Corn Couscous with Lamb and Vegetables

Corn Couscous with Lamb and Vegetables

As I have noted on many of my Moroccan posts, Paula Wolfert is responsible for my love of Moroccan food. When I picked up her original Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco cookbook over 20 years ago in the original Sur La Table store at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, Washington, I felt a connection to the food and country that I knew so little about.

When Paula announced that she was working on a new Moroccan cookbook, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. But this time my fingers will not physically turn the pages because I am jumping into the 21st century and buying the eBook version. I have run out of bookshelves in my house and made a tough decision that if I wanted another book, I would have to resort to buying the electronic version. So far, I have bought two electronic cookbooks: Encyclopedia of Jewish Food and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. I didn’t invest in an electronic book reader; I downloaded the free reader software for my Mac and I have to say, I rather like the ebooks. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the feel of a book in my hand, but it is really convenient to get a book you want within seconds.

Paula’s latest cookbook, The Food of Morocco, is not available in electronic form until 15 November, but I have pre-ordered it and I cannot wait to scroll through the pages. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait to get my hands on one of the new recipes.

Couscousiere and Sieve

This special recipe deserved to be cooked with the right equipment, so I went to couscous central, Shuk Netanya, to buy my new couscoussière (kiskas in Arabic) and a large sifter to make couscous from scratch. One of these days, I will buy a clay couscous steamer, but the metal one will have to do for now.

This Berber recipe, from the Souss valley in southern Morocco, which is famous for its Argan trees, is a bit unusual if you are not familiar with different types of Moroccan tagines, because the couscous (called kesksou baddaz in Moroccan Arabic) is not made from traditional semolina, but from cornmeal. It calls for mint and cilantro instead of the more conventional combination of cilantro and parsley. Lamb and mint always go well together, and the fresh mint in this dish imparts a wonderful flavor in the meat and goes surprisingly well with the corn couscous.

The only changes I made to this recipe is that I used fresh herbs instead of dried, and made the couscous according to the recipe I learned from my friend Raizy. For a nice fluffy couscous, I would recommend following her recommendations.

Corn Couscous with Lamb and Vegetables

Serving Size: 8

Slightly adapted recipe from the new cookbook The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert.

500 g (1 lb) fresh lamb shoulder, bone in, cut into 4 large chunks

Marinade:

2 peeled garlic cloves,

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1 large handful of fresh spearmint (Nana in Hebrew)

1 pinch of hot red pepper

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

For the tagine:

½ cup dried chick peas

1 medium red onion, grated, (about 1 cup)

Argan oil or extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon Moroccan paprika or sweet paprika

Pinch of cayenne

Pinch of dried saffron soaked in 3 tablespoons water

Pinch of ground turmeric

2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano or 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup peeled, seeded and diced fresh or canned Roma tomatoes

1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rinsed and drained

2 cloves

1 dozen sprigs of fresh cilantro

1 dozen sprigs of fresh mint

680g (1-½ lbs) corn grits or polenta

500g (1 lb) carrots

500g (1 lb) purple topped turnips, swedes (rutabagas) or kohlrabi

500g (1 lb) small courgette

1 butternut squash or pumpkin

2 sweet red peppers, cored, seeded, & quartered

1 tablespoon harissa paste

1 tablespoon olive oil, butter, or smen (ghee)

Fresh spearmint leaves for garnish

One day in advance, marinate the meat in a crushed mixture of garlic, spices and salt. Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of water to cover.

The following day, drain the fresh chickpeas, cover with fresh, cold water, and cook, covered, for l hour. Drain, cool, and remove the skins by submerging the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water and gently rubbing them between the fingers. The skins will rise to the top of the water. Discard the skins and set the peeled chickpeas aside. (If using canned chick peas, peel them and set them aside.

Bring the meat to room temperature. Meanwhile, place the onion, 2 tablespoons oil, ginger, paprika, saffron water, turmeric and herbs in a 5 liter (5 quart) casserole set over medium heat. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion dissolves into a puree, about 10 minutes.

Add the meat and slowly brown on all sides. Meanwhile, stud the lemon with cloves, stuff it with the fresh herbs and tie together with a piece of string. Add it to the casserole along with the tomato and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour.

Add the chickpeas and cook for 1 more hour, or until the meat is fork tender and the bones are easily removed and discarded.

Meanwhile, follow my instructions for making the couscous here, but follow the measurements in this recipe.

In a wide bowl, toss the grits with 3 tablespoons argan oil or olive oil and then work in a 3/4 cup of cold water. Let rest and ten minutes later moisten with another 3/4 cup of water.

Add the corn grits to the couscoussière, cover and follow my instructions above.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables: peel the carrots and turnips and cut them into 1-1/2 inch lengths. Trim the zucchini ends, halve and cut into 4 centimeter ( 1-½ inch) strips. Peel and cut up the pumpkin in to large chunks.

Add the turnips and carrots to the casserole and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the pumpkin, courgette and peppers, and continue cooking until all the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Take the casserole off the heat and remove the preserved lemon bundle before serving.

Dump the couscous onto the middle of a large, preferably round, serving dish and moisten it with 2 cups of the broth and olive oil or smen. Fluff the couscous with a fork and form a huge well in the center. With a perforated spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables into the well. Top with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve the remaining broth on the side.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/10/12/corn-couscous-with-lamb-and-vegetables/

Algerian-Style Slow-Cooked Lamb Neck

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

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

Here are a couple of other recipes for lamb neck:

Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew

Slow-Cooked Lamb Neck with Pomegranate, Garlic and Ginger

Algerian Lamb Neck

Algerian-Style Slow-Cooked Lamb Neck

Serving Size: 4

Adapted recipe from Williams-Sonoma

8 slices of lamb neck

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

500g (1 lb.) yellow onions, diced

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

4 cardamom pods, skins removed

Pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoon mild curry powder

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 (800g or 28oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 bottle dry white wine

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 lb. carrots, peeled and coarsely diced

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and coarsely diced

Preheat an oven to 180C (350°F).

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

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

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

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/04/22/algerian-slow-cooked-lamb-neck/

 

An Afternoon with Joan Nathan

Ezra Kedem_Israel Aharoni_Joan Nathan_Mark Furstenberg

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a discussion at the annual Jerusalem International Book Fair entitled, The Changing Jewish Kitchen – Is Jewish food still Jewish food and what is it?. The panel consisted of cookbook author Joan Nathan, Israeli chef, TV personality and food writer Israel Aharoni, Israeli chef Ezra Kedem (Arcadia Restaurant in Jerusalem), and the moderator, baker, chef and restaurant consultant Mark Furstenberg.

I have been a fan of Joan Nathan’s since my mother gave me one of her cookbooks, Jewish Holiday Kitchen, almost 25 years ago. The first two recipes I made from that cookbook were for Passover: Seven-Fruit Haroset From Surinam and Larry Bain’s Bubie’s Haroset. They were a big hit at my family Passover dinner. Years later, when I moved to Israel and Mr. BT and I were hosting our first seder, I told him about a Venetian haroset recipe containing chestnuts that I had found in Joan Nathan’s cookbook and which I wanted to make. He said, let’s make it, and this was the basis for the now famous Nordell family haroset.

During the panel discussion, Ms. Nathan talked about when she visited Strasbourg, France to do research for her latest cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France: the people she interviewed there, she recounted, begged her to find some lost Alsatian Jewish recipes. She said that she is afraid that some of the traditional Ashkenazi recipes are being lost because people are shying away from making the more fattening recipes, like those containing chicken fat, duck fat and goose fat.

Israel Aharoni told an interesting story about Jewish fusion cooking he witnessed in someone’s home in Jerusalem. During the taping of his famous television program, Derech Ha’ochel (The Way of Food), with his friend and co-host, comedian Gavri Banai, they were invited to have Shabbat dinner with a family in the Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. The woman of the house started preparing gefilte fish, which she served with hilbeh, a traditional Yemenite condiment made with fenugreek, zhug, and coriander,  and tehina (sesame paste). Aharoni, whose parents were from Uzbekistan,  was quite shocked that a traditional Ashkenazi family would put Yemenite and Middle Eastern condiments on their table. But then he realized that this was a common occurrence for families who lived in the melting pot of Israel where you find Yemenites and Moroccans who eat gefilte fish and Ashkenazis who eat North African shakshouka and tagine.

The discussion moved on to topic of olive oil. Most people would assume that a country where you can find ancient olive oil presses would have a long and uninterrupted history of cooking with olive oil. But as Aharoni said, “Until 20 or 25 years ago, you couldn’t even get olive oil in Israel. You had to have a friend, who had a friend, who knew someone who lived in an Arab village.” However, he said when Italian food became popular here, the local supermarkets started stocking lower quality Italian and Spanish olive oil. Things have progressed, and you can now buy high quality local olive oil.

Ezra Kedem, who is half Kurdish and half German,  said that when he was a child in Jerusalem and came home hungry from school, he would be given dark bread with olive oil and za’atar. His eyes lit up when he talked about this childhood treat. He said that his parents bought their olive oil once a year from Arabs in Beit Jala, a town south of Jerusalem. The olive oil was put in two or three jerrycans that they would bring to the Arab family to fill up with the liquid gold, as Kedem described it.

After the discussion was over, I asked Ms. Nathan if she was going to be doing a book signing, to which she replied, “they didn’t arrange one, but come with me and I will be happy to sign a book for you.” She is very down-to-earth and easy to talk to. I really felt like I could have talked to her for hours, but she had a appointment to be interviewed by fellow Israeli blogger and Haaretz editor, Liz Steinberg, who wrote a lovely article about her in that newspaper.

What I love most about her cookbooks is the stories and history that she gathers for each recipe. She takes you on a wonderful trip to a country, a town, a home or a restaurant without leaving your home. She makes sure that you feel the love that goes into each family dish. I so wanted to talk to her about some of my own family treasures: the matza balls, the noodle and matza schalets, and the butter cookies. Alas, it will have to wait for another trip.

The first recipe that caught my eye in her new cookbook was a recipe called Soupe au Blé Verte, which is a spicy vegetarian version of the classic Tunisian soup called Shurbat Farik bi’l-Mukh, made with chickpeas and freekeh, and it is a perfect soup for a cold winter’s night. I made a few slight additions to the recipe: I added garlic, since as most of you know, having a half-Hungarian in the house means that you can’t make something without garlic unless you can prove that it is an absolutely forbidden ingredient in that particular dish.

Cavalo Nero

And, I also added our homegrown Cavalo Nero (Tuscan Kale) at the very end of the cooking process. It gave a nice crunchy texture to the soup.

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous is a real treasure and I will be cooking more dishes from it in the coming weeks.

Soup au Ble Vert

Tunisian Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas and Freekeh

Serving Size: 6 to 8

(Soupe au Blé Verte) Slightly adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan

1 cup dried small chickpeas

1/4 cup olive oil 1 small onion, diced

1 stalk celery, finely chopped 1 carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon harissa, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

7-8 cups water

1 tablespoon tomato paste 1 cup freekeh, picked over for stones and chaff and rinsed

1 cup cavalo nero, chopped with the center rib removed

1 lemon, quartered

Place the chickpeas in a bowl, cover with water, and soak them overnight.

The next day, put the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic until the onion is transparent. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan with 1/4 cup of parsley, the bay leaf, harissa, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and a cup of water, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups of water and bring to the boil. Stir in the freekeh and lower the heat. Cover the soup, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours. You may have to add an additional cup of water. Add the cavalo nero and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a wedge of lemon.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/03/12/an-afternoon-with-joan-nathan/

Mujadarah – Esau’s Bowl of Goodness

One day Esau, the biblical Jacob’s elder brother, came home one day from hunting in the desert with no game at all. He walks into the family tent and Jacob, the stay-at-home mommy’s boy, looks up at him and says, “hey bro, what’s wrong?” Esau looks daggers at him and says, “I have had a bad hare day. In fact, I didn’t manage to catch a single hare and I am absolutely starving. What is in the pot?” “Lentil stew” replies Jacob. “Could I have some?” says Esau. “What’s it worth to you?” says Jacob. “Name your price.” says Esau, and that was how the children of Israel ended up with the inheritance of Esau and Jacob’s father, Isaac, the son of Abraham. And the rest, as they say, is history.

We don’t know how accurately this little screen play reflects what happened in that tent some 4,000 years ago. But, then, as now, lentils were a key part of the Middle Eastern diet — perhaps tasty enough for Esau to give up his birthright to his younger brother — and although mujadarah probably didn’t exist at that time, this lentil- and rice-based dish is one of the most distinctive and loved parts of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Mujadarah, moujadara, mejadra, mudardara or megadarra: no matter how you spell it or pronounce it, it is a simple poor man’s dish composed of cooked lentils with groats, wheat or rice, and garnished with fried onions. Many claim it as their own and it is made  throughout the Middle East.  Middle Eastern Jews typically served this dish twice a week: hot on Thursday and cold on Sunday. You can order this as a side dish in every grill restaurant in Israel and find ready mixes in the supermarket. But, homemade is the one and only true way to enjoy mujadarah. It is easy to prepare; the only time consuming part is slicing the onions and frying them.

I think the best way to slice the onions is using a mandoline, but you can also use a slicing blade on a food processor. The onions should be dark brown. The caramelised sweetness of the onions marries well with the rice, spices, and lentils. You can also use 2 teaspoons of Baharat instead of the cinnamon and allspice, if you wish.

Mujadarah - Lentils and Rice

Serving Size: 4

Recipe from Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark

For Mujadarah:

1 cup white basmati rice

1 cup small brown lentils

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and pepper

For caramelised crispy onions:

300ml (1-1/4 cup) canola oil

2 large onions, sliced thinly using a mandoline or food processor

For Mujadarah:

Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Rub the rice with your fingertips until the water becomes cloudy. Drain the rice in a sieve and repeat the process three times or until the water is clear. Place the drained rice back in the bowl and cover with warm water, and stir 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The salt prevents the rice from breaking up when it is cooked, and the soaking reduces the cooking time by half.

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the lentils are still a bit hard. Drain and set aside. Make the crispy onions while the lentils are cooking.

To complete the dish, add the olive oil to the pan and add the spices plus 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Stir in a third of the crispy onions, the lentils, and the drained rice. Gently mix them together. Cover with rice and lentils with 1/2 cm (about 1/8 of an inch) above. Season with salt to taste. Cover the top of the water with parchment paper or foil and cover the pan with a lid. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer after 5 minutes. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. The dish is ready when the all of the water has been absorbed.

Serve with a generous amount of crispy onions.

For caramelised crispy onions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. You may have to fry the onions in batches.

When the oil is hot, add enough sliced onion to make one layer, and fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is a golden to mahogany color. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining onion.

Tip: The oil can be reused and will impart a flavor of the onions.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/07/12/mujadarah-essaus-bowl-of-goodness/

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

Crust:

8-10 matzas

1/2 cup olive oil, for brushing

Filling:

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/03/31/mina-de-maza/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/05/30/mishmish-kind-of-day/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/05/30/mishmish-kind-of-day/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/31/liddle-lamzy-divey/

 

2nd Wedding Anniversary Dinner

December 30th was my 2nd wedding anniversary and we decided to wait until the weekend to celebrate. I try very hard to keep politics out of my foodblog, but I will say that even though terrible things are happening around us, we still felt we should celebrate our anniversary by making a nice meal. We have postponed birthdays and other special events over the years, but decided that we could have a comforting and quiet meal at home. We hope that the fighting will stop soon and that we can find some way to make peace with our neighbors.

The meal that we made had an unintentional color theme of brown. Brown is really not one of my favourite colors, but in this case, it was represented by one of my favourite meats that I rarely have a chance to eat, lamb. The supermarket near my home has been running a special on lamb for the past month and it is such a great deal that we decided to buy some. The butcher explained that a meat company has bought large quantities of lamb on the hoof and is marketing the meat both through selected supermarkets and directly to hotels and restaurants, making it possible for us to buy young lamb at a great price.

We more or less followed a recipe from Nigella Lawson for “Moroccan Roast Lamb”. This recipe is very simple, you make a simple marinade that you rub on the meat and let it marinate overnight. The main ingredient of the marinade is ras al hanout, a spice that I have a love affair with and have used in numerous dishes that I have posted on this blog. It is such a versatile spice that you can use in both savory and sweet dishes.

We served this with a steamed artichoke and vegetarian brown rice maklouba (rice layered with courgette and eggplant), which is a layered rice dish that I made a while ago with chicken. For dessert, I made a chocolate and chestnut torte that was light and airy. It was a perfect meal to celebrate actually eight years with my partner for life. Mr. Baroness Tapuzina has brought a great richness to my life and I love him very much. Thank you for a very interesting eight years, here is to many more to come.

Moroccan Roast Lamb

Serving Size: 6

Adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

2kg (4.4lbs) lamb shoulder

2 tablespoons ras al hanout

Juice of two lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cups of red wine

Mix all of the above ingredients except for the red wine and make incisions all over the lamb shoulder. Using your fingers, push pinches of the mixture into the incisions and then rub the remainder of the marinade all over the meat. Place in a large freezer bag or some other covered container and marinate the meat in the refrigerator overnight.

Take the meat out the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Marinated Lamb Ready for the Oven

Heat the oven to 200C (400F). Place the meat in a covered clay pot or foil covered roasting pan, add the red wine and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160C (325F) and roast for 2-3 hours until falling off the bone. Drain the fat from the sauce and serve over the lamb.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/04/2nd-wedding-anniversary-dinner/

torta morbida di castagne e cioccolato

Rich Chocolate and Chestnut Cake
Torta Morbida di Castagne e Cioccolato
From La Cucina Italiana, December 2008
Serves 12

North African Spicy Fish

Chreime is a North African dish made from a firm white fish, such as grouper, amberjack, sea bass, grey mullet, carp or even the dreaded rat of the lake, Nile perch. Here in Israel it is typically served for one of the major Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashana or Passover, but it can really be served any time.

This is another dish that I have been wanting to make for a long time, but always thought I had to buy expensive fish to make it with. I had some Nile perch in my freezer that I had been dreading to make something with, and I say dreading because it is really not my favourite fish, but my husband seems to like it.

Nile perch is considered to be the rat of the lake because it will eat all of the other fish around it. It is one of the largest freshwater fish and reaches a maximum length of nearly two meters (more than six feet), weighing up to 200 kg (440 lb). It has a rather strong flavour, so this recipe was perfect to cover the fishiness of this fish. The other great thing about Nile perch is that it is inexpensive and easy to find at every Israeli supermarket, so it is perfect for the strange and stressful times were are all living in.

The recipe I used called for 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Now, I love spicy food, but I was too chicken to make it with that much cayenne, so I used 2 teaspoons. Next time, I will use 3 teaspoons. And if you are not crazy about caraway, well too bad, it is the secret weapon in this recipe, so don’t omit it.

Mr. BT and I really enjoyed this dish and I will definitely make it again. I would like to try it with grouper or sea bass sometime, but Nile perch definitely worked.

Chreime

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1kg (2lb 2oz) white firm fish (grouper, amberjack, haddock, cod, sea bass, grey mullet, carp or Nile perch), cut through the bone into thick slices or use thick fillets

1/3 cup oil (don't waste extra virgin on this)

10 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons Moroccan or good quality Hungarian sweet paprika

1 tablespoon (or less) cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground caraway

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup water

Heat the oil in a large shallow pan. Add the garlic and spices and fry over high heat while stirring until the oil becomes aromatic. Add the tomato paste and stir until blended. Add the water and cook with a covered pot for about 5 minutes.

Add the fish to the sauce, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. If the sauce does not completely cover the fish, turn them halfway through the cooking.

Cook for about 10 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Serve with couscous.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/10/26/north-african-spicy-fish/

The Veal Shank Redemption

Okay, I know the title is a bit lame, but the photo of the food is even lamer. I forgot to check the batteries on my camera and when I tried to take the photo, the batteries were dead. I had to take a picture with my phone camera instead. Oh well.

Beef and veal have been very expensive here the last several months and we decided that it just wasn’t worth spending our hard earned money on expensive meat. However, the supermarket up the road from our house had veal shanks on sale and I couldn’t resist. They were 50NIS (14USD or 9.80Euro) per kilo. So, I bought two meaty ones.

I found an interesting North African style recipe for osso bucco.  This  recipe would normally be made with lamb. It was very easy to make and absolutely delicious. It was fall-off-the-bone tender and it has a very distinct spicy kick from the chili paste, which we both like. Next time I will add a little more of the spices because they got a bit lost. I only detected a slight taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. I served it with lemon orzo and green peas.

This is a recipe you could easily make the day before.

Moroccan-Style Veal Shanks

Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 meaty veal shanks (about 1/2 kilo or 1 1/4 pounds each)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (no salt if you are using kosher meat)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon harissa or other chili paste

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup chicken stock

One large can crushed tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 170F (325F). In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole, 2 at a time, and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the casserole.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the casserole. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and harissa and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Put the veal shanks in the liquid. Cover tightly and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, basting occasionally, until the meat is almost falling off the bone.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/09/06/the-veal-shank-redemption/

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