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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The holidays always make me think of the fun family gatherings we used to have. With most of the older generation no longer with us, it makes me think even more about the holiday foods I used to watch my paternal grandmother make. Before Hannukah, my grandmother was busy making her famous square chocolate cake, butter cookies, candied almonds, Butter-Mandel Kuchen, which she called Hefeteig (yeast dough) and Schnecken. But one of the treats that we all looked forward to were the fresh apple fritters she would make. The house would smell of sweet oil, apples, cinnamon and powdered sugar. I can smell them now as I am writing this post.
I decided to introduce my family’s tradition of apple fritters for Hannukah to Mr. BT and by the smile on his face, I think it will be a tradition we will continue.
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup beer (lager or pilsner)
1 large firm baking apple, such as Granny Smith
1/4 cup rum, brandy or calvados
Peanut or safflower oil, for frying
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. Mix in a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the beer to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beer in two additions; whisk well to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Peel, core, and slice the apple into ten 1/3 cm-(1/8 inch)-thick rings. Spread out the rings on a large plate or shallow pan, and pour the rum over the apple slices. Let the slices sit for 20 minutes to macerate in the rum.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold them gently into the batter.
Fill a high-sided skillet or wide pot with 5 centimeters (2 inches) of oil, and heat the oil to 190C (375F). In batches, dip the apple rings into the batter to coat both sides, and fry, turning once, until the apple fritters are golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle icing sugar on top, and serve warm.
The food-culture diversity in Israel was born from the influx of immigrants from around the world. And because of this, certain foods have become “Israeli” dishes. It doesn’t mean that we now own these dishes like some would have you believe, but we have grown to love them just like their countrymen who brought their beloved recipes with them. Everyone likes to bring the flavours of home with them where ever they may roam.
Turkish and Balkan Jews who came to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s brought their country’s rich Ottoman recipes of long ago. One of these popular foods is the bureka (in Israel), börek (in Turkey), and byurek (in Bulgaria).In Israel, bourekas are typically served with a hard-boiled egg, a Jewish idea that has now become an Israeli custom. In Jewish communities, such as in Turkey, Bulgaria and Iraq, bourekas were served for a late breakfast on Shabbat, when the men returned from prayer in the synagogue, and the hard-boiled eggs that had been cooked in a slow oven, below the hamin, were a natural accompaniment. Sometimes the larger bourekas are split in half and filled with a little salad and a hard-boiled egg.
These flaky pastries were invented in Central Asia by nomadic Turks and became a popular element of Ottoman cuisine.
Börek was an established part of Ottoman cuisine by the time of the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. At least two varieties of it were prepared for Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The position of chief börek maker in the palace kitchens was always an important one. Numerous apprentices labored under his watchful eye rolling out the dough on huge marble slabs. Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682), a Turkish traveler who journeyed through the territory of the Ottoman Empire and neighboring lands over a period of forty years, tells us that Istanbul in his time had no fewer than 4,000 börek shops — interestingly enough, a figure four times higher than he gives for baker’s shops.
Here are some of the best bourekas shops in Israel. Is your favorite one of these or do you have another favorite?
Julie Cohen and her family came from Bulgaria in 1948 and set up a phyllo production to make a living. They were the first and only people who did this in Jaffo. They used to stretch the phyllo on their beds. People would come from all over Israel to buy their phyllo and people still flock to their store for their delicious pastries. Leon, her son, joined the business, and then Leon’s son’s Avi and Eli.
Leon and Son’s Turkish Bourekas shop in Jaffo sells a variety of Turkish and Balkan savory and sweet treats. Make sure you try a selection of their bourekas. Take home their baklava which is not too sweet, and the long pastries filled with sweet cheese and raisins. The truth is, you will have a hard time walking out without buying everything. And for the skilled baker, you can buy fresh phyllo and kadaief to make your own treats.
Leon and Sons Bourekas
17 Olei Tzion Street, Jaffo
Moshe Pinchas is a third generation Turkish-Israeli who follows a tradition set by his maternal grandfather, who sold bourekas in Istanbul. In Yehud, a town southeast of Tel Aviv with many Turkish immigrants, he doesn’t do the baking himself, but has two Turkish bakers who come in early every morning: one of them, master baker Mehmet Kazelrak, has been doing it nearly all of his life after leaving school at the age of eight to apprentice with a master baker in city of Urfa, in southeastern Anatolia, famous for the birthplace of Abraham.
Turkish Delicacies is a meat and dairy shop that makes bourekas stuffed with cheese, potato, and spinach and also make Turkish water börek (su böreği), which is stuffed with spinach or cheese.
Make sure you try the Anatolian pide, which is shaped like a torpedo and stuffed with cheese, spinach and topped with an egg that is “soft-cooked” when it bakes.
They also make lahmacun (pronounced lahmajoun), a flat pide that is covered with a spicy lamb filling, Anatolian pide stuffed with lamb filling, and pide stuffed with vegetables. Don’t leave here without trying at least one pide and one boureka, and be sure to take home several pieces of kadaief stuffed with walnuts.
The small stand of the Original Turkish Bourekas is in the heart of the Ramle market. Haim Kulo’s father, who immigrated from Istanbul, started selling these flaky and mouthwatering delicious pastries in 1957. Today the third generation is proudly selling their bourekas. The “original” also has branches in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem, but the original wagon and the old-fashioned lemonade siphon make those bourekas taste that much better.
Original Turkish Bourekas
3 Jabotinsky Street, Ramle
In a neglected municipal market built in the 1950s, is a boureka shop that is hidden in an alley behind a blue tarp. You would never imagine that you would find some of the best spinach bourekas in Israel among the crumbling buildings. The Hazan family uses an heirloom spinach called Galilee spinach (sbanach) to make these delicious treats. Sbanach, which you can buy at the shuk, are vibrant green leaves that make an appealing and flavorful addition to salads, and hold up well when cooked. Be sure to try the bourekas with an eggplant filling that is slow-cooked instead of being grilled.
Ashkenazi Market, Ashkenazi Street, Yehud
A few doors down from the fruit and vegetable stand. Look for the blue tarp.
Today, with a heavy heart Sarah, Miriam, and I shut down Flavors of Israel. It was a project that we were all very excited about, but work and other things interfered with us devoting as much time as we needed to devote on the website. I haven’t talked about my professional life on the blog, but I do have a demanding full time job in the software industry. This really only leaves me with the weekend to find exciting and interesting food-related adventures to write about and photograph. In my case, maintaining two websites was more than I could handle. But don’t worry, we are all still great friends and plan to continue collaboration in the future. The most important thing is that we all still have our own blogs, with different flavors of Israel; and I intend on still showing you the beauty and bounty, dear readers, of the country that I found love and grown to love, my home, Israel.
Enough with the tears now…
I hope that all of my Jewish friends and family are having a nice time in their Succahs, enjoying family time. David and I spent the first night with a lovely couple in our Moshav.
I already showed you the light dessert I made for the pre-fast dinner for Yom Kippur. The main course was a delicious Spanish dish that originally called for pheasant and pancetta. Since we don’t have access to pheasant here, I made the dish with chicken and did not substitute the pancetta, which you can substitute with smoked goose.
Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining olive oil, and add the onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves and cinnamon, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add the thyme, paprika and cloves, and stir well for a minute, then add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chicken to the tomato mixture and then add the white wine. Reduce the heat and simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 20-40 minutes. Then add the chestnuts and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
I love a rich Brazilian flan with an almost burnt caramel sauce. I grew up eating coconut flan that my grandmother’s Chinese cook used to make for dessert for special occasions and many a Shabbat dinner. So, when I decided to make it during the time Mr BT and I were courting, I was deflated when he told me that he loathes custard of any kind! I said, “but you haven’t had my flan. Maybe I can change your mind?” “All right, I will give it a try” he said. Well, I am happy to say that I did convert him that night, and I was not afraid to go ahead and make a light and creamy orange flan for the pre-Yom Kippur meal.
This flan is dairy free, but still has the same creaminess that one expects without the need for a caramel sauce. It is pure orange goodness. This dessert will be a perfect ending to your Sukkot meal.
300ml (1-1/4 cups) freshly squeezed orange juice, not strained
Preheat the oven to 120C (250F).
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick, light and fluffy. Gradually add the orange juice, while whisking, making sure that you whisk the sides and bottom of the bowl. Pour the mixture into four glass or ceramic ramekins and place them in a deep pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour cold water up to the level of the top of the orange/egg mixture, about half way up the ramekin. Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The flan should be wiggly and will be creamy and orangey. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours before serving.
We’re having a heatwave.
A tropical heatwave.
The temperature’s rising,
It isn’t surprising,
We’re having a heatwave.
Okay, I changed the last line…
It is really hard to be motivated to cook in this heat right now, but I am trying to make things that I can either make ahead of time or make something that doesn’t require me to be in the kitchen for too long. This pasta dish looks time consuming, but you can make the chicken stock ahead of time and freeze it.
Hope everyone is staying cool and enjoying the last dog days of summer. It is time to start planning for the holidays and I will be posting some Rosh Hashana ideas in the coming days and weeks.
1 bundle of herbs (10 sprigs parsley, 10 sprigs dill, 2 bay leaves, 5 sprigs thyme)
2 carrots (1 chopped and 1 whole)
2 onions (1 chopped and 1 whole)
5 black pepper corns
3 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Flour, for dredging
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of rosemary, chopped
2 sage leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup green peas
1 kg penne, rigatoni, gemelli or other short hollow pasta
For the stock:
Remove the wings and necks from the chicken and place in a medium size pot with the herbs, the whole carrot and the onion, black pepper corns, juniper berries and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour and a half. Discard the vegetables and herbs, and set aside the chicken pieces. Dissolve the tomato paste in the stock and set stock aside.
For the chicken:
Remove the fat that is on the inside of the chicken cavity and chop it coarsely. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into eight pieces, dredge them lightly into flour, and set aside. Put a half a cup of olive oil and the chopped chicken fat in a large dutch oven or deep frying pan with a cover on medium-high heat. When the chicken fat begins to dissolve, place the chicken pieces in the pot, in small batches, and brown on all sides. Set the chicken aside.
Put the chopped vegetables (carrot, onion and garlic) in the pot and saute for three to four minutes. Add the chopped herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme) and continue stirring for two more minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and stir. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot. When the wine evaporates, add enough chicken stock to cover, bring to a boil, lower the fire, season with a little salt and black pepper, stir once and simmer uncovered. Every so often, add a ladle of stock and stir. The cooking time will be an hour and a half to two hours, at the end of which the stock will be gone and the dish will be dense and nicely browned. Add the green peas at the very last minute and cook until heated through.
Cook the pasta al dente in lightly salted water according to instructions on the package; drain. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Place the chicken with its sauce on top, stir gently and serve.
I wanted to make a traditional Ramadan dessert this month, a recipe that called for mahleb, which is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of the St Lucie Cherry (Prunus mahaleb). The stones are cracked to extract the seed kernel, which is ground to a powder before it is used. It adds a lovely flavor of bitter almond and cherry to breads, cakes and biscuits.
I found a perfect date and sesame biscuit recipe called Makroud that is made by Israeli Muslims and Palestinians. There are several variations of Makroud that are also made in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, but this version is not as sweet.
Mr BT and I would like to wish all of our Muslim friends Ramadan Kareem.
Place the flour, crumbled yeast and spices in a large bowl. Add the corn and olive oils and stir until well combined. Gradually add the water and knead the dough for 2-3 minutes into a soft smooth dough. Set aside.
For the filling:
Mix the pressed dates with the oil and spices until it becomes a soft, malleable paste.
Divide the dough into balls the size of a fist and divide the date paste into the same number of balls. Both the dough and the date balls may be dripping with oil: this is normal.
Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).
On a large work surface, sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seeds. Flatten a ball of dough into a round the size of a pita. Flatten out a date ball and place it on top of the dough. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and turn the dough over and roll out to the size of a dinner plate. The sesame seeds will prevent the dates from sticking to the work surface. Turn the dough over again, date side up and roll the dough to form a log shape. Repeat with the remainder.
Cut the logs into 5cm-wide (2-inch) biscuits and place on baking sheets. You do not have to place them too far apart because they do not spread. Bake for 10 minutes until they are golden brown. Serve slightly cooled or store up to a month in a sealed container.
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.
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.
While perusing in my new favorite cookbook looking for something interesting to do with the fresh salmon I had just ordered, I found an interesting sauce for fish called Garum. When I asked Mr. BT if he would like this sauce, he yelled out “GARUM? Do you know what that is?!” I said no and he explained that it is an ancient Roman fish sauce made from stinky, rotten fish. I gasped and said, this recipe is a very watered-down version with olives and 4 anchovies. He said, “ok, how bad can that be.”
So, in my curiosity about the history of cuisine, I found out that garum is the ancient Roman ketchup. They put it on everything, and I mean everything! I found a recipe for Pear Patina, an ancient Roman dessert, that called for garum. I guess that is where the expression, “he puts ketchup on everything” probably came from, replacing ketchup with garum.
Roman cooks placed great emphasis on sauces and flavors, but none was more ubiquitous than garum–fish sauce. The modern equivalent would be tomato ketchup or Tabasco sauce, utilitarian products used to enhance all manner of dishes, both lavish and prosaic…today’s global cuisine provides an equivalent to garum in readily available Asian fish sauces (such as nuoc nam, nam-pla). There were many garums (also known as liquamen) so there was no universal recipe, much depending on the catch at hand.
There were hundreds of recipes for garum, few of which survive, for each manufacturer–each fishing family–had its own favorite blend. The third-century writer Gargilious Martialis gives an example in his De medicine et virtue herbarum:
“Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a container, whose inside is sealed with pitch, with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs, possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others in a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat the layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.”
This modernised garum is neither rotting nor stinky and is a delicious sauce for most firm fish. You could serve it with hot or cold fish.