Perfect Dish for a Cold and Rainy Winter’s Night

Israel depends on a rainy winter for its water supply for the rest of the year. We have had a serious drought here that no one is taking seriously. However, the last few weekends we have had a significant amount of much needed rain.

Rain and cold always demand hot and hearty dishes to keep us warm and cozy inside and out. There is a another sale at our local supermarket on lamb; this time the sale is on lamb neck. I don’t think lamb neck is readily available at supermarkets or butchers in most parts of the US and Canada, but you may be able to find it at a Halal butcher in larger cities with a Muslim population. If not, you could always use lamb shoulder. I don’t think you will have a problem finding it in Europe.

This lamb recipe was published in Haaretz newspaper a couple of weeks ago and is from a famous restaurant in Nazareth called Diana’s. It specializes in meat, especially lamb kebab that is chopped by hand, and seafood.

The seasoning of the lamb is more subtle than usual for middle eastern food: even though one tablespoon each of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon appears to be a lot,  this is for quite a large quantity of meat and none of the spices has a very strong taste to begin with. It is very important to let the meat cook on a very low flame for long enough to become really tender: in fact, if you can cook the meat (without adding the spinach) the day before and then cook it again for about 30 minutes (following the rest of the instructions) just before serving, it will be even better.

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Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew
Ingredients
  • 4 pieces lamb neck with the bone weighing approximately 350g (3/4lb) each
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Olive oil
  • 8 whole shallots peeled
  • 8 whole garlic cloves peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 kg 2 lbs fresh medium size spinach leaves, stems removed, rinsed well and coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Mix the spices together. Lightly salt the meat and rub the spices on both sides of the lamb neck.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and saute the pieces of meat until they start to brown. Transfer the meat to a large pot. Saute the whole shallots and the whole garlic cloves and add to the pot with the meat. Pour in enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about an hour over a high flame.
  3. Lower the flame and skim off the foam that has formed on top. Simmer for an additional two hours over a low flame until the meat is very tender.
  4. Add the spinach leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a pan and saute the crushed garlic until golden. Add the garlic to the stew, mix and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over rice.

For dessert, I used a new carrot cake recipe that I hadn’t tried before. This cake is spicy, but not sweet at all except for the natural sweetness of the carrot, in spite of the fact that it calls for 1-1/2 cups of icing sugar. So if you like very sweet cakes, this one might not be for you.

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Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew
Ingredients
  • 4 pieces lamb neck with the bone weighing approximately 350g (3/4lb) each
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Olive oil
  • 8 whole shallots peeled
  • 8 whole garlic cloves peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 kg 2 lbs fresh medium size spinach leaves, stems removed, rinsed well and coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Mix the spices together. Lightly salt the meat and rub the spices on both sides of the lamb neck.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and saute the pieces of meat until they start to brown. Transfer the meat to a large pot. Saute the whole shallots and the whole garlic cloves and add to the pot with the meat. Pour in enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about an hour over a high flame.
  3. Lower the flame and skim off the foam that has formed on top. Simmer for an additional two hours over a low flame until the meat is very tender.
  4. Add the spinach leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a pan and saute the crushed garlic until golden. Add the garlic to the stew, mix and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over rice.

Not my Grandmother’s Honey Cake

We didn’t have a Rosh Hashana tradition of making honey cakes in my house. I didn’t even know there was a tradition to serve honey cake during this holiday. We made Honigkuchen, which were basically lebkuchen, a type of spice cookie that we always made for Hannukah. My grandmother always made Noodle Schalet (Noodle Pudding, not Kugel, with eggs, lemon zest and raisins) with lemon sauce for dessert. We had Suesse Apfel (carmelised apple slices in honey) as a side dish with roast beef.

So when I moved to Israel, people started asking me what does your mother put in her honey cake? Does she put nuts in, coffee or tea, schnapps, only cinnamon? I had no idea what they were talking about. All of the supermarkets and bakeries were selling different types of honey cakes. The few times I had them in the States, I always remembering them being dry and inedible. I made my first honey cake a few years ago and I could have built a house with it. It was heavy and dry. Then, I made the Beekeeper’s Honey Cake and it was less dry.

I finally decided which cake I am going to make for Erev Rosh Hashana, the Magical Honey Cake. As most of my regular readers know, I usually have to tweak a recipe and this time was no different. I used Janna Gur’s recipe as a base and added a few more spices, some orange rind, and substituted cranberries soaked in rum for the raisins. I cheated and tasted one of the cakes on the second day, it is moist, spicy and bursting with flavour from the honey. This is going to be my tried and true honey cake from now on.

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Magical Honey Cake
Servings: 3 loaves
Ingredients
  • 6 cups + 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 cups honey
  • 1 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 level teaspoons baking soda
  • Zest of two medium oranges
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries soaked in rum just to cover
  • 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Grease the loaf pans.
  2. Dry Ingredients
  3. Mix the flour, sugar, and spices in a bowl. Add the honey, oil and eggs, and whisk into a smooth batter. Dissolve the coffee into 1 cup of boiling water. Add the baking soda to the batter, and then add the coffee. Gently fold in the orange rind, cranberries and rum, and the walnuts.
  4. Honey Cake Batter
  5. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pans and bake for approximately 45 minutes until the cake is dark brown and the toothpick is clean with a few crumbs adhering.
  6. Cool the cakes completely and wrap with aluminum foil. Place in a cool, dry place to mature for 7 days.

Rosh Hashana 5768

Chag Sameach everyone! I hope you had a nice meal with your family. We went to my cousin’s house for the first night of Rosh Hashana and had a lovely time.

We invited some friends of ours for dinner last night. My husband made a Rosh Hashana favourite and I introduced several new surprises to our repertoire. Everything was delicious.

The cake calls for sour cream and one of my guests has a dairy allergy and can only tolerate butter in baked goods, so I substituted a non-dairy yogurt in its place. It worked fine.

And in case you are wondering about why I served a dairy cake, we keep kashrut according to the Italian tradition which is one hour between meat and dairy.

Our menu was:

Cocktails


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits


Rosemary Cashews
Cocktails

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds


Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course


Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Couscous
Green beans


Round Challah with dried fruits and nuts
Golan Winery Sion Creek red wine

Dessert


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

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Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken cut into eighths
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 4-5 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 cm fresh ginger grated or chopped finely
  • 1 quince cored and cut into eighths
  • 10-20 majhoul dates pitted and cut into quarters
  • 10 dried figs stem removed and cut into eighths
  • 10-20 dried sour apricots cut into quarters
  • 20 walnut halves
  • Couple of pinches of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ c pomegranate molasses
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. On a low heat, place the olive oil in the clay pot, just to cover the surface. Add the onions when the oil is hot, but not sizzling. When the onion is soft, add the garlic. When the onion is lightly brown, turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, stirring constantly until browned, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on a low flame for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes and checking that there is enough remaining liquid for a nice sauce.
  3. Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.
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Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken cut into eighths
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 4-5 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 cm fresh ginger grated or chopped finely
  • 1 quince cored and cut into eighths
  • 10-20 majhoul dates pitted and cut into quarters
  • 10 dried figs stem removed and cut into eighths
  • 10-20 dried sour apricots cut into quarters
  • 20 walnut halves
  • Couple of pinches of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ c pomegranate molasses
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. On a low heat, place the olive oil in the clay pot, just to cover the surface. Add the onions when the oil is hot, but not sizzling. When the onion is soft, add the garlic. When the onion is lightly brown, turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, stirring constantly until browned, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on a low flame for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes and checking that there is enough remaining liquid for a nice sauce.
  3. Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.

Sumac and Spice Makes Everything Nice

I guess I am on a spice kick right now, but then spices are the key ingredient in Middle Eastern food. I bought some sumac a while ago and have been meaning to make something with it and today is the day.

Sumac has a sour and vaguely lemony taste and grows wild in the Mediterranean and in much of the Middle East. It is a popular condiment in Turkey and Iran, where it’s liberally sprinkled on kebabs and rice, or mixed with onions as an appetizer or salad. The Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and Egyptians add water and other spices to sumac to form a paste, and add it to meat, chicken and vegetable dishes. I only recently learned that sumac is related to poison ivy.

I decided to make a popular Palestinian dish, called Musakhan (which means ‘something that is heated’), that is typically made in a taboun oven, but I will have to make due with my regular oven. My dream is to have an outdoor wood-fired oven someday so I can do some real slow cooking and baking.

As with all Middle Eastern dishes, there are numerous variations of this dish. Some are only with sumac, others with sumac and a combination of several different spices. I have chosen to make the dish with sumac, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Because the dish is cooked on top of flat bread, it is typically eaten with your hands, using the bread as a base to pick up the moist chicken and sauteed onions.

I got the flat bread above, called Saluf, at a Yemenite bakery around the corner from my house. They sell this flat bread that they made right in front of my eyes and they also sell Yemenite Shabbat bread called Kubaneh. It was very tempting to tear off some of the hot bread, but I behaved myself.

The dish was delicious. My husband I thought that I could have added a couple more tablespoons of sumac and next time I will cover the dish with foil before I put it in the oven. The bread was a little too crunchy on the top.

We did taste all of the spices and they gave off such a wonderful perfume in the house. I forgot about the pine nuts. Oh well.

This dish was even better the next day and the bread on the bottom was very soft and was infused with all of the juices and flavour from the chicken and spices. I am definitely making this again.

Musakhan

Yield: 4

Musakhan

Adapted from recipes by Clifford A. Wright and Paula Wolfert

1 (1 1/2kg or 3lb) frying chicken, quartered

2 tablespoons ground sumac

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Sea salt (optional for kosher chicken)

Juice of 1 lemon

1kg (2lbs) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Olive oil

2 large Saluf (Yemenite flat bread), Lafa (Iraqi flat bread), khubz 'arabi (Arabic flat bread) or 1/4 kg (1/2 lb) of pita, split in half

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 heads of garlic, roasted

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Trim off excess fat.

Sumac Rub on Chicken

Combine the sumac, spices, salt and pepper. Set aside 2 teaspoons and mix the rest with the lemon juice. Rub into the chicken and marinate up to 1 day.

Place the onions in a large skillet, toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, reserved spices, and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook gently 30 minutes. Set aside in a bowl. (Up to this point, the dish can be prepared 1 day in advance.)

Bring the chicken to room temperature and preheat the oven to 180C (350F). In the same skillet as used for the onions, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, then lightly brown the chicken on all sides over a medium heat. Remove and set aside.

Layering Onions and Chicken

Cover a baking dish with two overlapping halves of the flat bread or several pita halves. Spoon half the onions over each, then arrange the chicken on top of the onions and cover with the remaining onions and the juices from the skillet.

Musakhan Oven Ready

Cover with the two remaining half leaves of flat bread or pita, tucking in the sides, crusty side up, and spray with water. Bake until the chicken is very tender and almost falling off the bone, approximately 1-1/ 2 hours. Check the chicken occasionally and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil before the top cover of the flat bread begins to burn.

Serve at once with a sprinkling of the pine nuts and roasted garlic.

https://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/09/01/sumac-and-spice-makes-everything-nice/

Jewish Penicillin for Pesach

Nathan Matza Ball Soup

I love chicken soup and I may be a bit bold to say this, but I think my chicken soup is very good. I have been tweaking this recipe for about twenty years and I think I have just right. This is not a clear broth soup; it is a rich broth. My husband says, “This broth is rich enough to be a hedge fund.” Forgive me, he has a one track mind because of his startup company.

I won my husband’s heart with my soup and matza balls. I am going to be making a big pot for the seder next week. I always make the soup a day ahead so that the flavours will have time to develop.

I have to tell you that you should be very honoured that I am parting with my soup and family matza ball recipe :-). I hope you will make them with as much love as I do.

Chag Sameach everyone! Next Year in Jerusalem!

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Mama K's World Famous Matza Balls
This recipe has been handed down from generation to generation in my family. It is Westphalian and Alsatian. If you are afraid of using chicken fat, try half chicken fat and half olive oil.
Servings: 45 matza balls
Ingredients
  • 14 matzos
  • 2 medium white onions chopped coarsely
  • 3/4 cup melted chicken fat and/or goose fat
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt you made want to add more
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 7 eggs lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1/8 cup matza meal
  • Additional matza meal for rolling
Instructions
  1. Step 2 Wet Matza
  2. Wet Matza
  3. Break the matzas into chunks and put into a colander placed in sink. Run water over the colander until the matza is moist, but not water logged. Let the water drain and let stand for one to two minutes. (Can be put into plastic bag and kept overnight in the refrigerator.)
  4. Onions Browning
  5. Brown the onions in melted fat in large heavy frying pan over medium heat until "real brown".
  6. Step 4 Add Matza
  7. Add the matzas and stir gently frequently. Most of the moisture has to evaporate. If mixture sticks to bottom, put lid on the pan for a few minutes to soften. Add the salt, pepper, parsley and nutmeg.
  8. Cooked Mixture
  9. Cool until no more steam comes off the mixture because it must be cool enough so the eggs won't cook.
  10. Mixture with Eggs
  11. Add the eggs and gently stir in the matza meal.
  12. Test the first matza ball by placing it in boiling water. Test that it maintains it shape and taste to check if more salt, pepper and nutmeg should be added.
  13. Finished product
  14. Place a thick layer of matza meal on foil-lined cookie sheet. Use spoons or scoop to make balls, rolling very carefully into the size of a large walnut, using as little pressure as possible. Place on cookie sheet and roll in meal. If you prefer, wet your hands and roll in palm, but this requires scraping off hands and re-wetting frequently. Discard the excess matza meal. Leave on the cookie sheet in the refrigerator, covered with wax paper, or freeze on the sheet before packing in bags for freezer. They can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.
  15. Bring chicken soup to a boil and add Matzo Balls (after they have been brought to room temperature) a few at a time. When they rise to the top, put the lid on the soup for 5 minutes. Serve and say AAHHHH loudly with each bite.

I always make the matza balls ahead of time and freeze them. Since my matza balls are a little different from most, I thought I would give you a step-by-step instruction in case you would like to try to make them.

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Mama K's World Famous Matza Balls
This recipe has been handed down from generation to generation in my family. It is Westphalian and Alsatian. If you are afraid of using chicken fat, try half chicken fat and half olive oil.
Servings: 45 matza balls
Ingredients
  • 14 matzos
  • 2 medium white onions chopped coarsely
  • 3/4 cup melted chicken fat and/or goose fat
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt you made want to add more
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 7 eggs lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1/8 cup matza meal
  • Additional matza meal for rolling
Instructions
  1. Step 2 Wet Matza
  2. Wet Matza
  3. Break the matzas into chunks and put into a colander placed in sink. Run water over the colander until the matza is moist, but not water logged. Let the water drain and let stand for one to two minutes. (Can be put into plastic bag and kept overnight in the refrigerator.)
  4. Onions Browning
  5. Brown the onions in melted fat in large heavy frying pan over medium heat until "real brown".
  6. Step 4 Add Matza
  7. Add the matzas and stir gently frequently. Most of the moisture has to evaporate. If mixture sticks to bottom, put lid on the pan for a few minutes to soften. Add the salt, pepper, parsley and nutmeg.
  8. Cooked Mixture
  9. Cool until no more steam comes off the mixture because it must be cool enough so the eggs won't cook.
  10. Mixture with Eggs
  11. Add the eggs and gently stir in the matza meal.
  12. Test the first matza ball by placing it in boiling water. Test that it maintains it shape and taste to check if more salt, pepper and nutmeg should be added.
  13. Finished product
  14. Place a thick layer of matza meal on foil-lined cookie sheet. Use spoons or scoop to make balls, rolling very carefully into the size of a large walnut, using as little pressure as possible. Place on cookie sheet and roll in meal. If you prefer, wet your hands and roll in palm, but this requires scraping off hands and re-wetting frequently. Discard the excess matza meal. Leave on the cookie sheet in the refrigerator, covered with wax paper, or freeze on the sheet before packing in bags for freezer. They can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.
  15. Bring chicken soup to a boil and add Matzo Balls (after they have been brought to room temperature) a few at a time. When they rise to the top, put the lid on the soup for 5 minutes. Serve and say AAHHHH loudly with each bite.
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