Liddle Lamzy Divey

My father used to sing the Little Lamzy Divey song to us when we went on long driving trips to Florida. I used to love singing that song and it was always one of my requests. The lamb dish I made for Shabbat reminded me of the song.

Mr BT surprised me with dried sour apricots that he bought in a spice shop on Levinsky street in Tel Aviv. Levinsky street is filled with spice shops and delicatessens with delights from Turkey, Greece, Romania, etc. I love cooking sweet and savory dishes with sour apricots because they have a much stronger apricot flavour than Mediterranean apricots. I grew up using sour apricots and was very upset when it became more difficult to find them.

I had some lamb in the freezer begging to be cooked, so I decided to make a deliciously fragrant Moroccan tagine with dried sour apricots and olives. Even if I say so myself, the dish was a triumph.

I used Suri olives, which many people here call Syrian olives, that Mimi from the Israeli Kitchen gave me for this recipe. They are small green, bitter olives, with a large pit that are high in oil content and excellent for producing olive oil. The interesting thing about these olives is they are not Syrian at all, they are actually Lebanese and are named after the town of Tyre (Tzur in Hebrew). Over the years, the pronunciation changed, and it is now pronounced Suri, meaning Syrian in Hebrew. I love their crunchy bitter taste and they were a perfect choice for this dish.

The earliest machinery for crushing olives and the oldest surviving olive trees were discovered in Israel. The oldest olive oil jars, dating back to 6000 BCE, were found in Jericho.

Today, olive groves cover more than 200,000 acres, from the mountains of the Galilee to the Negev desert. The largest concentration of olive groves are in the north of the country. The average harvest for the production of olive oil is about 6,000 tons, but current consumption is double that amount, meaning that we also have to import olive oil, primarily from Spain, Italy and Greece.

Each of the main communities here: Jews, Arabs, Druze and Circassians, cultivate olives. Israeli olive oil is considered to be more aromatic, more strongly flavoured and full of character than the more delicate European olive oils.

Lamb Tagine with Sour Apricots and Olives

4 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder or neck, or 2-1/4 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long

Large pinch crumbled saffron

1-1/4 cups dried apricots, sliced

1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired

1/3 cup halved almonds, toasted

Cooked couscous, for serving

Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish

Trim excess fat off lamb. Put meat in a deep Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with the garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cumin. Rub spices and garlic evenly all over meat.

Thinly slice onions, then mince enough of them to yield 1/2 cup. Add minced onion to the pot with the lamb; reserve onion slices.

Place the pot over high heat and let cook, turning meat on all sides, until spices release their scent, about 3 minutes. You need not brown the meat. Add 3 cups of water to the pot (it should come 3/4 of the way up lamb), along with cinnamon and saffron. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot. Braise for 45 minutes.

Turn meat, then top with onion slices. Cover pot and braise for at least another hour and a half, or until lamb is very tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl, leaving broth and onions in pot.

Place pot back on the stove over high heat and add 3/4 cup apricots and the olives. Simmer broth until it reduces by a third and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and keep warm until serving. (Tagine can be prepared 4 days ahead; chill, then remove fat and reheat before serving.)

To serve, chop remaining 1/2 cup apricot slices. Put couscous in a serving bowl and top with almonds and chopped apricots. Pile the tagine in center of couscous and garnish with herbs.


2nd Wedding Anniversary Dinner

December 30th was my 2nd wedding anniversary and we decided to wait until the weekend to celebrate. I try very hard to keep politics out of my foodblog, but I will say that even though terrible things are happening around us, we still felt we should celebrate our anniversary by making a nice meal. We have postponed birthdays and other special events over the years, but decided that we could have a comforting and quiet meal at home. We hope that the fighting will stop soon and that we can find some way to make peace with our neighbors.

The meal that we made had an unintentional color theme of brown. Brown is really not one of my favourite colors, but in this case, it was represented by one of my favourite meats that I rarely have a chance to eat, lamb. The supermarket near my home has been running a special on lamb for the past month and it is such a great deal that we decided to buy some. The butcher explained that a meat company has bought large quantities of lamb on the hoof and is marketing the meat both through selected supermarkets and directly to hotels and restaurants, making it possible for us to buy young lamb at a great price.

We more or less followed a recipe from Nigella Lawson for “Moroccan Roast Lamb”. This recipe is very simple, you make a simple marinade that you rub on the meat and let it marinate overnight. The main ingredient of the marinade is ras al hanout, a spice that I have a love affair with and have used in numerous dishes that I have posted on this blog. It is such a versatile spice that you can use in both savory and sweet dishes.

We served this with a steamed artichoke and vegetarian brown rice maklouba (rice layered with courgette and eggplant), which is a layered rice dish that I made a while ago with chicken. For dessert, I made a chocolate and chestnut torte that was light and airy. It was a perfect meal to celebrate actually eight years with my partner for life. Mr. Baroness Tapuzina has brought a great richness to my life and I love him very much. Thank you for a very interesting eight years, here is to many more to come.

Moroccan Roast Lamb

Serving Size: 6

Adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

2kg (4.4lbs) lamb shoulder

2 tablespoons ras al hanout

Juice of two lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cups of red wine

Mix all of the above ingredients except for the red wine and make incisions all over the lamb shoulder. Using your fingers, push pinches of the mixture into the incisions and then rub the remainder of the marinade all over the meat. Place in a large freezer bag or some other covered container and marinate the meat in the refrigerator overnight.

Take the meat out the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Marinated Lamb Ready for the Oven

Heat the oven to 200C (400F). Place the meat in a covered clay pot or foil covered roasting pan, add the red wine and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160C (325F) and roast for 2-3 hours until falling off the bone. Drain the fat from the sauce and serve over the lamb.

torta morbida di castagne e cioccolato

Rich Chocolate and Chestnut Cake
Torta Morbida di Castagne e Cioccolato
From La Cucina Italiana, December 2008
Serves 12

The Veal Shank Redemption

Okay, I know the title is a bit lame, but the photo of the food is even lamer. I forgot to check the batteries on my camera and when I tried to take the photo, the batteries were dead. I had to take a picture with my phone camera instead. Oh well.

Beef and veal have been very expensive here the last several months and we decided that it just wasn’t worth spending our hard earned money on expensive meat. However, the supermarket up the road from our house had veal shanks on sale and I couldn’t resist. They were 50NIS (14USD or 9.80Euro) per kilo. So, I bought two meaty ones.

I found an interesting North African style recipe for osso bucco.  This  recipe would normally be made with lamb. It was very easy to make and absolutely delicious. It was fall-off-the-bone tender and it has a very distinct spicy kick from the chili paste, which we both like. Next time I will add a little more of the spices because they got a bit lost. I only detected a slight taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. I served it with lemon orzo and green peas.

This is a recipe you could easily make the day before.

Moroccan-Style Veal Shanks

Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 meaty veal shanks (about 1/2 kilo or 1 1/4 pounds each)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (no salt if you are using kosher meat)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon harissa or other chili paste

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup chicken stock

One large can crushed tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 170F (325F). In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole, 2 at a time, and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the casserole.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the casserole. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and harissa and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Put the veal shanks in the liquid. Cover tightly and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, basting occasionally, until the meat is almost falling off the bone.

Couscous Lesson

Several weeks ago Raizy, the daughter of a good friend of mine taught me and her mother how to make couscous. Raizy married into a Tunisian/Moroccan family and learned how to make couscous from her mother-in-law. I have wanted to learn how to make couscous ever since I bought Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. I love North African food and have always used instant couscous and always felt like I was cheating. I thought it would be too complicated to make, but after my lesson, it really isn’t that hard. It is a bit time consuming, but you can make it in advance and keep it in the freezer. My husband made a vegetable tagine and we used one of our two packages of couscous. It was delicious. I am saving the other one for when we move to our new home next month. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the vegetable couscous, but I promise I will feature the couscous in February.

Thank you Raizy and Miriam, I really enjoyed our “Girls Night Out”.

Raizy's Couscous

Serving Size: 16 to 20

1 kg (2.2lbs) white semolina

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 cup canola or light olive oil

5-1/4 cups water


Fill 1/4 of the bottom of a couscousier with water and place on medium heat.

Cornmeal Texture

Place 1kg of semolina in a very large bowl.

Oil and Mix

Mix the salt into the oil and drizzle over the semolina.

Cornmeal Texture

Mix with a hand-held mixer until you get a cornmeal consistency.

Thicker Cornmeal Consistency

Slowly drizzle 1-1/4 cups of water to the semolina mixture and mix with a mixer until you get a thicker cornmeal mixer. Let the mixture rest for five minutes.

Sifting 1

Sift the semolina in a second very large bowl and set aside any lumps that you cannot breakdown.

Couscousier Inside

Steam Couscous

Place the mixture in the top of the couscousier and steam for 30 minutes over medium heat.

Steamed Couscous

Pour into a very large bowl and let cool. Then add 4 cups of water, stir in with a wooden spoon and let the mixture rest until all of the water has been absorbed. Sift again, removing any lumps and steam for an additional 30 minutes on medium heat. Pour into a large bowl and let cool.

Fine Consistency

Sift the mixture and place in plastic containers or use right away. You can keep the couscous in the freezer for a couple of months or in the refrigerator for three or four days.

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