Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Chickpea Puree and Hot Mint Sauce

Roasted Lamb with Pureed Chickpeas and Hot Mint Sauce

The most iconic food of Pesach, the Jewish festival celebrating the Children of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, is usually thought of as matza, the flat crispy unleavened bread that Jews eat for the entire week of the festival instead of normal bread and which its consumers either love or hate. But in reality, the most important culinary icon of this festival is roast lamb, commemorating the lamb’s blood that the Children of Israel were ordered to paint on their doorposts in order to ensure that the Angel of Death ‘passed over’ their houses during the tenth and most dreadful plague, the slaying of all the first born sons of Egypt. And as soon as the newly liberated Jews had set up the Tabernacle, the mobile predecessor of the Temple in Jerusalem, they started sacrificing an unblemished lamb on the anniversary of the Exodus, a sacrifice that had to be eaten that very night together with the matzot that they had baked in a hurry when they fled from slavery.

Today, there is no Temple in Jerusalem and so Jews no longer sacrifice animals on festivals: the only people who continue to sacrifice lambs on Passover are the Samaritans, a small group who are probably descended from the biblical Jews taken into slavery by the Assyrian empire in 772 BCE and who practice a more ancient form of Judaism. But Jewish traditions die hard, and the ancient Temple services continue in modified form to this day, whether through prayer services or, in the case of Pesach, through the symbolic place given to a burnt lamb bone on the Seder table, where every Jewish family annually recreates both the Exodus and the Temple service that celebrates it.

The lamb bone, over-roasted in the oven to symbolise the lamb roasted on the altar, is usually replaced for reasons of convenience and price by a chicken or turkey bone. But it is still raised for all the participants in the meal to see, and referred to as the ‘Pesach,’ the sacrificial lamb; and it is common for Jews, especially those of Middle Eastern origin to actually have roast lamb as part of the feast. In fact, it is not unusual, especially in more religious families, to buy a baby lamb on the hoof a week or two before the festival and have it slaughtered specially for the occasion: I have even seen a lamb being led on a leash up one of the main roads in Jerusalem a few days before Pesach, unaware of its planned role in the annual Jewish psychodrama of national liberation. Modern consumer culture has, of course, taken over in Israel and so people usually buy their lamb shoulders or quarter lambs from the supermarket or butcher; and now that imported lamb has become common, it has become much more popular on the festival table.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have roast lamb on the Pesach table this year, as we were guests. So we made up for it by making our own to celebrate the last day of the seven-day festival, which commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea. We had two frozen quarter-lambs in the freezer, and one of them, which fit the roasting pan perfectly, turned into the following culinary wet dream (see below). The recipe was not authentically biblical, but taken from one of the books of the celebrated Spanish restaurant in London, Moro. However, since the Jewish influence in Spain was so strong for centuries, and still persists in all sorts of subtle ways, it is arguable that this is an original Jewish recipe, not least because the chickpeas on which the lamb was served are a staple part of the Middle East diet. The cavolo nero that was served on the side, however, wasn’t especially authentic: I needed to use some from the garden before it turns into a tall tree.

Roasted Quarter Lamb

Corderro con Garbanzos y Salsa de Hierbabuena

Serving Size: 4 to 6

(Lamb with Chickpea Puree and Hot Mint Sauce) From Casa Moro: The Second Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark

1 shoulder of lamb, about 1.6 - 1.8 kg (3.5 - 4 lbs)

Sea salt and black pepper


4 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2 medium red onion, finely grated

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

To serve:

1 quantity Chickpea Puree (see below)

1 quantity Hot Mint Sauce (see below)

Place the lamb in a large roasting pan. If you are using a shoulder, score the surface very lightly 1-2mm deep in a 1 cm criss-cross pattern to help the marinade penetrate the meat.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together except the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and rub all over the meat. Now add the olive oil (it can prevent the acidity of the lemon and vinegar from penetrating the meat), and leave to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours, turning occasionally, or in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Cook the lamb for a minimum of 3 hours, adding a small glass of water (125ml or 1/2 cup) to the pan after the first 30 minutes and each subsequent hour. Baste the lamb every 45 minutes. To test if the lamb is ready, insert a wooden skewer in the centre: if the meat is soft and has a lot of give, then it is done. Let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Chickpea Puree

Serving Size: 4 to 6

450g dried large chickpeas

Pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Half a medium onion or 1 head of garlic

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1-1/2 rounded teaspoons cumin seeds, roughly ground

30 threads saffron, infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl, cover with cold water, add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and soak overnight.

Drain the chickpeas, rinse well, and place in a large saucepan with the half of an onion or 1 head of garlic. Cover with 2 liters (2 quarts) of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, skimming off any scum, and cook for 1-2 hours or until soft and tender. Drain the chickpeas, saving about 1 cup of cooking liquor. You do not have to remove the skins on the chickpeas.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and puree the chickpeas until quite smooth. Add enough cooking liquor or water so they are similar to wet mashed potato. Set aside.

Just before serving the lamb, in a medium saucepan, heat up the olive oil over a medium to high heat and add the onion, garlic and cumin. Fry, stirring until the onion and the garlic are evenly golden brown. When ready, add the chickpea puree and the saffron infusion. Simmer for 5 minutes and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, sprinkled with the chopped parsley.

Hot Mint Sauce

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Do not worry if the mint becomes discoloured; it is just the action of the vinegar.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 tablespoons finely chopped mint

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Sea salt and black pepper

Place a small saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Add half of the mint and all of the cumin. Fry for another minute and then add the vinegar. Simmer for 30 seconds more and remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining mint and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over the lamb.

An Afternoon with Joan Nathan

Ezra Kedem_Israel Aharoni_Joan Nathan_Mark Furstenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cavalo Nero

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

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

Soup au Ble Vert

Tunisian Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas and Freekeh

Serving Size: 6 to 8

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

1 cup dried small chickpeas

1/4 cup olive oil 1 small onion, diced

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

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon harissa, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

7-8 cups water

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

1 cup cavalo nero, chopped with the center rib removed

1 lemon, quartered

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

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

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

All You Really Need is Soup

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup”

Winter is a good excuse to make hearty soups, something that is true in my house. Mr BT is a world class soup maker. His repertoire includes: chicken soup, lentil soup, onion soup, vegetable soup and cauliflower soup. He always makes a big pot for us to enjoy throughout the week or he freezes some of it to enjoy whenever we want. As the lovely quote from Beethoven states, Mr BT puts his heart and soul in his soups. I am a lucky woman.

Like most of Mr BT’s creations, the recipe for this soup can vary according to what vegetables are seasonally available. You can also substitute lentils or barley for the chickpeas. You may find turkey soup a little unusual: Mr BT decided to start using turkey as a partial or complete substitute for the more common chicken because it has a stronger flavour and has much more meat that similar cuts of chicken.

Mr BT's Turkey and Vegetable Soup

Yield: 10 liters (2 gallons)

2 cups dried medium chickpeas

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

6 large cloves garlic, chopped

8 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced 6mm (1/4 inch) thick

1/2 head celery, dark green leaves removed, sliced

20 juniper berries

3 large sprigs fresh oregano

6 large sprigs fresh thyme

6 bay leaves

4 turkey wings, separated or 2 turkey necks, cut into 8cm (3-inch) sections

500g (1lb) beef soup bones

1/2 head white cabbage, cut lengthwise into six pieces and sliced

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

3 medium courgettes (zucchinis), quartered lengthwise and sliced

2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cut into small chunks

3 large tomatoes, cut into small pieces, keeping the pulp

3 heaping tablespoons of chicken soup powder mixed with a little hot water

The night before making the soup, place chickpeas in a medium sized bowl, add baking soda and cover with enough warm water to leave 4cm (1-1/2 inches) above the chickpeas.

Gently heat enough olive oil (not extra virgin) to saute the onions. Add onions and stir as they saute. After 10 minutes, add the carrots, the celery, juniper berries, thyme, oregano and bay leaves. Cover the pot and saute gently for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not stick to the bottom.

Add soup bones and turkey, and continue to saute gently for another 20 minutes, covered. Add the cabbage, and continue to saute, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.

Add water (hot, if you have a kettle) to within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the top of the pot, bring to a boil, and then lower the flame to a rolling simmer. Add the chickpeas. Leave to simmer for at least 2 hours.

Add the courgette, peppers, tomatoes and the soup powder mixture. Continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve piping hot.

This soup is better on the second and third day.

Erev Yom Kippur

Tonight, I making a simple two course meal consisting of a Moroccan Kdra called Djej Kdra Touimiya or Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chick-Peas, green beans, and some fresh fruit for dessert.

A Kdra is a tagine that is cooked with smen (I have to use olive oil), onions, saffron, cinnamon and sometimes ginger, depending on where you live. I am making a Fez version, which is made with a little dried ginger.

I think I was Moroccan in a former life because I am in love with the food, the architecture, the music and the culture in general. My earliest introduction to Moroccan food was when I bought Paula Wolfert’s, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, at a cookery shop in Seattle, Washington. The first dish that I tried got me hooked and I have exploring Moroccan food ever since. Since moving to Israel, I have been intrigued even more.

Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chick-Peas (Djej Kdra Touimiya)

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 cup blanced whole almonds

1/2 cup dried chick-peas, soaked overnight or canned (if you must)

1/4 teaspoon pulverised saffron (mixed with a little tumeric)

Salt to taste (omit for kosher chicken)

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 large cinnamon stick

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil or 2 tablespoons smen

1-1/2 kg (3 to 3 1/2 lb) chicken, quartered

2 medium yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and finely sliced

4 cups chicken stock or water, more if necessary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

Put the almonds in a pan, cover with cold water and simmer, covered for approximately two hours. Set the almonds aside, submerged in water.

In another saucepan, cover the soaked chick-peas with fresh cold water, boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for one hour. Drain and rinse with cold water. Rub the chick-peas to remove their skins. Discard the skins.

Note: For canned chickpeas, rinse and skin them and set them aside. Do not add them until the chicken has finished cooking.

Place the butter, smen or olive oil in a casserole. Add 1/2 of the saffron-turmeric mixture, the spices and the chicken. Cook on a low flame for two to three minutes. Chop 4 or 5 slices of onion fine and add to the casserole. Add the stock or water. Bring to a boil and add the fresh chick-peas. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered.

Add the remaining sliced onions and parsley. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the casserole. If relevant, add the canned chick-peas to the sauce. Boil the sauce at a high heat, uncovered and reduce the sauce to a thick gravy.

Drain the almonds and add the remaining saffron to the sauce. Cook for an additional two or three minutes and spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve with couscous or rice.

All you want to know about Hummous but forgot to ask

I just found my new favorite blog that is simply called, The Hummous Blog. Shooky Galili, a reporter and columnist for the Israeli news site YNET is the author of this blog and he wrote an article on YNET about hummous vocabulary:

“Hummus is the common denominator for all Israelis. Ask an expatriate what he misses most, watch two Israelis argue for hours about where the best hummus is served, or try driving through the hummus-eateries filled streets of Jaffa on a Saturday and you’ll understand:

Israelis simply love their hummus. That is understandable considering the fact that an average Israeli consumes about 10 kg (about 22 lbs) of hummus a year. ”

One of the best places in Israel to go for hummous is Ali Karavan, also known as Abu Hassan, a hole-in-the-wall on 1 Ha’dolfin Street in Yafo. The entire menu consists of masabacha (chickpeas in warm hummus-tahini sauce), labaneh (a soft cheese made out of yogurt), and hummus with or without ful (slow-cooked fava beans). All orders come with pita bread, raw onions, and a piquant lemon-garlic sauce on the side.

Ali Karavan is open every day except Saturday (Shabbat), from 8 a.m. until the day’s hummus runs out, usually mid-afternoon.

I buy my hummous from a Druze family from Dalyit al Karmel that sells hummous, kubbeh and other tasty salads every Friday at the Ra’anananim Mall in Ra’anana. All of their dishes are delicious. For more information, see Upper Galilee – Beautiful Place, Beautiful Food, Beautiful Drink.

Baby It’s Cold Outside…Soup and Socca

It snowed in Jerusalem this morning and we had hail this afternoon in central Israel. Spring has not sprung yet. Jerusalem gets snow about once a year, but yesterday it didn’t stick.

I like visiting Jerusalem. I think it is a romantic city with all of the Jerusalem stone buildings and the skyline of the old city. The best way to get an overview of the old city is to climb on the roofs of the houses there. The view is amazing.

I really like going to outdoor markets. They are full of sights, sounds, smells and are also a great place to people watch. You can find some amazing faces in the market, like the amba man and the juice man. Their faces are timeless….just put another period costume on them and it could be the market 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.

Mahane Yehuda market is just the market to see all of the things I described above. It has also revamped itself with chic cafes, restaurants and other shops. I was always afraid to go there because of the bombings. I only went there last summer, for the first time since I moved to Israel over six years ago.

The market is always busy, but it is very crowded on Thursday night and Friday morning. Everyone is busy finding things to prepare their Shabbat meals.

I found chickpea flour at the market. My husband and I went to Provence last summer for a glorious vacation and every since we tried the Nicoise specialty, socca, we wanted to try and make it at home. We had our first socca at Lou Pilha Levain Nice.

They prepare theirs on a copper pan. They specialize in serving Nicoise dishes and they do a wonderful job.

They have delicious gargantuan tourte de blette (upper left corner of the above photo), which is a sweet tart filled with swiss chard, raisin and pinenuts and sprinkled with icing sugar. Typical tourte de blette are not as thick as theirs.

Socca is a type of savoury pancake made of chickpea flour and water. It is dead easy to make, but not always easy to reproduce. You need to cook it at a very high temperature for a short period of time. It is typically cooked on a large round copper pan over a very hot wood fire or gas flame.

Of course we don’t have the big round copper pan and open fire they have to make this, but I thought I would give it a try with our cast iron plancha in the oven.

The other night, my husband made a delicious pot of minestrone con ceci (chickpea minestrone). He is refusing to give up the recipe. It is basically the farmers market, sans the fruit, in a bowl. Suffice it to say it was delicious and gave me an idea to try to finally make socca so we could say we had a ceci or hummous festival at our house. I decided to add fresh chives and fresh thyme to mine. It reminded me of Nice, but that is for another posting…..

Chive and Thyme Socca

Serving Size: 4 to 6

300g (1 cup + 5 tbsp) chickpea flour

500ml (2 cups) cold water

1 tsp salt


2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Heat a cast iron skillet in a 240C/475F oven.

Mix together all of the ingredients above and whisk until you have a smooth batter. The batter should be thinner than crepe batter.

Socca batter

Brush a generous amount of oil on the pan. The oil should be smoking. Pour the batter on the hot plancha and cook with the oven door slightly ajar for the first couple of minutes and then turn on the grill (broiler) to maximum so that the socca can get crisp on top.

Socca on the Plancha

Keep an eye on it as it bubbles and rises, but make sure that it doesn't burn. It should only be slightly brown.

It should be slightly crisp on the outside, but creamy on the inside even though it should be about 1/8 of an inch or 3mm thick.

Cut it into squares.

I tried making it on the stovetop and it works, but you have to cook it like a crepe and turn it over. I prefer the oven method.

Socca with Chives

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