Monday, November 25, 2013

Spice cookies

Not another brownie recipe!
Oops, I did again... went 3 weeks with no recipes. Not even a valid excuse. Anyoo, as planned I tried a dessert recipe. These cookies, unlike most of the food in Jerusalem are pretty much Germanic, albeit not German Jewish. Apparently they're derived from the eats brought by Protestant Germans settling in the Holy Land in the 19th century. As you can see, they do have that "kuchen" appearance.

To make about 18 cookies:

125 grs raisins
a cup of brandy (I used rum instead)
240 grs flour
2 tbsps cocoa
60 grs dark chocolate, coarsely grated
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
butter and oil
125 grs sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Soak the raisins in rum. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and chocolate (I actually recommend using more than I did). In a different bowl, beat the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla, then add the egg, still beating. Add the dry ingredients, then the raisins and a bit of the rum. Mix everything and knead into little spheres. Leave in the fridge for about one hour, then place on a baking tray covered by a baking sheet and bake at 190 C for 15-20 minutes (make sure the cookies are separate enough or they'll stick to one another!)

These came out decently. They make a pleasant dessert, and while they look very much like brownies, the rum and raisins give them a new twist. There's also a glaze using lemon and orange zest that probably makes them more interesting, but zest is one of those things I don't do. But this might explain why they're called spice cookies but aren't well, spicy or spiced up.

Just, next time I might a) bake them slightly less than I did b) put more chocolate, they could do with more chocolateyness (but you can never overdo chocolateney ness, says I).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Onion and tomato couscous

At least I got to use my cool Moroccan plate-when otherwise?

I got beyond my expectations and managed to squeeze in one more post for October! Go, me. Shame the result was iffy.
A friend who also uses the Jerusalem cookbook had been recommending this recipe. I assumed it would be pretty straightforward, in spite of never have been much of a couscous maker. As a home dish, in my mind it's mainly a carbo-rich side dish. So this was my first real attempt to make "something" out of couscous. I think in this case, I really overdid my tendency to skip or replace ingredients (BUY TOMATO PUREE!!).

So this is what I did:

100 grs quick-made couscous (yes, I used that. Tar and feather me).
1 onion, thinly sliced.
2 diced tomatoes
Olive oil

Heat up the onion with olive oil in a skillet (you're supposed to put in tomato puree as well). Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, cook for about 3 mins.
Boil the couscous for 1 min. (You're supposed to pour boiling stock over it. Needless to say, I didn't have stock, let alone the "good quality" one that the recipe recommends).
Pour tomato and onion sauce on the couscous, set aside (oops, I forgot to cool the couscous down).
Clean up the skillet, melt butter and oil. Add couscous and sauce. Leave to steam at low temperature for 10-12 mins. That's where the recipe really went west.
This dish is supposed to look like this . If you look at mine, it obviously doesn't. It's supposed to be nice and crusty, and you scrape it off from the pan with a knife. It just stayed a regular couscous, with some tomato and onion. An ok starchy side dish, but just blah.

While certainly not a disaster, this was definitely a fail. I guess next time I should make sure I really follow the recipe, but I wonder if there's something else I did wrong, because it didn't solidify at all like it was supposed to.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some housekeeping

Hmm. My modus operandi for this project has been brusts of consecutive posts followed by long periods of silence. Ideally, I'd like to avoid this. I think about 3 recipes per month (4 if I manage) is a realistic goal as of now, though that might change if I suddenly get much busier and/or as I plow my way through the more hassle-free recipes. I suppose some more orgnaized person would get into a routine, such as posting every Thursday or whatever.
Realistically, I won't be trying anymore recipes until early November, as I'm going to be travelling at the end of this month. I'm mulling as to what to try next, either a couscous or I'll go back to some baking. But I really want to try to keep an about 3 posts a month average, and anyway no longer disappear for months!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stuffed aubergines

I love aubergines, but when I cook them, I basically do only one thing: dice them, heat them with oil, eat them as a side dish or mix them with tomato sauce and eat them with pasta.  And I'm generally a bit wary of stuffed foods, but this turned out not to be too much of a hassle (and technically, the aubergines aren't stuffed).
For 2 people:
2 aubegines
300 grs minced lamb
50 grs pine nuts
I massively simplified the spices involved. I also forgot to buy parsley and pureed tomato. Note to self: buy pureed tomato next time you're at the supermarket! It's useful! 

Put the aubergines cut in halves, skin down, in a roasting tin, with olive oil and pepper. Leave at 200 d. for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, cook the lamb mince in a pan with the cinnamon, curry and pine nuts.
Remove the aubergines from the oven, leave to cool, put the lamb mixture on top, put back in the oven at around 180 degrees for about one nour and half. Now you're supposed to make a fancy sauce involving cinnamon sticks which is probably amazing, but, once again, I don't have cinnamon sticks, I'm not sure where to find them. If the local (and decently-furnished) supermark doesn't sell it, I don't do it. This is proving to be the one consistent issue with this experiment, and one that Mssrs Ottolenghi and Tamimi should have addressed since their book is targeted at European readers, a lot of these spices are a) hard to find, even in multicultural areas b) what are you going to do with a whole jar or bag of some weird spice you won't need again? This is not the Middle East where you have markets that sell you exactly the quantity you want!

Anyway, enough kvetching, back to the recipe. The obvious issue with this is that it takes time, so you have to cook it well in advance (or maybe it's not an issue for those less disorganized than yours truly). It could also have benefited from some kind of sauce, as an alternative to the cinnamon one I was thinking yoghurt based (which would de-kasherize it, if that's an issue).  Otherwise, baking aubergines in the oven is a way to go, by all means so  that was a neat discovery. And it improved staying in the fridge over night, all the juices blended nicely and it became tastier.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Barley risotto with feta cheese

I don'tknow why the light turned so yellow on this one...
Shouldn't this be called barleyotto? or orzotto? Ok, enough with the lame jokes. As implied, this is a barley dish cooked like a risotto but, according to Mssrs Ottolenghi & Tamimi "without the exact precision and meticulous preparation", ie a recipe right up my alley. Indeed, I don't do risotto, because it's not really in my tradition (though my Tessin-raised grandma would make me an awesome saffron risotto when I was little) and because, let's face it, it's a bit of  a pain.
So here goes:
200 grs pearl barley
700 ml vegetable stock (I made this from a stock cube. Sue me)
100 grs feta cheese
cumin seeds
canned tomatoes
one onion
 1 tbsp salt

In a large pan, warm up the oil, butter and onion. Add the pre-rinsed barley, the stock, thyme, oregano, salt and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer for about 45 mins, stirring frequently so that the barley doesn't stick to the pan, and adding water if necessary. The water should be absorbed by the end. In the meantime, marinade the feta cheese with oil, oregano and cumin seeds. Add said feta to barley.

This dish was more straightforward than I thought it would be. It needs watching, but not manically so, and I suspect rice has a bigger tendency to stick than barley. It's warm and filling. The slight issue I had is that it's a bit mealy. Possibly this is because I didn't add the chili flakes and other stuff which would spice it up, but then I don't think it would gain in being outright spicy, at least for my personal taste. It's not 100% hassle free, since it does require some time and effort, but definitely a dish to add to a repertoire, especially in winter.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cannellini and Lamb soup

'cuz everything's better with coriander, right?

I recently discussed eating legumes with a friend and as a consequence decided to look up some recipes containing them in Jerusalem. This specific recipe does contain beans but obviously doesn't encourage vegetarianism.
I have an ambivalent relationship with legumes. I hated them as a child. Now I like them, but not love them, and only when they're nicely cooked and not tough. This specific recipe involves:
-lamb (the piece I used was about 150 grs I guess).
- 200 grs cannellini beans
- Charlotte potatoes-it's up to you how many, really.
-4 cardamome pods. And crush them! I didn't, and they kept floating in my soup.
a tbsp tomato purée

Put the lamb, cut in cubes, in boiling water with salt. Let simmer about 20 mins and remove the scum regularly. I'm not used to boiling meat, and it's not pretty. Especially if you don't watch your pot because you're trying to see The Simpsons in the meantime, and find your pan exploding with brownish foam, But it does go away . So you should have a broth, at this point.. Add the cannellini, which should have been left to soak overnight (or a whole day). This is important or they'll be uneadible. Don't listen to anyone who tells you it's enough to soak legumes for a few hours. Add the cardamome pods and the tomato purée. Leave to simmer for one hour (this time you can watch tv in the process, as long as you go check the pot once in a while and add water if necessary). Add the potatoes, wait another 20 mins, or until the beans and potatoes are soft.

This is a warm, conforting dish. However I add a few issues with it. Mainly, it's a bit of a pain to make. It doesn't require massive activity but it takes long, and boiling the meat was a pain. Then, the cannellini were ok, but still a bit tough for my taste. I've been advised to use baking soda in the soaking water. Thirdly, but this admittedly my fault since I don't really bother with proportions, there were tons of beans and potatoes and not that much meat. I had beans and potato soup for two more days. I know a lot of people deliberately create leftovers but I don't, I'm too worried I'll end up throwing out stuff if have a few unplanned restaurant trips or something (it has been known to happen, by the way)... The potatoes felt stuffy and kinda pointless. I guess they add carbs to the dish, but I'm wondering if a handful of rice wouldn't have been more pleasant.
My verdict: an interesting dish but not one I plan to make again soon, except maybe for guests where the effort and large quantities make more sense.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Harissa fish

My fish, very saucy and coriandery. Also please admire the cat tray.
...and I'm back. Still haven't given up. I have some excuses for not advancing in my project, namely that this summer I was actually in Jerusalem, where most of the cooking I did was pasta with tomato sauce and tuna. But hey, when you're living the holy city you can't cook it as much.
Anyway, I decided to try another fish recipe. I changed so much stuff that I won't bother to allude to the original recipe, which, for one thing, is supposed to be sea bass. I'm not sure how to find seabass outside of England. So I went for sole. I think any white fish might work, but preferably one of the more delicate ones.
Anyway, here goes:
sole filets
a tbs of harissa.
For the sauce:
a tbs of honey
chopped coriander
Spread harissa (I use sambal instead, we've been here before) on the soles. Cover them in flour, fry in a pan (mine didn't fry).
Take soles out of pan after a few mins, add vinegar and cinnamon and some more water. Simmer. Add water if necessary. (You're supposed to put onions as well, but I don't do onions that much. You're also supposed to put yet another of those unfindable magic ingredients, edible rose petals).
Add honey.
When it looks ready, pour on fish. Add coriander (as you can see from the pic, I was heavy handed with the coriander, but what can I do, I have a soft spot for coirander).
This was a fun dish. The sweet and sour, or rather sweet and spicy effect was pretty good (according to the book you can add currants as well, which would probably work very nicely). The advice was also to add rice or a green, I just put some very ordinary frozen spinach next to it, and I must say it worked well and was spiced up by the sauce too.
So I was happy with my come back recipe, though it's probably really great if followed properly, but it's not practical for me to do that. Jerusalem is not only cooked but adapted and simplified, but it's still true to this amazing city' heart.

Friday, May 24, 2013

In which courgette hamburgers go pear-shaped, or rather shapeless

                                          This tasted better than it looked...

I fail  meatballs, it seems.I remember once I attempted to make some with bread crumbs and ground beef, and the result wasn't pretty. I wanted to try this recipe because I often eat chicken burgers (as in, those you buy already made) and I liked the courgette combination. But something didn't quite go well in the meatball-making process, as is obvious from the photo.  Possibly the usual reducing-proportion issue? Or that I was in a hurry and was running around the kitchen like those cuisine programmes where people have to make a 3-course meal in 30 seconds, or something? Anyway, here goes:

- This recipe goes with a sauce which, as can be easily inferred, shows that this is a Jerusalem cookbook and not a Jewish one, and I understand that Arabs often use dairy-based sauces for meat:

Mix in a small bowl 100 grs sour cream, 1 cup Greek yogurt (but I used some nice one from the Swiss countryside), a teaspoon of crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt pepper. You're also supposed to put sumac in it. Now, Yotam and Samimi, I thought I'd gotten by now all the spices I needed, what the heck is sumac? Needless to say, I went sans sumac. Put in the fridge.

For the meatballs, mix in a large bowl the minced turkey, 2 teaspoons crushed garlic, cumin, one egg, salt, crushed mint, pepper, 3 roughly grated mini-courgettes. Mix and make into meatballs. Here, I had the impression there wasn't enough meat in proportion to the other ingredients. Maybe the mistake was that, after putting 2 mini courgettes, I went "There's no such thing as too much courgette! Plus it's green and colourful!" thus producing an excess of courgettitude.

Afterwards, you're supposed to fry the meatballs in heated sunflower oil. I never pre-heat oil, I think it's healthier and reduces the risk of hot oil going all over the place...But this is where my already poor-looking meatballs began to undo themselves. I was tempted to transform the whole thing in a kind of chili, but still went through the rest of the recipe, putting the meatballs in the oven at 200 C for 7 minutes. This is when they lost all semblance of meatballness. However, it actually tasted good! The sauce was nice too, but then I'm a sucker for anything containing sour cream. And I wouldn't advice making this dish for a romantic dinner, since it's a bit garlic-heavy. Either that, or remove the garlic.

So there's definitely room for improvement in this recipe, as in, I basically need to improve my meatball-making skills. Because right now, I couldn't have really brought the dish to a picnic or as lunch to work, as Mssrs Ottolenghi&Tamimi suggest (they say it's "portable").

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aaand I'm back: fish with harissa and orange salsa.

I realize I haven't been doing too well on my project since it's mid-May and this is my first post for 2013, but life and stuff have been happening, but I'd never given up in my mind. To tell the truth, I'd gotten slightly bored with Jerusalem's mealy desserts, so I decided to try one of the fish dishes, especially as I'm always looking for ways to make what I call "hospital fish" (ie bland, white fish of any sort) more interesting. Here goes my semplified recipe:

filets of cod (the recipe calls for mackerel)
2 oranges
1 lemon
harissa (we'll get to that)
black olives
cumin seeds

Re: the harissa, there were 2 potential problems: 1) I have a fairly mild palate and generally go about extremely carefully with harissa considering past experiences, those aren't tastebuds I'll be getting back. 2) My local supermarket, while reasonably well equipped in "ethnic" foodstuffs, didn't carry harissa. I'm sure  would have found it easier in a Middle Eastern food store or even a better equipped supermarket, but I just couldn't be bothered. I knew from reason 1) I wouldn't be making massive use of the stuff, so why be particularly "purist" about the stuff? After standing in a hamletic pose for several minutes in the condiment aisle, I settled for sambal. Which is basically a South East Asian equivalent of harissa. I mean, it's a chili paste that's red and spicy, it can't be that different?

Another point: the recipe calls for the use of golden beetroot. I have no idea what golden beetroot is (apart from the fact that presumably it's a beetroot and has a golden colour) or where to find it, so, once again I just didn't bother. I've been accused in the past of remaking recipes so that they aren't really the same thing anymore, but I struggle to believ that a beetroot is going to make a world of difference. Maybe once I have more time I'll try again and chase the Golden Beetroot of Wonder.

So, as to the actual recipe:

mix a couple of teaspoons of harissa with cumin seeds and a pinch of salt. Smear it on the fish. It really depends on how much fish you have, but I was quite parsimonious with the mixture, because I had no wish to set my mouth on fire. Then put the fish away.

Peel and cut into small cubes 2 oranges and half a lemon, mix them with the parsley, olives, cumin and coriander and juice of the other half lemon (I took a picture of the salsa on its own because it just looked so pretty, but my phone ate it, it seems). Cook the fish in a skillet with olive oil for a few minutes, add the salsa.

If I can say so myself, this dish was great. The effect of the slight spiciness with the bittersweet flavour of the orange and lemon is fresh and delicious. Definitely something to try again to spice up (indeed) some boring fish, and fairly straightforward and quick to make to boot!