth, and Mr. BT was almost fainting with pleasure.

Already known at the time of the Romans, the Gubana’s fame has increased over the centuries. Two versions exist: a “country” one (Gubana friulana) and an “urban” one (Gubana giuliana). The more refined latter type in fact has a flaky pastry shell and also contains, apart from the recipe of the former (raisins drenched in grappa, grated chocolate, almonds, walnuts, orange and citron peels, figs, plums and pine nuts), spices and candied fruits. The recipe I made is a combination of the Gubana Friulana and the Gubana Giuliana with a little touch of Baroness Tapuzina.

Every Friulian homemaker will have the “original” recipe for Gubana and they will differ from house to house and town to town. A tale is told about a poor mother living in the Natisone Valleys who had nothing to sweeten the Christmas meals with. So she prepared a cake made with what she had at home: flour, eggs, walnuts and honey. The regional tradition requires that the “Gubana” be present for every major festival, such as Christmas and Easter but also for wedding banquets; the bride and bridegroom used to present every guest with this delicious cake.  The term “Gubana” is a Slovenian word deriving from “gubat”, which means “to roll up”. In the local dialect it is called “Gubanza”, which became “Gubana” in Italian.

Gubana– Friulian Fruit Cake

Serving Size: 10-12

For the dough:

340g (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

50g fresh yeast or 2 packages dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

For the filling:

6 pitted prunes

6 dried figs

6 dried sour apricots

10 dried sour cherries

1/8 cup candied lemon

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup pine nuts

3 tablespoons grappa

Grated zest of 1 small orange

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

To make the dough:

Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle over 1/4 cup of the flour, and using your fingers, works the butter and flour together to make a uniform mixture. The butter should remain malleable. Shape the butter into a 10cm (4 inch) square, wrap it in plastic and set it aside in a cool place, but not in the refrigerator. Note: If you live in a hot climate, then put the butter in the refrigerator, but let it sit for a few minutes to become malleable before placing it on the dough.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and warm water to dissolve the yeast. Add a pinch of sugar and let the mixture sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the yeast mixture, sugar, egg and milk. Using the paddle, beat the ingredients until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead in the remaining 1-1/2 cups of flour for about 3 to 5 minutes or until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it relax for 30 to 45 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and roll it into a large rectangle, about 40 x 40 cm (16 x 16 inches). Sprinkle the surface with some flour.

Gubana Dough

Place the square of butter in the middle of the rectangle of dough.

Gubana Dough

Fold the left and right sides over the middle, then the top sides over that; the goal is to make a "package" of dough.

Sprinkle the work surface and the top of the dough, as well as your rolling pin. Roll the dough in from the middle toward the top and bottom, making a long rectangle, maintaining the width, but increasing the length.

Gubana Dough

Gubana Dough

Fold the bottom upwards to the center, making a flap, and then fold the top over that, making an envelope. Turn the dough clockwise, so that the top flap faces the right; the dough should resemble a book. Once again, flour the work surface, the dough and the rolling pin, and repeat the rolling and folding process. You will end up with another book fold. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Gubana Filling

For the filling and assembly:

To make the filling, place all of the dried fruits and nuts, sugar, cocoa and spices into the food processor.

Gubana filling

Process to chop until the fruit-nut mixture is finely chopped and the spices and cocoa are thoroughly combined. Add the grappa and orange zest, and pulse to incorporate them.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it was stored overnight, you will have to allow it to come to room temperature for about an hour before attempting to roll it. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 38 x 55 cm (15 x 22 inches).

Spread filling on dough

Spread the filling evenly across the center of the dough, leaving a 2.5 cm (1-inch) border at the near end and each side.

Rolling the dough over the filling

Roll the dough, jellyroll style, starting from the bottom, wide side; you will wind up with a long snake.

Gubana ready for rising

Grease a 25cm (10 inch) springform pan. Roll the snake into a tight coil, and lay it into the pan, seam side down. Brush the dough with melted butter. Cover the dough with a towel and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.


Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Brush the surface of the dough with egg glaze. Bake the Gubana on the center rack of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway through the cooking period to ensure it browns evenly. Allow the Gubana to cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove the sides of the pan to cool it completely. To serve, slice the cake in wedges. Gubana will keep wrapped in plastic up to 2 days.

Liddle Lamzy Divey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lamb Tagine with Sour Apricots and Olives

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

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long

Large pinch crumbled saffron

1-1/4 cups dried apricots, sliced

1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired

1/3 cup halved almonds, toasted

Cooked couscous, for serving

Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish

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

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

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

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

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

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


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