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.

Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew

Serving Size: 4

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

Mix the spices together. Lightly salt the meat and rub the spices on both sides of the lamb neck.

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.

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.

Add the spinach leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

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.

Carrot and Walnut Cake

Serving Size: 10 to 12

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)

1 cup crushed walnuts

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup milk or water

6 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 170C (350F). Grease and flour one large tube pan.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together and set aside. Beat the eggs together with the spices for 5 minutes. Stir in the icing sugar and mix well. Beat in the vegetable oil and continue beating for 5 minutes.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk or water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the egg mixture. With a spoon stir in the carrots and the walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 170F (350F) for 1 hour.

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.

Magical Honey Cake

Yield: 3 loaves

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

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Grease the loaf pans.

Dry Ingredients

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.

Honey Cake Batter

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.

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:


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Rosemary Cashews

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds

Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Green beans

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


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Yield: 24 biscuits

Recipe from Restaurant: La Garbure (Châteauneuf du Pape) Chef: Jean Louis Giansilly

5 garlic cloves

3 sprigs of basil

5 tbsp olive oil

50g (3.5 tbsp) pine nuts

300g (1.3 cups) flour

10cl (.4 cup) warm water

10cl (.4 cup) olive oil

2 tsp salt

25g (1.7 tablespoons) baking powder

4 egg yolks

Ground pepper

Prepare a pesto by crushing the garlic cloves with the basil, olive oil, and pine nuts.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, warm water, and some ground pepper. Add the pesto and blend well to obtain a smooth dough.

Roll into a long snake and slice the into 1/4 inch (6mm) wafers and bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 minutes (depending on size).

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.

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

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.

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.

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.


Yield: 4


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.

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!

Baroness Tapuzina's Chicken Soup

Serving Size: 12

1 (1-1/2kg or #3 or 3lb) chicken

1-1/2kg (3lb) chicken wings or two turkey wings

1 large turkey neck cut into pieces

4 soup beef bones with meat on the bone (optional)

2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut in quarters

2 large leeks, cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) pieces

4 medium carrots, cut in to 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces

1/2 head of whole garlic gloves, peeled

2 sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley

6 juniper berries

20 mixed peppercorns

Salt to taste

Olive oil

Put a generous amount of olive oil in a large soup pot and heat on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, leeks and garlic and sweat until softened. Add the carrots, juniper berries, peppercorns and fresh herbs. Then add the chicken wings, turkey necks and soup bones, and brown lightly, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn the onion, leeks and garlic. Finally, add the chicken and pour enough water to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for approximately 2-3 hours.

Remove the chicken, chicken wings, turkey neck and soup bones to a bowl. When cool enough to touch, pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin, bones, etc. Put in a container or ziploc bag and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Put the soup in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, skim off the fat, if desired, and reheat the soup, add the chicken and turkey meat back to the soup. How much is up to you and bring to a rolling boil to cook the matza balls (see below).

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.

Mama K's World Famous Matza Balls

Yield: 45 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.

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

Step 2 Wet Matza

Wet Matza

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.)

Onions Browning

Brown the onions in melted fat in large heavy frying pan over medium heat until "real brown".

Step 4 Add Matza

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.

Cooked Mixture

Cool until no more steam comes off the mixture because it must be cool enough so the eggs won't cook.

Mixture with Eggs

Add the eggs and gently stir in the matza meal.

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.

Finished product

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.

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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