Comfort in a Bowl

Polenta with Mushrooms, Cavalo Nero and Gorganzola

I am sure everyone is wondering where I have been for the last two months. I wish I could give you some glamorous answer, but the truth is that life got in my way: work deadlines and a trip to London; and I had a cold which then turned into the flu over the holidays. Now I am back and raring to go.

Winter has finally reared its head here in Israel and all I could think of was making comfort in a bowl. First, I made us a big pot of hearty chicken soup which nurtured Mr BT and me through the cold-flu episode. It healed us, warmed us and comforted us as it always does. Good old chicken soup.

When I finally had the energy to cook again, I decided to make the second best comfort in a bowl recipe, polenta. Soft polenta, stirred clockwise with a wooden paddle over a low flame and served with sautéed White Button mushrooms, King Oyster mushrooms, homegrown Cavolo Nero from my garden and creamy Gorgonzola cheese. Life can’t get much better than that.

I am looking forward to an interesting 2012, filled with new recipes, new adventures and some lovely surprises.

I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Leeks, Cavolo Nero and Gorgonzola

Serving Size: 6 as main course

For the polenta:

4 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup polenta (not instant)

For the vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large leek, pale and green parts only, rinsed and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small bunch of Cavolo Nero, kale or Swiss Chard, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 package White Button or Cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 large King Oyster mushrooms, cut in half and then cut lengthwise

1/4 dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme

100g (3.5 oz) Gorgonzola Dolce

Place the water and salt in a large saucepan over a low flame. Immediately add the polenta in a steady stream while stirring constantly in a clockwise motion to avoid lumps. Stir ever few minutes in a clockwise motion until all the liquid is absorbed and the polenta is thick, approximately 30-40 minutes. The polenta should be soft and creamy, not grainy.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks, garlic and Cavolo Nero. Saute until the leeks are slightly soft and barely golden, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, cooking until they are softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the leek mixture and the white wine to the pan. When the wine is cooked down slightly, add the chopped thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the polenta has finished cooking, crumble in half of the Gorgonzola and mix through. Place the polenta on a large platter and form a well in the center. Place the mushroom mixture in the well and crumble the rest of the Gorgonzola on top.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/01/14/comfort-in-a-bowl/

Lemon and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli

Lemon Goat Cheese Ravioli

Italians are passionate about just about everything, but when it comes to food, they have a passion for the ingredients that make up a dish as much as for the final result. I was recently speaking to a friend of mine from Firenze about garlic while he was making spaghetti con aglio, olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers). Although he was chopping up the Chinese garlic that is the most commonly available kind in Israel, he told me, “I only cook with Italian garlic or red garlic from France!” I explained to him that I only cook with local Israeli garlic that I buy fresh in season at the shuk. At that moment it hit me that I too am passionate about my ingredients.

If I am making homemade pasta, I will only make it with ’00’ flour, which is finally readily available here. And the reason for that is not because I am a flour snob, but that the all-purpose flour here in Israel behaves differently from flour in the US or the UK. I remember going to a cooking shop in Tel Aviv about 10 years ago that carries special ingredients for cooks and asking them if they had ’00’ flour. They had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained that doppio zero is a high protein flour that is the most highly refined and is talcum-powder soft. A few months later they ordered some and it has been available ever since. Even Stybel, a local flour mill, is offering it (Stybel 9 pasta flour).

My pasta maker was out of commission for several years because the handle was misplaced in one of our moves. I finally ordered the handle in the States and a friend’s parents were kind enough to bring it with them when they flew to Israel. What better way to try out the handle than whipping up a batch of pasta dough. The pasta dough recipe comes from a wonderful Italian cookbook called Two Greedy Italians: Carluccio and Contaldo’s Return to Italy by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, which Mr BT brought back from London as a “just because” surprise. This is Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe with the exception of the turmeric and the lemon zest.

I changed Yotam’s recipe a little by serving the pasta with a drizzle of  homemade basil oil. It was a nice addition and didn’t overpower the lemon in the ravioli.

Lemon Goat Cheese Ravioli

Lemon and Goat's Cheese Ravioli

Serving Size: 4 as a starter

Pasta dough

300g (3 cups) Italian '00' flour

100g (1 cup) semolina

1/4 tsp turmeric

Grated zest of 3 lemons

4 eggs

Filling

300g (11 oz) soft goat's cheese

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of chilli flakes

Black pepper

1 egg white, beaten

To Serve

2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, finely crushed

1 teaspoon chopped tarragon

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Rapeseed, olive oil or basil oil (see recipe below)

Lemon juice (optional)

Mix the flour, semolina, tumeric and lemon zest together on a clean work surface or in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. With a fork, gradually mix the flour into the eggs until combined and then knead with your hands until the dough is smooth and pliable, but not sticky. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten the dough and dust each side with flour before placing it in your pasta machine. Set your machine to the widest setting and roll the pasta dough through. Turn up the setting on the machine by one and repeat the process until you get to number 10 (or follow your manufacturer's instructions) and your dough is almost wafer-thin. When the pasta sheet is rolled out, keep it under a moist towel so it does not dry out.

Use a 7cm (3 inch) round ravioli stamp or the rim of a glass to stamp out discs from the sheets of pasta. Brush a disc with a little egg white and place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Place another disc on top and gently press any air as you seal the edges of the raviolo. Place the ravioli on a tea towel or tray, sprinkled with semolina, and leave to dry for 10-15 minutes or cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator for one day.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, tarragon, and lemon zest. Drizzle with rapeseed, olive oil or basil oil, sprinkle with salt and a squirt of lemon juice.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/11/12/lemon-and-goats-cheese-ravioli/

Basil Oil

Yield: About 1 cup

1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

3/4 cup olive oil

Add the basil and oil to a blender; puree until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/11/12/lemon-and-goats-cheese-ravioli/

Ein Kamonim Goat Farm

Ein_Kamonim_Goat_Farm

Amiram and Drora Obrutsky started the Ein Camonim goat farm in 1979. They took the name Ein Camonim from Ephraim Kishon’s book The Fox in the Chicken-Coop, which is about an aging Knesset member who is told to take time off after he collapses during a speech and finds himself in a backward Israeli village far from civilization.

Ein_Kamonim_White_Alpine_Goat

Amiram Avrutzki got into the dairy business “by accident” when a friend asked him if he could look after a herd of goats because he was short of space. Drora, who didn’t want to waste the goats’ milk, started to make cheese from it. At first, she made the cheese in her kitchen and then she studied the art of cheese-making abroad.

Ein_Kamonim_Black_Alpine_Goat

Amiram started researching the different breeds of goats in other countries: he discovered a breed of Alpine goat that produces 1,000 litres of milk a year as opposed to  the 140 litres produced by the goats native to Israel. After dealing with a lot of bureaucratic red tape, Amiram was given permission to import Alpine goats from France, and he is now an expert who exchanges information with other goat breeders around the world.

Ein_Kamonim_Old_Scale

Ein Kamonim was one of the first dairies in Israel to make boutique cheeses directly on the farm.

Ein_Kamonim_Cheese

They produce about thirty different kinds of cheese, which are all made from the milk of their herd. All the milk is whole and pasteurized and all the ingredients are natural without preservatives or food coloring.

Ein_Kamonim_Cheese (1)

You can buy all of their cheeses and delicious goat’s yogurt in the dairy shop.

Ein_Kamonim_Fig_Walnut_Jam

Don’t leave without bringing home a jar of their delicious fig and walnut jam, which goes well on top of most of their cheeses or slathered on buttered bread.

Ein_Kamonim_Restaurant_Al_Fresco

The best way to try all of their cheeses on offer is to dine al fresco at their beautiful restaurant

Ein_Kamonim_Cheese_Platter

and enjoy their “all-you-can-eat” cheese platter,

Ein_Kamonim_Salad_Labane_Lunch

which comes with a variety of salads, olives,

Ein_Kamonim_Salad_Bread_Lunch (1)

and a lovely basket of fresh whole grain rolls. It also includes a carafe of wine, water and homemade lemonade.

Ein Kamonim Goat Farm and Restaurant
Acre-Safed Highway 85, between Hanania Intersection & Nahal Amud
Ein Camonim
Phone: 057-942-8691

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/

Rosh Hashana 5772: Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

For erev Rosh Hashana I tried another recipe from Joan Nathan’s new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, and it was a perfect ending to a lovely meal. Apart from the wonderful taste, what I loved about it is that it was easy to make. I made the apple sauce and the tart dough a couple of days ahead and baked it the morning of the dinner. The apple sauce is delicious on its own and the best part is that this dessert has very little sugar in it. I used Granny Smith apples for the apple sauce because I prefer their tartness and for the slices on top, I used Gala, a lovely delicate apple that is perfect for a French-style tart.

Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

Serving Size: 8

(French Apple Sauce Tart) Slightly adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

130g (9 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small cubes

2 cups of thick apple sauce (recipe below)

2 Gala apples, peeled and thinly sliced, preferably with a mandoline

In the bowl of a food processor, put the flour, salt and sugar, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter or margarine and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons of water and pulse until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in cellophane, and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Roll the dough into a circle 25cm (10-inches) in diameter. Place the dough into a 22cm (9-inch) tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork and bake blind for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool slightly.

Lower the oven temperature to 200C (400F). Spread the apple sauce over the tart base and place the sliced apples on top in a circular pattern. Bake for 30 minutes and serve at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/10/01/rosh-hashana-5772-tarte-a-la-compote-de-pommes/

Compote de Pommes

Yield: 2 cups

1 kilo (2 pounds) Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

250 grams (1/2 pound) Italian blue plums or red plums

1/8 cup of sugar

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/3 cup white wine

Place all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan, cover, and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are mushy. Set aside to cool.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/10/01/rosh-hashana-5772-tarte-a-la-compote-de-pommes/

Rosh Hashana 5772: Muesli Challah

Muesli Challah

I love researching the history of food, and one of the foremost experts on the history of Jewish Food is Gil Marks. I am going to have the immense honor of dining with him and hopefully picking his brain a bit. His entry about Challah in his book, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, explains the different traditions of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities for eating bread on Shabbat: whereas Ashkenazi communities had little access to white wheat flour, and so reserved it for the challah on Shabbat, the Sephardi world had easier access to white flour, and so the difference between weekday and Shabbat bread was not so much in the type of flour used, but in different variations of the bread itself, including adding sesame seeds, or even switching to whole wheat flour.

After reading this entry in Marks’ encyclopedia, I wondered if my ancestors would think that my festive challah made from whole wheat, rye and white flour would be fitting enough for our holiest holidays, and I hope the answer would be yes. I have a recipe for muesli buns that I thought would make an interesting challah for this year’s Rosh Hashana, and it didn’t disappoint. It might be a bit unconventional, but I am an unconventional kind of girl. I also made my tried and true challah for the plain eaters in the family.

This year, as every year, we celebrated Rosh Hashana with family and friends in Jerusalem. It was an interesting group as we represented the best of the Israeli table, one that represented several different countries: Israel, Holland, England, Germany, France, the Philippines and the United States. We thought of loved ones we missed who are no longer here or are far away, we laughed, and we thought of all of the things we want to do to make this year more sweet, more healthy, more prosperous, and most importantly more peaceful.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and we hope you have happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year.

Chag Sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr BT

Muesli Challah

Yield: 2 medium loaves

500 grams (4 cups) whole wheat flour

300 grams (3-1/3 cups) rye flour

300 grams (3-1/3 cups) all purpose flour

30 grams (2 tablespoons) salt

50 grams (2 ounces) fresh yeast

740 ml (3 cups) cold water

100 grams (3.5 ounces) raisins

100 grams dried figs (3.5 ounces), cut into quarters

100 grams prunes (3.5 ounces), cut into quarters

100 grams hazelnuts, roasted

100 grams Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

400 grams mixture of flax seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Honey for drizzling on top

Add the flours and salt to a mixer with a dough hook and mix until combined. Crumble the fresh yeast over the flour mixture and add the cold water. Mix initially at low speed and then increase the speed to medium until the dough separates from the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be a little sticky. If the dough is too dry, add water, a tablespoon at a time. Lower the speed and add the dried fruits and hazelnuts. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a towel or cellophane, and let rise for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.

Punch the dough down and place on a clean, floured, work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into eight pieces, hand-rolling each piece into a long snake, and braid into two loaves with four strands each. Brush each loaf with honey and sprinkle the seed mixture on top.

Place each loaf on a lined baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180C (350F). This bread freezes well.

For buns: Make half a recipe and divide the dough into 12 pieces and bake for 15 minutes.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/09/29/rosh-hashana-5772-muesli-challah/

A Moroccan Fantasy in Israel

I have been talking for the last several years about driving up to the north for the day and going to the Moroccan Fantasy (פנטזיה מרוקאית) store in Hatzor Haglilit to find a tagine. I have always joked that I must of have been Moroccan in a past life because I love Moroccan architecture and design, food and music.

Morocco Fantasy Store

Finally, Mr BT and I went there a few Fridays ago and when we first drove through the industrial zone and entered the parking area of the store, the front of the store didn’t look like anything special.

Tagines

But then we looked to our right and gasped in delight at the sea of tagines,

Tables_Sinks

tiled tables and sinks,

Planters

and beautiful planters.

Moroccan_Fantasy_Inside

The moment I walked in the store, I knew I was home. It fulfilled all our expectations and more.

Moroccan_Painted_Screens

The first place I gravitated to was the back of the store where they had beautiful hand-painted

Moroccan_HandHammered_Doors

hand-hammered,

Moroccan_Doors

and my personal favorite, hand-carved doors which I could picture as the entrance to our master bedroom.

Moroccan_Lamps

Moroccan_More_Lamps

The other thing that caught my eye were the beautiful light fixtures.

Tagines_Vases_Pots

But after coming back down to earth, I focused on the real reason I came to the store, which was to buy a tagine that I could cook with. They have beautiful decorative tagines for serving, but you cannot use them for cooking.

Tagines (1)

When buying a tagine for cooking or serving, make sure they have a label on them that says “sans plomb”, which means “without lead”. And of course, always make sure you buy from a reputable dealer.

Fire_Base_for_Tagine

If you want to cook with a tagine in the traditional way, you can buy a stand for it and cook using wood or charcoal. I decided to forgo this for now, but will buy one in the future.

Tagine

I came home with a rustic tagine perfect for making one of Paula Wolfert’s lovely recipes. But, I will be going back to buy doors, tiles, lamps….. Mr. BT’s bank manager had better watch out!

Moroccan Fantasy
Industrial Zone
Hatzor HaGlilit
Open: Sunday-Thursday 0800 – 1600
Friday 0800 – 1430
Telephone: 04-6800744 or 050-2766965

Borough Market Part II – International Stalls

Borough Market

Here is my second and final installment about Borough Market. The market has an extensive international representation with stalls from Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and so on. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Middle Eastern Pastries

Olive Oils

Empanadas

Alfahores

Brindisa_Tortas

Cassoulet

Great_Sign

Lardo

Olives

Pan_de_higo_con_alemendras

Pancetta

Wild_Thyme_and_Fir_Honey

Turkish_Treif_Wrap

I am a bit confused as to why a Turkish sandwich would contain roast pork. Hmmmm….

An Ottolenghi Dinner

Baked Lamb Kubbeh

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

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

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

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

Baked Lamb Kubbeh

Baked Lamb Pie - Kibbeh bel-saniyeh

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

125 grams (1/2 cup) fine bulgar wheat

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

350 grams (3/4 lb) minced lamb

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander

60 grams (2 ounces) pine nuts

3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

Salt and black pepper

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

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sumac

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/08/06/an-ottolenghi-dinner/

Green Beans Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Serving Size: 4

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

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

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

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

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 mild fresh red chilli, seeded and finely diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

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

Coarse sea salt

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

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

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

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/08/06/an-ottolenghi-dinner/

Israel Celebrates Ramadan Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraqi Lentil and Meatball Soup

Iraqi Lentil Soup With Meatballs

Serving Size: 6 to 8

2 medium onions, minced

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

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt plus salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups homemade chicken broth

1 pound brown or yellow lentils

55g (about 2 ounces) angel hair pasta

2 carrots, finely diced

Juice of half a lemon

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

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

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

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

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/07/25/israel-celebrates-ramadan-too/

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

For more Ramadan recipe ideas, see:

Makloubeh

Musakhan

Makroud (Date and Sesame Biscuits)

Ma’amouls

Klejah

Ba’abe

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