Foie Gras, Goose Schmaltz and Baharat

People always seem to ask me why I moved to Israel and I always had a really hard time explaining why until two nights ago.

I didn’t have some religious experience or fall in love with someone or hear a heavenly voice calling my name on Masada. I just came to visit for the first time at the age of 34 and something felt right. I really felt at home in Israel, so I came for a second visit and moved here two years after my first visit. I found a job and my future husband four months later. I am a real aliyah success story. What I haven’t told you is that I came at a very difficult time….. ten days before this Intifada. Then, a year later my birthday was never the same and is now known as 9/11.

So, now you are asking what does all of this have to do with the title of this entry…..

Wednesday night my husband and I went to Jerusalem to hear a concert performed by students of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (formerly known as the Rubin Academy), to whose board of governors he has just been elected. And as I was listening to variety of music styles, I finally realized why I moved to Israel. It was because I could have a taste of everything in a very small space without having to travel all over the world to search for it. Israel is a melting pot with easy access to the best that different cultures have to offer, especially when it comes to food and music. This concert was an excellent example of the beautiful cultural mix and I decided to describe the music by using a food or spice that best described it:

Foie Gras: Gabriel Fauré‘s Requiem, Opus 48, for baritone solo, soprano solo, choir and orchestra

Goose Schmaltz: Klezmer music and a Porgy and Bess Suite for clarinet and string orchestra with the one and only Giora Feidman

Baharat: Middle Eastern Music for Kanun, Oud and Violin by the Turkish composer, Tanburi Cemil Bey, Egyptian composer Riad al Sunbati, and one anonymous piece called Longa Sakiz which I assume is Turkish. The academy’s Oriental Music Department is regarded as the best in the Middle East and one of its graduates recently won first prize at an international oud competition in Cairo.

Baharat (arabic word Bahar means pepper) is a Middle Eastern spice mixture whose base is black pepper. There are many different types of Baharat, depending on what you are using it for: kebab, soup and kubbeh and also where it is from: Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, etc. I like to mix it into ground meat and stuff a butternut squash or aubergine.

My husband has been abroad for the past three weeks and could only eat fish, so he has requested a stuffed aubergine for Shabbat dinner. This is one of my improvised dishes, so I am guessing on the measurements. Feel free to play around with the recipe. I substitute couscous with cooked rice, bulgar or quinoa. I also use ras al hanut instead of baharat. Sometimes I add garlic, sometimes not.

Stuffed Aubergine

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1/2 kg (1lb) ground meat (beef, veal or lamb or mixture)

1 large aubergine (eggplant)

1/2 cup medium grain raw couscous

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons baharat

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon coarse mustard

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts

2 cups of crushed tomatoes plus 1 cup of water or red wine

Preheat oven to 190C/275F.

Aubergine raw

Cut the top off the aubergine and cut it in half. Drizzle olive oil in a baking dish and place the aubergine cut side down in dish. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the aubergine is soft.

Meat mixture

Meat Mixture II

While the aubergines is roasting, mix the ground meat, raw couscous, onions, baharat, pomegranate molasses, mustard, parsley and pine nuts. Set aside.

Roasted Aubergine

When the aubergine is ready, turn the halves over and break up the aubergine flesh by cutting it with a knife, but do not cut through the skin on the other side.

Stuffed Precooked

Fill the aubergine halves with the meat mixture and cover with the crushed tomatoes and red wine.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes until the couscous has plumped up.

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.

Exotic Fruits

Israelis love travelling to India. It is a rite of passage for most young adults after they finish their army service, although Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal are also high on the list.

I would love to travel to India. My dream is to go on the Palace on Wheels. This is where my royal highnessness :-) comes shining through. For me, the Palace on Wheels is the epitome of romance. Rajasthan is supposed to be an amazing place, full of bright colors; rich red and orange raw silk fabric. My wedding dress fabric was a gold duponi silk from India. I adore Indian textiles and sari fabric.

The surprising thing is that Indian food is not more popular in Israel. There are only a few Indian restaurants here. There is a chain called Tandoori: the food is good, but they are rather expensive.

I really enjoy getting Indian takeout in London. I love all the choices of curries, side dishes, samosas, stuffed naan, etc. I also like making it myself. All of the wonderful smells from the cardamon, cinnamon, whole peppercorns and other spices. It fills the whole house with a wonderful spicy, oriental aroma.

For Tu’Bishvat I decided to make an Indian meal, well at least most of it was Indian dishes.

All of the Indian dishes I made for this meal came from Madhur Jafrey’s A Taste of India. I have two of her cookbooks and both of them have delicious recipes, but this cookbook is also a work of art. The photography and the stories she tells take you to India. You can taste the food and smell the smells.

The main dish I made was Chicken with Apricots and Potato Straws (Sali Jardaloo Murgi). This dish is from the state of Gujarat, which is on the Northwest coast of India and borders Rajastan. It has some amazing Temples, one of which is the Temple of Krishna. The dish is spicy and fruity, seasoned with hot chilies, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon, cloves, fresh ginger and garlic.

Chicken with Apricots ad Potato Straws

Serving Size: 4 to 6

(Sali Jardaloo Murgi) Recipe from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey

1.4 kg (3lbs) whole chicken or chicken pieces, skinned

4 whole dried hot red chillies

5cm (2-inch) cinnamon stick, broken up

1-1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

7 cardamom pods

10 whole cloves

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon finely crushed garlic

100g (4oz) dried sour apricots

1/2 cup vegetable oil

225g (1/2lb) medium-sized onions, cut into very fine half rings

2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 1 cup of water

1-1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

For the potato straws:

1 tablespoon salt

200g (7oz) large potato, peeled

Vegetable oil for deep frying

To make the chicken:

If using a whole chicken, cut it into small pieces. For example, divide the chicken legs into 2 and the whole breasts into 4 pieces and place in a big bowl.

Place the red chillies, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon and cloves in a coffee grinder and grind as finely as possible.

Rub in 1 teaspoon of the ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and half of the spice mixture on to the chicken, making sure the chicken pieces are coated with the mixture. Set aside for 1 hour.

Place the apricots in a small pan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, until the apricots are tender, but not mushy. Set them aside to cool.

Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry until they are a reddish-brown in colour. Turn the heat down and add the remaining ginger, garlic and spice mixture. Stir well and add the chicken, browning lightly for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste liquid and the salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar and sugar, cover again and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove as much fat from the pan as you can.

Place the apricot gently in between the chicken pieces and let them soak in the sauce for at least 30 minutes.

To make the potato straws:

Fill a large bowl with about 8 cups of water. Mix in the salt.

Grate the potato on the coarsest grating blade and place in the bowl of water, stirring them around in the water. Remove one handful of the the potato straws at a time, squeezing out as much liquid as you can. Spread them out on a tea towel and pat as much moisture off as possible.

Put vegetable oil into a wok or frying pan until it is 5cm (2-inches) in depth in the pan. Heat slowly over a medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, this may take 10 minutes, put a small handful of potato straws in the oil. Stir them until they are crisp and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

When ready to serve, heat the chicken on medium-low heat and garnish top with the potato straws.

The next dish was Aubergines with Apple (Tsoont Vaangan). This dish is from Kashmir. I know this combination sounds strange, but it is delicious.

Aubergines with Apples

Serving Size: 4 as a side dish

(Tsoont Vaangan) Recipe from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey

550g (1-1/4lb) aubergines, cut crosswise into thick slices

1-2 large, hard, tart apples such as a Granny Smith, cut into sixths, unpeeled

1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds

1/2- 1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp tumeric

1/4 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)

6tbsp mustard or vegetable oil

1/8 tsp ground asafetida

Put the fennel, salt, tumeric and chili powder in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water and mix into a paste.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the asafetida and then the apple wedges. Saute, until the apples are golden brown. Remove the apples and set aside.

Place one layer of aubergine in the pan. You may need to add a little more oil. Brown them on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat this until all of the aubergine has been cooked.

Put the apples and aubergine back in the pan, add the paste and stir gently. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve.

For dessert, I moved to a country whose dishes I have never made before, Georgia.

This is a Walnut Raisin Torte (Nigvzis Torti). It is not too sweet and is a perfect dessert for Tu’Bishvat. Full of nuts and raisins. It is also not very hard to make. I made a half a recipe, which serves about six people.


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