Hot Colombian Night

Tonight for Shabbat dinner, I decided to make an appetizer to remember my Uncle Alfred’s life in Colombia. We have a large Argentinian community here and with that comes delicious Argentinian empanadas, but empanadas are found all over South American, including Colombia. I decided to try making empanadas with a masa dough and beef filling. I used top sirloin ground beef instead of steak.

Note: If you your dough is too wet, add a little flour to the mixture until it is elastic.

Colombian Sirloin Empanadas

Serving Size: 12

For the filling:

1 cup peeled boiling potatoes cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil

2 cups sirloin steak, 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, white and pale green parts

1 cup seeded and diced ripe tomatoes

2 tsp. ground cumin

For the dough:

1 tsp. roasted garlic

2 cups fine-ground cornmeal

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

2 1/4 cups hot chicken stock, canned low-sodium chicken broth, or water

Empanada Filling

For the filling:

Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Cover and bring to a boil, then boil until just tender, about 5 minutes, and drain.

Meanwhile, in a large non reactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the sirloin and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked potatoes and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Empanada Dough

For the dough:

To make the dough, in a large bowl, mix the garlic with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Add the cornmeal, salt, pepper and parsley. Add most of the hot stock and mix just until well combined — the dough should be sticky and elastic. Add more stock only if needed. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to let the dough set. Cover your work surface with plastic wrap and turn out the dough onto it. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and roll the dough flat with a rolling pin, using short strokes, until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Without removing the plastic wrap, and using a cup about 4 inches in diameter, cut out rounds of dough.

Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Clear out the dough between the rounds and reserve. With a pastry brush, brush the edges of each round with the beaten egg. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling on the lower half of each disk. Working on one empanada at a time, grab the plastic wrap and use it to fold the dough over to create a half-moon shape. Pressing through the plastic wrap, gently seal the empanada with the edge of the cup. Remove from the plastic wrap and set aside on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining empanadas, re-rolling the scraps of dough until it is all used up.

Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a heavy medium-size pot, or heat the oil in a deep fryer. When the oil is hot, about 365 F (use a bit of leftover dough to test it; the dough should quickly puff and turn gold), drop four empanadas into it and fry until golden. Remove and drain on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining empanadas.

Serve hot.

Upper Galilee – Beautiful Place, Beautiful Food, Beautiful Drink

The Upper Galilee is one of my favourite areas to visit in Israel. Most of our delicious fruit comes from this area: apples, pears, plums, cherries, raspberries and grapes….Ah! the grapes. It is chockful of vineyards producing some delicious wines. Yes, Israel is producing some very nice wines thanks to a number of boutique wineries (not all of them in the Galilee) that have popped up over the years. Some of my favourite wineries are Flam, Sea Horse, Amphorae, Saslove, Galil Mountain, Dalton, Recanati, Margalit, Castel and Carmel’s (click on Carmel Fine Wines) new line of single vineyard and private collection wines.

There are also boutique dairies producing some top class cheeses and yogurts, boutique olive oil producers and delicious honey.

I am always relaxed when I go to the North and there are a number of zimmers or cabins that you can stay at for the weekend. Most of the zimmers include a homemade Israeli breakfast with omelets, homemade jams, assorted bread, Israeli salad, olives and cheeses. I find the zimmers a perfect way to getaway for a romantic weekend. Most of them have a jacuzzi for two!

If you want luxury, then I recommend staying at Israel’s only Relais & Chateau hotel, Mitzpe Hayamim. It is a beautiful spa-hotel with a great view of the Hula valley, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and even the Mediterranean to the west.

The scenery is breathtaking and it is a great place to go on long nature walks and hikes in the mountains.

The Upper Galilee always makes me think of wonderful Middle Eastern dishes. I love kubbeh, grilled meats and all the different mezzes, such as roasted cauliflower and aubergine, hummous, red pepper salad, etc.

Usually when I serve a Middle Eastern dish, I buy the salads from a very sweet Druze woman who has a restaurant in Dalyit al Karmel and comes to the a shopping mall near my house to sell her delicious salads, lamb kubbeh and baklawa. I like to buy her hoummous, cauliflower puree, red pepper hummous and her kubbeh. Shown in the two photos above. The fourth salad on the bottom right is made of courgettes.

One of my favourite dishes is Makloubeh, which means “Upside Down”. It is the Palestinian national dish and is also made in Jordan and a few other Middle Eastern countries. This dish can also be made with lamb or a mixture of chicken and lamb.

Don’t be shocked by the amounts of oil. You do not have to use that much.

If you are using kosher chicken do not add any extra salt. You get enough salt from the chicken and the salted eggplant. I would add a little more of the spices to the dish, but I like fragrant dishes.


Serving Size: 8


2 whole chickens, skinned and quartered (or 8 chicken thighs)

3-1/2 cups canola oil, plus 3 tablespoons

1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt to taste

4 saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cardamom pods

3 peppercorns

5 cups water

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large heads of cauliflower, separated in to florets

2 large eggplant, peeled, cubed and salted; place in a colander so the water can drain

2 large onions, halved through the root end, thinly sliced, core still attached

5 cups medium grain rice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon allspice

4 saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts for garnish

In a large saucepan, brown both sides of the chicken in 1/2 cup canola oil. Once browned, add nutmeg, allspice, cumin powder, salt, saffron, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, and peppercorns.

Add approximately 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook over low-medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the meat begins to pull away from the bone. Set the chicken and 2 cups of broth aside.

Fry the cauliflower in a large pot with 3 cups of canola oil until golden brown. Remove and let drain on paper towels. Drain the eggplant and fry as you did the cauliflower. Set both the fried cauliflower and eggplant aside. Heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil in very large pot. When the oil is hot, not smoking, add the onions and saute them for approximately 10 minutes. Place the chicken pieces on top of the onions and cook together for a few minutes then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the rice about 5 or 6 times until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a bowl, add the spices and mix well.

Place the fried eggplant and cauliflower on top of the chicken and then put the rice on top of the vegetables. Add the 2 cups of reserved chicken broth (make sure the whole spices are not in the broth) and water to just barely cover the rice. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover. When the water has been absorbed, the dish is done, approximately 25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. Place a large serving plate on top of the dish and flip the pot and plate over. Carefully lift the pot off the plate and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

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