Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

We have had a lovely Pesach with family and friends. We went to a powerful and moving play at the Susan Dellal Center for Dance and Theatre in Neve Tzedek, called Silver Spoons. It is performed by members of non-profit group called Knafayim (‘Wings’). This organization provides an opportunity for artistically talented people with special needs to train to be actors, dancers, musicians and artists.

The play is about a group of actors who are mentally disabled, mainly with Down’s Syndrome. Each actor tells a true story about themselves, some of them quite disturbing, such as the women who spoke about being raped. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered for their courage and their amazing talent. But, the most important thing you walk away with is that they just wanted to be respected like any other human being. They have dreams just like you and me. They dream of being a professional dancer, a taxi driver, an actress,  and a bride. I think everyone in Israel should attend the wonderful play and more importantly help this organization realize their dream of  having a center for the arts.

For the final evening of Pesach, I made a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, roasted lamb shoulder with baby artichokes. I marinated the lamb for over 24 hours in red wine, fresh herbs, cinnamon and white wine vinegar. Mr. BT is a very happy man tonight. I hope that you all had a lovely Pesach or Easter celebration with your family.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

Serving Size: 6

2.5kg (6lbs) lamb shoulder, cut into 4 very thick chops, about 1/2kg (1.5lbs) each

2 medium carrots, cut in 2.5cm (1-inch) chunks, (about 2 cups)

2 medium onions, cut in large chunks (about 3 cups)

1 cinnamon stick, 7.5cm (3-inches) long

6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

4 small branches of fresh rosemary

8 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh za'atar

1/2 teaspoon coarsely black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups light chicken stock

12 baby artichokes


Trim most of the fat from the chops, leaving only a very thin layer on the outside surface. Put the meat in a large bowl with all of the ingredients except for the stock and the artichokes. Toss well to distribute all of the seasonings, and submerge the meat in the marinade. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn the meat occasionally.


Heat the oven to 180C (350F). Arrange the meat in a roasting pan, spread the marinade all around them, and pour in the stock. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast for 3 hours, basting and turning the meat every 30 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the oven up to 200C (400F).

Cut the artichokes in half, removing the choke and place them in the pan. Put the pan back in the oven, cover with foil, and cook for another hour or until the lamb is tender. Serve with the pan juices.

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


8-10 matzas

1/2 cup olive oil, for brushing


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.

P is for Patience and Passover

Spring has sprung all over Israel. Almond trees, hollyhocks and other indigenous wildflowers are all in bloom. And spring means we have moved our clocks forward and are now frantically preparing our homes for seven days of Passover, which starts tomorrow night. A time where we have to get rid of every little speck of bread, flour, etc. that may be still hanging around the house. It is a holiday where you need a lot of patience; something that I have a lack of, I must admit. Yes, Mr. BT, I really am admitting that I, Baroness Tapuzina, am impatient.

We are going to be spending the seder with my cousins and so I don’t have to prepare a full seder this year, which is a good thing since I have spent the last several days coughing up both lungs. Yes, my body picked the worst time to have an upper respiratory infection. The good news is that this evening is the first time I haven’t had numerous coughing fits, so I think I am on the mend.

Mr. BT spent a good portion of the morning making his top secret, often imitated, but never duplicated, unbelievably delicious haroset. If the Pharoah had tasted this, he would have let our people go for the recipe, but I fear that Mr. BT wouldn’t have given it up. Would you believe that he won’t even let me watch him make it? And, I am the one who educated him about other haroset than the standard Ashkenazi ones.

I was tired of making the same almond flour-based cakes that I make every year, so I decided to challenge myself and make something I have been wanting to try for years, but was afraid that I wouldn’t have the patience to make them successfully: the French macaroon. I know, I am crazy to make something new for something as important as the Seder, but I really needed the challenge. What I didn’t need was a challenge when I felt like crap, but I had already bought the ingredients and I knew my loving husband would help me, wouldn’t you honey?

So, I read every blog post I could find about making macaroons. Some said to stay away like the plague (they didn’t say which one of the ten), others said after the 9th try you will get them right and don’t make the batter too thick or too thin. But, I didn’t let them scare me.

One of the most important things you must have to make a macaroon is a scale. It is very important to have exact measurements for this recipe. Scales are relatively inexpensive now. I purchased a nice digital scale for 55NIS/10GBP/15USD.

I cracked four eggs the day before I made the macaroons and let the egg whites “rest” in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Some people let them sit on the counter for 24-48 hours, but I was not too keen on leaving them out even though it is still cool enough to do that here. Every post, including Pierre Herme’s recipe, says that you should use old egg whites, meaning ones that have not been separated the same day you make the biscuits.

The other important part of making the perfect macaroon is to have feet on the outside of the biscuit. My macaroons did not have happy feet or any other kind of feet. I guess that will happen on my 9th try. And there will be another try. I must have my feet.

The macaroons turned out okay and surprisingly they did not try my impatience.  No, they don’t have happy feet and some of them wouldn’t come off the silpat, but I was able to salvage 40 out of the 70 I ended up making. I filled them with Rosemarie chocolate filling that I purchased at one of my favorite cooking shops, Touch Food.  I am presenting these macaroons as a gift for the host and hostess, instead of serving them as dessert for the seder.

We want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful Pesach. And also Happy Easter.

Chag kosher v’sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr. BT

P.S. – Keep checking the blog. I am going to make a few new dishes during the week.

French Macaroons

Yield: about 25 filled or 50 unfilled

225g icing sugar

125g ground almonds

125g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs, but do weigh it out)

A few drops of lemon juice

25g caster (granulated) sugar

Food coloring of your choice (follow directions on box)

Place the egg whites in a bowl and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Bring them to room temperature before you start making the macaroons.

Put the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Stop halfway through and loosen any bits that may have clumped in the bottom of the processor bowl.

Sift the almond mixture into a large mixing bowl several times, removing any of the chunky almond bits in the sifter.

Put the room temperature egg whites into a clean metal mixing bowl and whisk until they start to hold their shape. Add a few drops of lemon juice, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar in two lots until the whites form stiff peaks. Finally, whisk in the food coloring until well combined.

Mix one-third of the whites into the dry ingredients. Then tip the rest of the whites on top and, gently fold them in with a spatula, using a figure-eight motion. It will be stiff at first, but it will gradually loosen. You want it to be smooth and glossy, but not too liquidy. The texture is very important and tricky to judge: when you fold the mixture, it should form a ribbon on the surface. Too runny, and you’ll end up with flat crisps; too stiff, and it’s meringue.

Take your piping bag, fitted with an 8mm plain nozzle and fill the bag with the macaroon mix. Then turn up the sides and twist to seal the mixture inside to get rid of any air so that when you squeeze the bag, a solid stream of mixture comes out of the nozzle.

On about three baking trays that have been lined with silpat liners or parchment paper, pipe a round, 2cm-diameter (1-inch) blob (by squeezing the closed end of the bag). Lift the nozzle sharply to finish the blob. Repeat, leaving about 2cm (1-inch) around each one to allow for spreading (they should spread to about 3cm (1-1/2-inches). Continue until all the mixture has been piped – you should have about 50-60 blobs in all.

If any of the macaroons have nipples, smooth them gently with a wet finger. Let the macaroons rest for 45 minutes. This helps them to form a smooth shell when baked. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130C (260F) fan (or 140C/280F).

Bake the macaroons in the middle of the oven, one tray at a time. After 5 or 6 minutes, they should start to rise, forming a lacy collar around the bottom. Cook for a total of 12-15 minutes – don’t let them burn. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the trays. You should then be able to remove them gently by moving the silpat liner away from the macaroon. If not, carefully ease off with a knife.

Pair macaroon shells of similar size and sandwich together with 1-2 tsp of the filling of your choice. Eat immediately, or keep in the fridge for a day to enable the flavour of the filling to enhance the macaroon.

Chicken with Cashews for a Weary Traveller

I have been abroad with Mr BT for the past several weeks visiting our family and old friends. It was a bittersweet trip home because I had to deal with the grim reality of a parent with Alzheimer’s. It is hard to watch my father, still in the prime of his life, who taught me about the world, cooking, art, music, and computers, slip away. The good news is that he is happy every day and I can’t ask for anymore. We also went to visit my 92-year-old mother-in-law in London and went to the beautiful Bevis Marks synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Great Britain, for Shabbat and Purim services. This is the synagogue that some of my ancestors attended and I was able to pray by candlelight as they did so many years ago.

As soon as I organize my photos, I will report on a couple of restaurants we went to in Atlanta.

I am still getting over my jetlag and only feel like making dishes that are quick and made in one pan. I think the best dishes for one pan are Chinese stir-fry and Chicken with Cashews is one of my favorites. I like to make it spicy and gingery, so I usually add 2 teaspoons of ginger to the recipe. I substituted green peas in place of the green peppers adding them at the last minute so they would not be overcooked.

Chicken with Cashews

Serving Size: 4

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1kg or 2lbs)

1 egg white

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Pinch white pepper

1 large green pepper

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons chili paste

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

For cornstarch mixture:

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Cut chicken breasts into 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces. Mix the egg white, cornstarch, soy sauce, and white pepper in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Cut the bell pepper into 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces and cut the onion into eighths. Mix the cornstarch, water and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the wok on high. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and tilt the wok to coat the sides with oil. Add the cashews and stir-fry for about 1 minute or until the cashews are light brown. Remove from wok and drain on a paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the chicken turns white. Remove the chicken from the wok.

Add 2 more tablespoons of vegetable oil and tilt the wok to the coat the sides with oil. Add the onion and ginger; stir-fry until the ginger is light brown. Add the chicken, bell pepper, Hoisin sauce and chili paste; stir-fry 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Sprinkle the mixture with the cashews and green onion and serve.

Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

I haven’t really talked about my life before Mr BT, meaning my single girl days, because it is not really a subject that is relevant to this food blog. However, when I decided to make a dish from my single girl past, it brought back memories of living in the quaint German town of Schwaebisch Hall. It is a time where I expanded my cooking repertoire: I learned how to make Kaesespaetzle from a local friend, and Zimtsterne from my landlady.

I also learned about Turkish cuisine thanks to my Turkish boyfriend at the time. He took me to his aunt and uncle’s house for an authentic meal. I remember every dish his aunt made was delicious. I used to hang out at a lovely Turkish restaurant that made the most delicious Turkish Pide. The Turkish family that owned the little restaurant were from Eastern Turkey and they would stuff the flat, long oval-shaped dough to order. They filled it with feta and aubergine or my personal favorite, ground lamb. I think they had a couple of other varieties, but I don’t remember. They made them on a long wooden paddle and then put them directly on the oven floor to bake. I am going to have to try and make them sometime.

I shared a flat over a bar with two Greek guys  from Thessaloniki, an Italian guy from Genoa, and an Italian girl from Friuli. The two Greek guys ran the bar. We had a lot of fun at the bar, especially when we would sweet talk our two Greek roommates into having a “Greek Night” in the bar with dancing and plate throwing. On the rare occasion when the bar was closed and we were all home together, we would take turns making dinner. One time the Italian guy made pasta with his mother’s homemade pesto. You haven’t had pesto until you have had Genovese pesto. One night the female Italian roommate and I made pasta with my marinara sauce. And one night, the Greek guys made Kotopoulo me Lemoni sto fourno me Patates or roasted lemon chicken with potatoes. It is a very simple dish, but bursting with lemony goodness. It is better if you make this with fresh oregano, but you can use dried. I used fresh zaatar, which is a distant cousin, because I did not have any oregano on hand.

Kotopoulo me Lemoni sto fourno me Patates - (Roasted Lemon Chicken and Potatoes)

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 chicken cut into eight pieces

3-4 medium-size red potatoes, cut into quarters

Juice of 3 large lemons

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2-3 teaspoons of dried oregano

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves, with skins left on

1 large onion, sliced thinly

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place the onion, garlic cloves and potatoes in a roasting pan, sprinkle half of the oregano, salt (omit if using kosher chicken) and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over everything in the pan and then gently toss until the potatoes are coated with the oil and oregano. Place the chicken on top of the potato-onion-garlic mixture and the rest of the oregano on the chicken. Pour the lemon juice over everything in the pan, and bake at 180C (350F) for 1 hour or until the chicken and potatoes are a nice golden brown.

Sgonfiotti di Castagne (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

If you have been following me for a while, you know by now that I like to try something different each year for Hannukah as well as other holidays in the Jewish calendar. Most of the time they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out so great. Usually I don’t blog about the disasters. I tried making pumpkin fritters for the first night of Hannukah. They smelled great, they looked good, but they tasted like fried goo. Thank goodness I had a lovely gargantuan fresh mango for Plan B.

I had bought chestnut flour a while back and kept forgetting to make something with it. I found all sorts of interesting recipes only to find out they tasted terrible. Either they were dry and tasteless or wet and gooey. I found an Italian recipe for chestnuts puffs and thought I would give them a try. The worst that could happen was that I will never buy chestnut flour again.

The dough did not rise very much and I didn’t have high hopes on the dough puffing up at all, but lo and behold, the dough did work. The taste is very interesting, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. They have the faint sweetness of fresh chestnut. Mr BT loved them. They are not very sweet, they almost taste like a fried graham cracker, but not. I am still on the fence about whether I really like them or not, but buying more chestnut flour is a great excuse for going to Umbria on another holiday. Maybe I do like the puffs after all.

Sgonfiotti di Castagne - (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

Yield: Approximately 40 puffs

1/2 cup warm water

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1-1/4 chestnut flour

1/4 icing sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil

Mix the warm water and yeast in mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup of chestnut flour, the icing sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In the mixing bowl, add the remaining 3/4 chestnut flour, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, butter, egg, and salt. Beat at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 45 minutes.

Heat about 7cm (3 inches) of oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough to 3mm (1/8-inch) thick. Cut rounds using a floured 38mm (1-1/2 inch) round cutter.

Fry the rounds, about 10 at a time, turning once until puffed golden, 30 to 45 seconds. Drain on a paper towel. Dust with the reserved chestnut-sugar mixture and serve warm or a room temperature.

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.

Home Away from Home – The Final Day

On the last day of our vacation, we had a leisurely breakfast at the treehouse and then drove to Kibbutz Yechiam to go to the annual Renaissance Festival at  Yechiam Castle.

Probably built by the Templars in the late 12th century, Yechiam was destroyed by the Mamluke Sultan Baybars of Egypt and Syria in the late 1200s. Its ruins were rebuilt in the 18th century by the local Bedouin warlord, Sheik Dahr El-Omar.  Today, the castle is open for visitors and is used for private events, concerts and festivals.

The kibbutz is famous for Deli – Yehiam, a kosher meat factory specializing in deli meats. Today, Deli – Yehiam has 20 percent of the local Israeli sausage and deli meats market, and exports their products to the US and Europe.

We went to the Renaissance Festival to hear our friend Myrna Herzog’s ensemble, Phoenix, perform songs from the Portuguese Crypto-Jews and from the Sephardic tradition;  Spanish music by Diego Ortiz, Francisco de la Torre, Luiz Narváez, Juan del Encina and Diego Pisador, and music from the Colombina song-book. Phoenix is always a joy to hear and see; the audience was moving and swaying to the early music with a South American beat.

We stayed to listen to a performance of madrigal singers, which normally we would have enjoyed had it not been for the unbelievably rude people sitting all around us. They talked loudly throughout the entire performance and the ones behind us did not shut up until I asked them why they were there. The rest of the Renaissance Festival was rather disappointing, but maybe it is unfair of me to try and compare it to the Georgia Renaissance Festival that I used to attend when I lived in Atlanta.

After the two performances, we decided to stop somewhere for a late lunch and head back home.

We decided to stop in Kfar Rama to try a highly recommended restaurant called Ezba, which is run by Chef Habib Daoud and his wife Minerba. I have to tell you that when we saw the faded sign in the middle of a grotty industrial area next to the highway, and no cars in the narrow and quite steep driveway, I did not have high hopes that the restaurant was still in operation. The building looked abandoned, but Mr BT insisted that we stop and he went to the front door to see if anyone was there. He waved to me to park the car and come inside.

And when we entered, the decorations looked like someone’s house, but this time we were actually eating in a restaurant.

The restaurant specializes in dishes of the Arab cuisine from the Galilee. Chef Daoud uses herbs and spices from the area and offers a unique opportunity to taste the simple and mouth-watering delicacies that are traditionally served in the homes of local Arab families. The dishes vary according to the season and to what nature has to offer in the immediate surroundings.

After our warm greeting, we were served a cabbage salad like I have never had before. It did not have a sour pickled flavour which I really dislike, but tasted more like sauteed cabbage. It was delicious, as were the local olives.

As we studied the menu, I saw a dish that I had always wanted to try, Akoub, which is cardoons. Cardoons are sold at the shuk, but they are very expensive because they are difficult to harvest. You also have to be very careful when trying to prepare them because each stalk is covered with small, nearly invisible, spines that can cause enormous pain if they are lodged in the skin. Mr. BT and I decided to share an order as an appetizer. They were delicious,  tasted like a cross between an artichoke and broccoli, and were served in a flavourful broth over a rice and toasted vermicelli mixture.

After a few minutes of being the only ones in the restaurant, one car after another started arriving until the restaurant was completely full with excited guests anticipating a good meal.

For my main course, I ordered kubbeh siniyeh, which is made from the same mixture of bulgur and minced meat as in the normal torpedo-shaped kubbeh, but baked in a ceramic dish.

Mr BT ordered Beef with Freekeh, toasted young wheat which when cooked looks like green bulgar and has a distinct smokey flavour. According to legend more than 2000 years ago, before leaving in retreat, soldiers who had attacked a village in Lebanon set the fields on fire in order to destroy the wheat, condemning the local people to ruin. Instead, trying to save whatever they could, the locals collected the burnt grain from the fields and after cleaning it, they discovered a toasted grain that was green and very nutritious. Because it is harvested while it’s still young, Freekeh contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals than mature wheat and most other grains. It is also low in starch and high in fibre–up to four times the fibre of brown rice.

The main dishes were accompanied by a nice fresh Arab salad with pomegranate seeds.

We washed the meal down with fresh lemonade with pomegranate seeds.

As we were finishing our meal, three women in their early 60s entered the restaurant a bit unsure if they should stay. They discussed it in a huddle for a minute and proceeded to sit at the table behind Mr BT. One of them sat opposite the other two for a few seconds and then decided to move to the other side of the table. They were now all sitting on the same side of the table. One of the other women asked why she had move, that now it would be more difficult to carry on a conversation. The woman said, “I don’t want to face the wall!” With that, and please do not send me any hate mail for saying this because you have to live in Israel to understand this, I knew one or more of them were of Polish origin. They all three started examining the glasses, silverware, and plates to make sure they were clean. Two of them started to wipe the glasses, silverware and plates. I thought I was going to burst out laughing, but I composed myself. I couldn’t tell Mr BT what I was witnessing because they were directly behind him. I was afraid they would understand what I said if I spoke to him in German. Then, they started looking at the menu, one of them, I will call her Miss Adventurous, was excited about the menu and decided she wanted to order Akoub. The other two asked why they didn’t have schnitzel on the menu and hoped that they at least had some chips. At that point I wanted to walk over and tell them to get out, that they didn’t deserve to try this wonderful food, and they should just go to Burger Ranch for lunch, but we got up, very happy from the lovely meal we had just had and headed home with wonderful memories of an unforgettable three day getaway.

I am so lucky to have Mr BT as my life partner and travel companion. I can’t think of anyone else I would like to go with on a travel adventure.

Keftes de Espinaca con Muez

There is something cathartic telling someone that you are sorry if you hurt them or caused them pain in any way. My husband  and I say we are sorry after every fight because my grandmother always told me to never go to bed angry. This was one of the many pieces of advice she gave me as a key to a successful marriage and I took them to heart because she and my grandfather were married almost 65 years. Every year, before Yom Kippur, my husband and I look each other in the eye and say, “I am sorry if I hurt you or caused you any pain this past year.” All of this and asking friends and neighbors for forgiveness is essential because the religious part of Yom Kippur only relates to what we sins between man and G-d. In other words, breaking commandments to do with Shabbat or keeping kosher, and so on.

The first time I said this to my husband I just welled up with tears and felt a huge weight lift off of me. It was a very strange feeling, catharsis.

Now we are celebrating the week long holiday of Sukkot. I do not have beautiful pictures of a Sukkah this year, but I will be posting about a lovely adventure with Mr. BT in the next few days.

Last night, I roasted chicken that I had stuffed with garlic, lemon, fresh thyme, and fresh rosemary. I placed the chicken on a bed of sliced butternut squash, drizzled on pomegranate molasses, and sprinkled turkish pepper all over. I served this with a wonderful Sephardic spinach patty that I made with ground walnuts. They are lovely and light, and could also be served as a main dish with another vegetable or salad.

Chag Sameach to everyone. I hope you are having lovely meals under the stars.

Keftes de Espinaca con Muez

Serving Size: 4-6 as a main course or 8-10 as a side dish

(Sephardic Spinach Patties with Walnuts) Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Rabbi Gil Marks

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2-1/2 cups thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry

About 1 cup freshly ground walnuts

1/2 cup whole wheat dried bread crumbs or matza meal

About 3/4 teaspoon table salt

Ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Flour for dredging

Vegetable oil for frying

Lemon wedges for serving

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the crushed garlic. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, ground walnuts, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more bread crumbs and if the mixture is two dry, then add another egg. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.

Shape the spinach mixture into patties 7.5cm (3 inches) long and 4cm (1-1/2 inches) wide, with tapered ends. Dredge the patties in flour and lightly pat off the excess. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. Fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.

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