An Ottolenghi Dinner

Baked Lamb Kubbeh

Ever since Mr. BT gave me the Plenty cookbook I have been wanting to make everything in the book. Most of the recipes are perfect for the scorching summer when no one feels like cooking. The Friday before last it was blazing hot, and the thought of spending all morning in the kitchen did not appeal to me. I made two quick and easy Ottolenghi dishes: one was a baked lamb pie that I found on his Guardian weekly column and the other came from the cookbook.

Kibbeh, kibbe, kubbeh or koubeiba, which means dome or ball in Arabic, can be found in Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Kibbeh Nabelsieh is the better recognized torpedo-shaped kubbeh with a shell of bulgur  and lamb that is ground to a paste and filled with ground lamb, spices and pine nuts. There is also Kubbat Haleb which is made with a rice crust and named after Aleppo. This version is served anytime, but especially made during Pesach in a Jewish home.

Kubbeh soup dumplings are made with a semolina shell and filled with ground lamb or preserved lamb. Kibbeh Nayyeh is finely chopped raw lamb or beef mixed with fine bulgur and spices, such as Baharat. There is also Kibbeh bel-saniyeh which is made with a decorative top or covered with a tehina sauce like I made.

The perfect match to the baked lamb pie was a refreshing and light salad with green beans, peas and mangetout, which are called snow peas in the United States.

Baked Lamb Kubbeh

Baked Lamb Pie - Kibbeh bel-saniyeh

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

125 grams (1/2 cup) fine bulgar wheat

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

350 grams (3/4 lb) minced lamb

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander

60 grams (2 ounces) pine nuts

3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

Salt and black pepper

50 grams (3-1/2 tablespoons) tahini paste

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sumac

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

Line a 20cm (8-inch) spring-form pan with parchment paper. Put the bulgur in a bowl, add 200 milliliters (1 cup) of tap water and set aside for 30 minutes.

Place four tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and saute the garlic, onion and chilli on medium-high heat until soft. Place in a bowl and set aside. Cook the lamb on high heat and cook until brown. Add the onion mixture back to the pan and add the spices, coriander, salt, pepper, and most the pine nuts and parsley. Cook for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. You want the spiciness to come through the lamb.

Check if the water has been absorbed by the bulgar, if not, then strain it through a fine sieve and place back in the bowl. Add the flour, a tablespoon of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Work into a pliable mixture, with your hands, until it just holds together. Push the bulgar mixture firmly into the base of the spring-form pan until it is compacted and level. Spread the lamb mixture evenly on the top and press down. Bake for 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, 50ml (3 tablespoons) of water and a pinch of salt. The sauce should be thick, yet pourable. Spread the sauce on top of the kubbeh, sprinkle on the remaining parsley and pine nuts and bake for 10 minutes until the tahini is set and the pine nuts are golden.

Before serving, sprinkle the sumac and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Cut into wedges.

Green Beans Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Serving Size: 4

250 grams (1/2 lb) French green beans, trimmed and blanched

250 grams (1/2 lb) mangetout (snow peas), trimmed and blanched

250 grams (1/2 lb) green peas (fresh or frozen), blanched

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed with a mortar and pestle

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 mild fresh red chilli, seeded and finely diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 handfuls baby chard leaves or other mixed baby leaf lettuce (optional)

Coarse sea salt

Combine the blanched green beans, mangetout and green peas in a large bowl.

Place the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, pour the contents over the bean mixture. Toss together and add the nigella seeds, red onion, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and tarragon. Mix well and season with salt to taste.

Just before serving, gently fold the chard leaves and serve.

Israel Celebrates Ramadan Too

There are about one and a quarter million Muslims in Israel, and most of them will observe the holy month of Ramadan, which this year begins on the evening of the 29th of July (Islam follows a lunar calendar, in which the months gradually move around the months of the Gregorian calendar). The fasting begins at sun up and lasts until sundown, when the evening’s feast begins. Israeli and Palestinian Muslim cuisine are similar to the cuisines of neighboring Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and to a lesser extent, Egypt, although it has its own distinctive dishes and variations on regional delicacies. For example, the hummous tends to have a stronger lemon flavor instead of the heavy tehina flavor that you find in Egyptian hummous.

Traditionally, the fast is broken by eating a couple of dates, for a quick burst of energy, followed by a cold drink, such as tamarind, which is soaked in water the night before, then strained, sweetened and mixed with rose water and some lemon juice; or Qamar El-Deen, which is made by soaking apricot leather in hot water, mixing it in a food processor or blender, and chilling it before serving.

Soups are served after the long day of fasting, and these help provide the necessary liquids to rehydrate the body. The most popular soups are those made with lentils, vegetables, or freekeh, which is cracked green wheat. Various salads, such as baba ganoush, Arab salad, and hummous are also served at the beginning of the meal.

During Ramadan, unlike the other months of the year, meat is consumed in relatively large quantities. Festive Palestinian chicken dishes such as Musakhan and Makloubeh are served as a main course. Date, walnut and pistachio-filled biscuits, such as Makroud and Mamoul, are served to close the meal and washed down with sweet mint tea.

Partly because I live next to three of the largest Arab towns in Israel, and partly because I lived and studied with Arabs from various countries and like their cuisine, I decided to borrow some of the culinary experience of Ramadan and make a couple of typical dishes at home.

For a starter, I made an Iraqi lentil and meatball soup, which is almost a meal in itself, especially when Ramadan falls in midsummer.

Iraqi Lentil and Meatball Soup

Iraqi Lentil Soup With Meatballs

Serving Size: 6 to 8

2 medium onions, minced

500g (1 pound) ground beef or lamb or both

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt plus salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups homemade chicken broth

1 pound brown or yellow lentils

55g (about 2 ounces) angel hair pasta

2 carrots, finely diced

Juice of half a lemon

Preheat an oven to 200C (400F), and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place half of the onions and the ground meat, parsley, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and allspice in a medium-sized bowl. Mix the meat mixture thoroughly, and form into balls the size of walnuts. Place on the baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick any stones from the lentils, place in bowl, cover with cold water, and drain.

In a large pot, sauté the remaining onions in olive oil over medium heat until golden. Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. Add the lentils and the carrots to the soup and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are almost tender.

Break the angel hair pasta into the soup and add the meatballs. Simmer slowly for another 5-10 minutes or until the lentils and noodles are cooked, adding more chicken broth or water as needed. Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice into soup.

Mr BT and I wish all of our Muslim friends: Ramadan Kareem!

For more Ramadan recipe ideas, see:



Makroud (Date and Sesame Biscuits)




Assyrian Inspired Hannukah

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

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

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

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

Chag Hannukah Sameach from Mr BT and Baroness Tapuzina!

Potato Chaps or Potato Kibbeh

Serving Size: 4-6 as a main course

Potato Mixture:

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

2 eggs

1 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Meat filling:

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

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup canola oil or oil of your choice

Flour for dredging

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

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

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

Grumpy Scrumpy and Kurdish Kubbeh

This past Friday, Mr. BT, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and I embarked on an adventure to a town a few kilometers from Jerusalem to crush apples  and press them for scrumpy, otherwise known as farmhouse hard cider. Mr. BT and I are virgin hard cider makers, but we knew that with Mimi, who makes some very nice red wines, fruit wines, and mead, that we had the potential to produce something great.

When we arrived at our destination, Mimi, also a great forager of wild edible plants, spotted a flowering caper bush. I had never seen a caper flower and as you can see in the picture above, they are quite beautiful. She also found a few leaves of  purslane for us to munch on.

Our host was already busy crushing apples when we arrived and we happily offered a helping hand. He had purchased 1600 kilos (3,500 lbs) of apples to crush. No, the apples were not all for us: we only purchased 20 liters (5 US gallons) of apple juice, which was probably the result of crushing 50 or 60 kg of fruit.

Mimi and I grabbed a crate of Granny Smith and a crate of Golden Delicious apples to crush. It was important to have a 50/50 mix of the apples in order to get the right balance of tartness and sweetness, and Israel doesn’t have the same variety of traditional cider apples that you find in Somerset or Herefordshire, the two main cider-producing counties of  England.

We then handed the crushed apples over to the strong, brawny men to do the hard part, pressing the crushed apples. We only pressed them once although some press twice in order to extract the maximum possible amount of juice.

The men, Mr BT included, took turns pressing the apples. This hard labor produces the lovely apple juice that we needed to make our hard cider.

Mr BT gave me a small cup of the juice to taste and it was lovely.

We worked up quite an appetite after we crushed and pressed a ton of apples, so we put the juice in a fermentation bucket, said our thank yous and goodbyes, and headed for a famous little hole-in-the-wall in Or Yehuda.

On our way to Or Yehuda, Mr BT, Mimi, and I were trying to come up with a clever name for our cider. I suggested Grumpy Scrumpy because Mr BT was a little grumpy that day. He wanted to name it Humpy Scrumpy after his beloved animal, the camel, but I told him it had a whole other meaning and didn’t think it was a good idea. So, Grumpy Scrumpy it is! I will keep you updated on the progress of our cider.

I know you are going to say haven’t you had enough kubbeh this month, well…! I have been trying to go to Pundak Moshe for the past three years and every time I wanted to go, we had something else we had to do that was more important. This time when I suggested going there, I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. We didn’t have the address with us, so we stopped at a petrol station to ask the attendant where “the kubbeh restaurant is”. Actually, there are two of them, but he immediately said, “you want to go to Pundak Moshe?”. Of course, we said yes and he gave us directions. It looks like a tiny shack from the outside, but once you enter the restaurant it is actually quite deep.

As we entered the building, I had thoughts of my grandmother coming with me to this restaurant: she would have walked in and immediately walked out. It is not dirty, but there are pots everywhere and it would have been too messy looking for my neat-freak grandmother (z”l).

I knew from the long line of people waiting to take home a variety of kubbeh that was bubbling away in huge pots, that this was going to be worth the three-year wait.

As we inched up closer to the rainbow of colors in the pots, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy decision figuring out which pot to choose from. The pots contained kubbeh and a variety of other traditional home-cooked dishes, such as stuffed vegetables and meat stews.

They also sell charcoal-grilled meats.

But then I saw a beautiful pot of pumpkin bubbling away with bits of hot red pepper floating around and it had my name on it.

Moshe dished up the pumpkin with semolina kubbeh and put it in a bowl filled with plain white rice. Mr BT decided to have the same.

Mimi also got the same kubbeh, but over yellow rice and she also took some intestines stuffed with meat and rice that were flavoured with cardamom.

The kubbeh and the stuffed intestines were delicious. It is a good thing I don’t live in Or Yehuda because I would weigh 400 lb (180kg) from eating at Pundak Moshe every Friday.

Erev Yom Kippur 5770

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

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

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

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

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

Baked Fish with Sumac Stuffing

Serving Size: 4

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

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

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Sumac Stuffing for Fish

For the stuffing:

1/2 cup sumac

1/4 cup fresh za'atar or thyme

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

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

About 3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 220C (450F).

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

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

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

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash and Olives

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

Janna Gur’s Carrot and Date Salad

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

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

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

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

Chestnut Honey, Rosemary, and Goat's Milk Semifreddo

Serving Size: 8

2 cups goat's milk

3 sprigs of rosemary

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup chestnut honey

Pinch of salt

2 cups heavy cream

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

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

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

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

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement

Tomorrow at sundown begins the observance of and twenty-five hour fast during Yom Kippur. The meal before the fast should be simple, not too rich and not too spicy. It is better not to make the meal with garlic or hot peppers.

At the completion of the fast, it is better to eat something that is not too hard on the stomach, so we usually break the fast by eating biscuits (cookies) and crackers, and of course some water, but not too fast or you will upset your stomach.

A Yemenite co-worker told me today that I should drink a glass of fresh pomegranate juice before the fast, it will make the fast easier. I just happen to have some pomegranate juice and I am going to try it.

I found a very interesting Saudi Arabian food blog called Arabic Bites. Two sisters share their recipes from the region. I have really enjoyed reading the blog and I decided to make one of their recipes for the break-the-fast, Cardamom Biscuits. They are actually Iraqi biscuits called Klejah and they are not too sweet, just a perfect end to the fast.

Hope that you have an easy fast. Gmar Chatimah Tova (May you be sealed in the book of life).

And to my Muslim friends, Ramadan Kareem.

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