Chinese for the Holidays – Kung Pao Turkey

There is a stereotype that all Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve, well…. my family either ate Chinese at our favourite restaurant or we had Texas barbecued brisket from Ft. Worth, Texas’ famous Cousin’s Bar-B-Q , Greenberg’s smoked turkey from Tyler, Texas and the fixins: homemade mustard coleslaw, Mom’s baked beans, etc.  I can’t eat it anymore because it is not kosher, but Cousin’s make some of the best damn barbecued brisket I have ever had. One of these days I am going to try to make my own.

So, in keeping with the family tradition, I made a non-traditional Kung Pao Turkey by torchlight. No, it is not a family  tradition to cook by torchlight on Christmas Eve: the power went out right as I was finishing chopping the vegetables. Mr BT helped me finish the meal by holding a torch over the stove top. Luckily, I have a gas stove top, so I could continue cooking in the dark. The power didn’t come on until halfway through dinner, so we ate by candlelight. Awwwww, how romantic.

Mr BT and I wish you and yours a very happy holidays!

Kung Pao Turkey

Serving Size: 4

Kung Pao Turkey

For the Kung Pao Turkey

250 g (1/2 lb) skinless turkey breast, cut into cubes

100 g cashews or peanuts, toasted

2 whole red fresh chilies

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced

3 green onions, chopped

1 cup bean sprouts

2 small courgettes, diced

1 small container white button (champignon) mushrooms, sliced

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon water

½ tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking wine

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

2 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking wine

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water or chicken broth

Roast the cashews in a 160C (300F) oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.

Mix the water, rice wine, salt and cornstarch in a medium size bowl, add the chicken and marinate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients of the sauce together.

Heat oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat and stir fry the chicken until opaque and half cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Stir fry the chillies, garlic and ginger for a few seconds and then add back the chicken and give it a good stir. Add the mushrooms and the courgettes and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the sauce and the bean sprouts and stir until the sauce thickens. Finally, add the cashews and the green onions and stir until mixed through.

Serve immediately with a bowl of steamed rice.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/12/28/chinese-for-the-holidays-kung-pao-turkey/

Jiǎozi – Chinese Pot Stickers

For those of you who have followed me on this blog, you know that I have had many cooking mentors in my life: my mother, father, both grandmothers, Uncle Alfred, my second mom Alberta, and my third mom Ying. Ying is not just a cook, she is really a chef who understands the science of cooking, someone who knows if there isn’t enough leavening, if there is too much sugar or too much butter, and knows how to doctor something that was over or under seasoned. She just knows and can explain it. She was my baking science teacher and my Chinese cooking teacher. She and my Dad (z”l) taught me everything I know about Chinese cooking and I will be forever grateful.

I used to make Chinese food a lot, but I got so wrapped up in learning about other ethnic food when I moved to Israel, I put it on the back burner. Also there aren’t any good Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese restaurants here, so I don’t have much inspiration either. But lately, I have had a craving for Chinese food and so I decided to make one of my Dim Sum favorites, pot stickers. I love them steamed and fried, but decided to make pan-fried ones.

From Wikipedia:

Dim sum is usually linked with the older tradition from yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travelers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest. Thus teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks.

The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, in modern society it has become common place for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.

While dim sum (literally meaning: touch the heart) was originally not a main meal, only a snack, and therefore only meant to touch the heart, it is now a staple of Chinese dining culture, especially in Hong Kong.

On a trip, many years ago, to Seattle, I went to a great cookery shop near the famous Pike Place Market that was then only know to locals and a few tourists, Sur La Table. It was and still is a cookery lover’s dream. I came home with three things that I still have: a funky bespoke hat, a 1987 edition of Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco and Huang Su-Huei’s Chinese Snacks, which is written in Chinese and English. Chinese Snacks contains recipes for many Dim Sum favourites like steamed buns, steamed dumplings, won tons, etc. It has step-by-step photos, but with that said, it really helps to have a Chinese grandmother to show you some of the tricks of folding and shaping the dumplings. If you don’t have access to one, there are YouTube videos that show you how to do it.

Chinese Pot Stickers

My folding technique is not perfect and the dough is not quite as thin as packaged gyoza skins, but I was rather proud of the way mine turned out.

Jiaozi – Chinese Pot Stickers

Yield: 50 dumplings

Jiaozi – Chinese Pot Stickers

For a vegetarian filling, use cabbage, bok choy, spinach, celery, carrot, etc.

500g (1lb) ground beef

6 tablespoons sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

4 - 6 garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press or minced finely

500g cabbage, chopped finely

1 teaspoon salt

6 green onions (green part only) or garlic chives, chopped finely

Dipping sauce:

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon white rice vinegar

2 teaspoons chilli oil

Skin:

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups cold water

1/2 cup flour (for kneading)

or use Gyoza Skins

For the filling:

Mix the ground beef, the sesame oil, salt, pepper, grated ginger, and garlic together. Set aside.

Mix the chopped cabbage with 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and add it and the green onion to the beef mixture. Mix the mixture until everything is well incorporated and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

For the dipping sauce:

Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

For the skins:

Place the flour in a large bowl and add the water. Knead into a smooth dough and set aside for 10 minutes. Roll it into a long snake and cut it into 50 pieces and then roll each piece of dough into a 7.5 centimeter (3-inch) disk, making the outer edge thinner than the center. Dust them liberally with additional flour, and stack them (the flour will help keep them fresh and prevent them from sticking to each other).

To get perfectly circular wrappers, use a biscuit/scone cutter that is 7.5 - 9 centimeters (approximately 3- to 3.5-inches) in diameter, roll out your dough to a slightly larger size, and use the cutter to cut out a perfect circle.

Moisten the edges of the dough with water and place a teaspoonful of the filling in the center of the dough. Fold the circle in half and using the index finger and thumb, bring the sides together to pleat the front of the dumpling while keeping the back of the dumpling smooth. For an excellent tutorial of how to fold the dumplings, go here.

To cook:

Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of canola or peanut oil. Arrange the dumplings, flat side down in the pan. Don't be afraid to put them close together. Turn the heat to low and fry the dumplings for one minute or until golden brown. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook for about 6 minutes over medium heat or until the water has evaporated. Flip the potstickers onto a plate and serve with the dipping sauce.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/12/22/jiaozi-chinese-pot-stickers/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/07/24/salmon-with-spicy-citrus-soy-sauce/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/03/05/chicken-with-cashews/

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

salt

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/04/11/hainanese-chicken-and-rice/

Some Like It Hot

My husband and I both love good Chinese food and since it is impossible to find good Chinese food in Israel, we have to wait until we go to London or the States. However, I did learn to make Chinese food from my grandparent’s Chinese cook, Ying. She is a master in the kitchen and was a great teacher. She really understands the science behind cooking, whether she is explaining how to cook various types of meats and poultry or baking. She also taught me a lot about the balance of flavours and how important that is in Chinese cooking. One flavour should not necessarily stand out more than the other; it should be a marriage of ingredients. I had so much fun learning from her. We even took a French pastry course together. She was raised in Vietnam, so she already knew quite a bit about French cooking, but she enjoyed the course, just the same.

My husband was away for his birthday and we celebrated it when he came back. I made him one of our favourites, Szechuan Chicken with Cashews. The heat from the chili paste and the crunch from the cashews make this dish. This dish is spicy, so if you can’t stand the heat, you might want to use one teaspoon of chili paste instead of two. If you like very spicy Thai or Indian food, like we do, you could add another half a teaspoon. I served this over Thai rice.

This recipe looks like it has a lot of steps, but it is very easy to make.

Szechuan Chicken with Cashews

Serving Size: 4

600g boneless, skinless, chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 2cm (3/4-inch) pieces

1 egg white

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Pinch of black pepper

1 large yellow or red bell pepper

1 medium yellow onion

1 head of broccoli, separated into florets

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

1 cup raw cashew nuts

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons chili paste

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

Mix the egg white, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce and the black pepper in a medium bowl; stir in the chicken. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the bell pepper into 2cm (3/4-inch) pieces. Cut the onion into 16 pieces and cut the broccoli in to small florets.

Combine the 1 tablespoon cornstarch, water and 1 tablespoon light soy sauce in a small bowl.

Heat the wok on high, and when it is very hot, add the 2 tablespoons of peanut oil; tilting the wok to coat the sides. Add the cashews and stir-fry them for about one minute or until lightly browned. Remove the cashews from the wok and drain them on a paper towel. Sprinkle them with salt.

Note: You can use roasted cashews, but obviously do not salt them and only add them at the last minute.

Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the chicken turns a pale colour. Remove the chicken from the wok and set aside in a bowl or on a plate.

Add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. Add the onion and ginger, and stir-fry until the ginger is light brown and the onion is translucent. Add the chicken, bell pepper, broccoli, hoisin sauce, cashews (if using roasted ones) and chili paste, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the broth and heat until boiling. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir for about 1 minute until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the cashews (if using raw ones) and green onions.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/08/25/some-like-it-hot/

Spanish and Indian-Inspired Hannukah

I really like finding interesting recipes that may not be holiday-specific, but fit in with the types of foods that are typically served for the holiday. And I like to mix cultures in a meal. I think it makes the meal more interesting. So, for this meal I decided to serve a Spanish potato fritter which is also made in Italy, and an Argentinian cut of meat with Indian spices. I just love global cooking!

Try it some time, instead of having a themed dinner party where the entire menu is from one country or region, try making the menu diverse by making a Swedish appetizer, Middle Eastern main dish, Thai side dish and a Brazilian dessert.

I decided to make another variation of the Ashkenazi potato latkes and make something a little more Sephardi, so I made potato and sage fritters. These are quite light and are perfect for a hot appetizer. They are very easy to make and can be made a few hours ahead of time and reheated in the oven. The recipe only called for one tablespoon of sage. I like a nice sage flavour, so I added two tablespoons. I probably could have added more. The lemon is rather pronounced, so if you don’t like a strong lemon flavour, you could put in only one teaspoon of lemon zest.

Potato and Sage Fritters

Yield: 40 fritters

For the sponge:

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 envelope (1-1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast

For the fritters:

450g (1lb) pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Cold water

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sea salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 to 6 cups peanut oil, for deep-frying

To make the sponge:

In a small bowl, combine the water, flour and yeast. Mix well and set aside in a warm place until yeasty-smelling and covered in very small bubbles, about 45 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and mash the potatoes with a fork. Allow them to cool.

Potato and Sage Fritters

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and olive oil until thoroughly combined. In a bowl, combine cooled potatoes with the sponge, flour, sage, lemon zest, pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the egg mixture to potato mixture, and stir until thoroughly combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You should have a thick, sticky batter. Add a bit more flour, if needed. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or heavy pot to 190C (375F).

Potato and Sage Fritter Batter Risen

Scoop 1 tablespoon of the risen batter at a time, and use another spoon to scrape it into the hot oil. Don't crowd the fryer. Fry fritters until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, turning them over occasionally. Drain the fritters on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/15/spanish-and-indian-inspired-hannukah/

We got a great deal on Argentinian asado, or short ribs as they are called in the States. The best part was that they had relatively little fat on them. Slow cooking is a must for this cut of meat, so when I saw this recipe and it didn’t call for slow roasting, I was a bit skeptical. I didn’t have time to marinate them for three days, so maybe that makes the difference. I marinated the ribs for a full 24 hours and then slow roasted (roasting pan, 2 cups of water, covered with foil) them in the oven at 150C (300F) for 1-1/2 hours and then grilled them. They were outstanding and I can only imagine what they would be like if I had marinated them for three days.

We actually had a problem with this recipe because the way the asado is cut here in Israel, the pieces of bone (rib) embedded in the meat are almost three inches long, which means that the thickness of the meat is considerably greater than in the States. This means that you can’t expect to cook it through with just a few minutes on the grill, however hot. In a typical South American grill in Israel (we have quite a few of them just up the road in Kfar Saba, where there is a big Argentinian immigrant community), the asado is often slow grilled for more than an hour on a vertical stand placed a few inches from the fire, which brings out the full flavour in this rather fatty cut of meat.

This marinade is also great on chicken. You can put it directly on the chicken and cook it straight away if you want.

Indian-Style Grilled Short Ribs

Yield: 4

Recipe from Chef Floyd Cardoz

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1/4 cup dry red wine

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey or date honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 beef short ribs on the bone (about 450g (1lb) each), trimmed of excess fat

In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger and red wine and puree. Scrape the wine puree into a medium bowl and stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the short ribs. Pour the marinade into 2 resealable plastic bags and add the short ribs. Tightly seal the plastic bags and refrigerate the short ribs in the marinade for 3 days.

Indian-style short ribs

Light a grill. Remove the short ribs from the marinade, scraping off any excess. Grill the short ribs over moderately high heat until they are lightly charred and medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/15/spanish-and-indian-inspired-hannukah/

Exotic Fruits

Israelis love travelling to India. It is a rite of passage for most young adults after they finish their army service, although Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal are also high on the list.

I would love to travel to India. My dream is to go on the Palace on Wheels. This is where my royal highnessness :-) comes shining through. For me, the Palace on Wheels is the epitome of romance. Rajasthan is supposed to be an amazing place, full of bright colors; rich red and orange raw silk fabric. My wedding dress fabric was a gold duponi silk from India. I adore Indian textiles and sari fabric.

The surprising thing is that Indian food is not more popular in Israel. There are only a few Indian restaurants here. There is a chain called Tandoori: the food is good, but they are rather expensive.

I really enjoy getting Indian takeout in London. I love all the choices of curries, side dishes, samosas, stuffed naan, etc. I also like making it myself. All of the wonderful smells from the cardamon, cinnamon, whole peppercorns and other spices. It fills the whole house with a wonderful spicy, oriental aroma.

For Tu’Bishvat I decided to make an Indian meal, well at least most of it was Indian dishes.

All of the Indian dishes I made for this meal came from Madhur Jafrey’s A Taste of India. I have two of her cookbooks and both of them have delicious recipes, but this cookbook is also a work of art. The photography and the stories she tells take you to India. You can taste the food and smell the smells.

The main dish I made was Chicken with Apricots and Potato Straws (Sali Jardaloo Murgi). This dish is from the state of Gujarat, which is on the Northwest coast of India and borders Rajastan. It has some amazing Temples, one of which is the Temple of Krishna. The dish is spicy and fruity, seasoned with hot chilies, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon, cloves, fresh ginger and garlic.

Chicken with Apricots ad Potato Straws

Serving Size: 4 to 6

(Sali Jardaloo Murgi) Recipe from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey

1.4 kg (3lbs) whole chicken or chicken pieces, skinned

4 whole dried hot red chillies

5cm (2-inch) cinnamon stick, broken up

1-1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

7 cardamom pods

10 whole cloves

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon finely crushed garlic

100g (4oz) dried sour apricots

1/2 cup vegetable oil

225g (1/2lb) medium-sized onions, cut into very fine half rings

2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 1 cup of water

1-1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

For the potato straws:

1 tablespoon salt

200g (7oz) large potato, peeled

Vegetable oil for deep frying

To make the chicken:

If using a whole chicken, cut it into small pieces. For example, divide the chicken legs into 2 and the whole breasts into 4 pieces and place in a big bowl.

Place the red chillies, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon and cloves in a coffee grinder and grind as finely as possible.

Rub in 1 teaspoon of the ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and half of the spice mixture on to the chicken, making sure the chicken pieces are coated with the mixture. Set aside for 1 hour.

Place the apricots in a small pan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, until the apricots are tender, but not mushy. Set them aside to cool.

Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry until they are a reddish-brown in colour. Turn the heat down and add the remaining ginger, garlic and spice mixture. Stir well and add the chicken, browning lightly for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste liquid and the salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar and sugar, cover again and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove as much fat from the pan as you can.

Place the apricot gently in between the chicken pieces and let them soak in the sauce for at least 30 minutes.

To make the potato straws:

Fill a large bowl with about 8 cups of water. Mix in the salt.

Grate the potato on the coarsest grating blade and place in the bowl of water, stirring them around in the water. Remove one handful of the the potato straws at a time, squeezing out as much liquid as you can. Spread them out on a tea towel and pat as much moisture off as possible.

Put vegetable oil into a wok or frying pan until it is 5cm (2-inches) in depth in the pan. Heat slowly over a medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, this may take 10 minutes, put a small handful of potato straws in the oil. Stir them until they are crisp and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

When ready to serve, heat the chicken on medium-low heat and garnish top with the potato straws.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/13/exotic-fruits/

The next dish was Aubergines with Apple (Tsoont Vaangan). This dish is from Kashmir. I know this combination sounds strange, but it is delicious.

Aubergines with Apples

Serving Size: 4 as a side dish

(Tsoont Vaangan) Recipe from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey

550g (1-1/4lb) aubergines, cut crosswise into thick slices

1-2 large, hard, tart apples such as a Granny Smith, cut into sixths, unpeeled

1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds

1/2- 1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp tumeric

1/4 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)

6tbsp mustard or vegetable oil

1/8 tsp ground asafetida

Put the fennel, salt, tumeric and chili powder in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water and mix into a paste.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the asafetida and then the apple wedges. Saute, until the apples are golden brown. Remove the apples and set aside.

Place one layer of aubergine in the pan. You may need to add a little more oil. Brown them on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat this until all of the aubergine has been cooked.

Put the apples and aubergine back in the pan, add the paste and stir gently. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/13/exotic-fruits/

For dessert, I moved to a country whose dishes I have never made before, Georgia.

This is a Walnut Raisin Torte (Nigvzis Torti). It is not too sweet and is a perfect dessert for Tu’Bishvat. Full of nuts and raisins. It is also not very hard to make. I made a half a recipe, which serves about six people.

 

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