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/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/12/12/assyrian-inspired-hannukah/

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…..no! 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 – Day One

Everyone needs a break, a vacation, an opportunity to charge one’s batteries. Mr BT and I decided that Sukkot was the best time for us to recharge ourselves. As a former meeting organizer, I love to plan our trips. I like to find interesting places to stay, see, and eat; and I am forever looking for those interesting out-of-the-way places. Israel is a small country, but it is full of nooks and crannies that most people do not look for in a vacation. The unplanned theme for our three-day vacation was “home away from home”. No, we didn’t stay with relatives, we just found places with a homey feel in more ways than one.

Baron de Rothschild coat of arms

We began our three-day weekend by driving to Zichron Yaacov to visit a friend  and also to see the beautiful Ramat Hanadiv Gardens, Heights of the Benefactor gardens. The benefactors of these gardens were the Baron and Baroness Edmond James and Adelaide de Rothschild.

Cascade Garden

One of the must sees is the Cascade Garden, with its terraces that face the Mediterranean Sea, lined with dragon trees and large cypresses.

The Rose Garden is a formal garden with a variety of roses that includes six pools with fountains, representing the Rothschild family. The large pool represents the founder of the family, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) while the five small pools represent his five sons, whom he sent to major European cities in order to found the branches of the family business. It isn’t really rose season at the moment, but I am sure this garden is beautiful when all of the roses are in bloom.

The Palm Garden, located on the eastern side of the park, includes a small selection of the world’s 2800 palms.

The Fragrance Garden was designed for the visually impaired and is one of my favourite areas of the gardens.

It includes fragrant sweet smelling plants and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, za’atar, basil, cardamom, lavender . The fragrances are intoxicating. Visitors are encouraged to touch the plants in this section, where plants are clearly labeled in Braille, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. It was the first time I had ever seen a cardamom plant.

We left Zichron and headed straight for the zimmer we booked in a moshav on the border of Lebanon called Matat. The word “zimmer”, which means “room” in German, was adopted into Hebrew to mean little cabins that have sprung up all over moshavim and kibbutzim, especially in the Galilee for townies to spend a few days in nature and get away from it all.

The moshav was founded in 1980, and currently 35 families are living there. One of them is the famous baker and chef, at least here in Israel, Erez Komarovsky, former owner of the Lehem Erez bakery. He sold his bakery and moved to the northern Galil. Now he conducts cooking classes on everything from bread making to fish to beef. I would love to take a bread-making class from him. Unfortunately, he had just returned from a trip abroad on the day we left. So, I didn’t get to “accidentally on purpose” run into him.

By the time we arrived to Matat, it was already dark, so we couldn’t see much of the moshav. However, the drive up to Matat was breathtakingly beautiful and Mr. Moon greeted us full, big, shiny, and bright. The surrounding area will remind you of Provence. We stayed at the beautiful and romantic zimmer called Eretz Bereshit, which means the Land of Genesis.

Because Matat is built at the top of a steep hill and the land allocated to each householder basically starts at the top of the hill and goes all the way down to the valley at the bottom, the houses are nearly all at or just below the brow of the hill and the zimmers that some of the owners built, including the one where we stayed, are about half-way down and can only be reached by a long flight of steep steps. Fortunately, we knew about this ahead of time and the steps were also lit at night to ensure that we didn’t break our necks.

We hadn’t made any firm plans for dinner before arriving, but I had a list of interesting possibilities to choose from. One of them turned to be an emotional  and frankly speechless experience that I hadn’t had in a long, long time. On my list, I had found a Kurdish restaurant in a moshav called Shtula that is a 15 minute drive from Matat. We both love Kurdish food and assumed that a restaurant on a predominately Kurdish moshav can’t be bad, so we called to make sure they were open. A pleasant voice answered the phone and said sure, come on over. We called when we arrived at the entrance and the woman instructed us where to go. We parked in front of a large home and realized that we would be dining in someone’s home, not at a restaurant. We knew this was going to be interesting.

Ora Hatan greeted us at the door and told us to sit down at the dining room table. There were already some lovely meze waiting for us on the table to enjoy

with Kurdish flatbread made on a saj, which is like an upside down wok heated over charcoal. It is very thin and crispy.

She then brought us kubbeh soup. Kubbeh, in different regional variations across Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Kurdistan, is made by taking a ball of moistened semolina mixed with water, sticking your finger into the middle to hollow it out and filling it with a meat mixture: some types are made with a mixture of bulgar and minced meat that is then filled with meat. This was some of the best kubbeh I have ever had. The soup was tomato-based and quite flavourful.

The meal continued with aubergines, onions, and courgettes stuffed with a rice and meat mixture.

Then, she brought out hand-minced lamb kebabs. These were seasoned with herbs and were absolutely delicious. She served them over softened Kurdish flatbread.

As we sat down to eat, an elderly lady with bright eyes and lovely smile came out from the back of the house, said good evening to us, and went to sit down in the living room to watch TV. As she came out, I thought to myself that she looked familiar, but then said “naaah, that can’t be her”. When Ora came back from the kitchen we told her that we had seen a very interesting documentary about a Kurdish moshav on Israel Channel One and we didn’t remember which moshav they were filming. It featured a wonderful lady who was herding her goats on the Lebanese border and she told of her life there. Ora got a big grin on her face and said, “It is about our moshav and the woman is my mother, Sarah.” She called for Sarah to come to the table and thus began the most interesting part of our meal.

Sarah reminded me of my great-grandmother, Ina Nathan; they had similar smiles. She told us that she was from Koya, Kurdistan and emigrated to Israel in 1951, almost 9 months pregnant, with her husband and the first two of what would eventually be fourteen children. She said that it was very difficult when she first came here; for the first few years, they lived in absorption camps that were unfortunately the fate of many new immigrants in the 1950s, there was very little food and they had to build everything from scratch.

She then told us that she traveled alone to Kurdistan 12 years ago on a mission to bring back a Torah scroll that belonged to her family for generations. They had left the Torah scroll with a family anticipating that they would come back to get it someday. She flew to southeastern Turkey and then hitched a ride across the border all the way to Koya. By chance, she was given a ride by the local mayor who asked her where she was from: when she said she was from Israel, he welcomed her and did everything in his power to help her in her mission. With his assistance, she discovered that the Torah scroll was being held by a local qadi (Muslim religious judge). She told the qadi that she had come specially from Israel to retrieve the scroll and asked for it back. When he refused, she offered him money, and then more money, but he continued to refuse explaining that he and his fellow Muslims believed that the scroll gave them divine protection and that he wasn’t willing to give it up. Eventually, she discovered that the qadi and his family had moved to Sweden, taking the scroll with them.

We were then served cinnamon tea and extraordinary figs that had been poached and served in their juice. This was truly the food of the gods. She also served us homemade date cake and some biscuits.

After dessert, Ora took us out to the balcony which overlooks the Lebanese border, a couple of hundred meters away and showed us a couple villages on the other side of the fence that had become Hizbollah strongholds.

When we staggered, stuffed with wonderful Kurdish food, back to the car, I was just in tears, not just from meeting such lovely people but from Sarah’s story of her life and especially her first trip back to Kurdistan. Weren’t you afraid of being in Kurdistan while Sadaam Hussein was still in power in Iraq, Mr BT had asked Sarah. “No, I just had faith in G-d.”

Related Posts with Thumbnails