Around the World in Twelve Plates – Israel
I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back for this month’s Around the World in Twelve Plates. How was it even possible that I missed the ‘easiest’ country so far with last month’s challenge being an exploration of Greek cuisine, which I love and cook often. These last two months have been absolutely nuts with my involvement in several city wide food festivals and with our son’s wedding in Maui. We had a gorgeous, relaxing trip filled with all sorts of ‘Hawaiian’ food and now we’re back home. I don’t know what it is, but I always have a difficult time falling back into the cooking groove after a vacation…it’s probably because I never want it to ever end!
Getting back on track…this is the first ATW12P where I decided to cook an entire meal and not just a special dish. I don’t have anyone helping me cook so it’s quite challenging BUT my hubby was willing to do all those dirty dishes and that is a life saver right there. The dishes weren’t perfect; I missed throwing the mint in the Kuku and cilantro in the Stuffed Potatoes. The Rosewater and Vanilla Ice Cream I made didn’t get churned until 2 days later but it was absolutely delicious, eventually.
When Gabby first announced Israel, I was both excited and anxious to get researching. I knew that I would be making use of one or more of my Yotam Ottolenghi cook books and having experienced cooking from them previously, I knew that the recipes can be lengthy and full of ingredients (and flavour!). If you read the forward of ‘Jerusalem’ or do any research into Israeli cuisine, you will find out that it is similar to Canadian cuisine in that it really doesn’t contain only one style of cooking, but encompasses several styles based upon the country’s lengthy history of immigration. In Israel you will find dishes from so many other cultures and even similar dishes from several cultures, all claiming to ‘own’ the original idea for the dish. Israel is an inspired food country, filled with many cuisines, from Jewish dishes (kugel, bagels) to Arabic and Armenian, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Tunisian, Libyan, Moroccan, Turkish, and Indian…just to name a few that make up the country’s immense tapestry of flavours.
I chose several different dishes that represent a tiny portion of the flavours available in Israeli cuisine. The Fava Bean Kuku is basically a frittata-like dish of Iranian Jewish cuisine with the fresh flavours of herbs and sour notes of the barberries. I had a difficult time finding fava beans at this time of year in Canada so I used frozen sweet peas instead. I loved the combination of sour, sweet, and fresh herbs in this dish but it was a bit too out there for my family. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try my hand at making my very own falafel for the first time. Falafel (and hummus) are part of everyday life in Muslim Jerusalem and, I might add, very popular world wide and beloved in my own home. I loved the combination of herbs and spices but I had a huge problem getting them to stay together during the deep frying stage. I think they needed to be just a touch ‘pastier’ than they were chunky. These were the only four that vaguely resembled spheres of legit falafel.
Lastly, I wanted to find out why Ottolenghi included a whole chapter entitled, ‘stuffed’ in his cookbook. It seems that the local culture is entirely fascinated with all things stuffed; from sweet to savoury, each of the city’s numerous cultures has some sort of dish that requires stuffing. It may seem tedious to hollow out the vegetables (carrots, eggplants, zucchini, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, onions, etc.) but stuffing them stretches the meat or rice further, looks impressive, and makes clean up a breeze because everything is usually baked in one dish.
I’m excited to see what all the other Around the World in Twelve Plates participants cooked for the Ethiopian challenge. We all have our own unique ways of completing each month’s challenges. If you want to see what everyone else is up to, clink on the links below!
Gabby at The Food Girl in Town
Kelly Ohana at My Organic Diary
Loretto & Nicoletta at Sugar Love Spices
Korena Vine at KorenaintheKitchen
Meat Stuffed Potatoes
(page 169; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 medium onion; finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic; crushed
- 2/3 oz flat leaf parsley; finely chopped
- 2 tbsp thyme leaves; chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 eggs; beaten
- 5 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes; peeled
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper
For the Tomato Sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic; crushed
- 1 medium onion; finely chopped
- 1 1/2 stalks celery; finely chopped
- 1 small carrot; peeled and chopped
- 1 red chile; finely chopped (I used chili flakes)
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- pinch of smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp caraway seeds; crushed with a mortar and pestle
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- Start by making the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan for which you also have a lid. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and chile and sauté over low heat until they are soft.
- Add spices, stir well, and cook for another 2-5 minutes.
- Pour in tomatoes, tamarind, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and some black pepper and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Now for the stuffed potatoes…halve each potato lenghtwise and scoop out the centres until the edges are 2/3 inch or 1/5 cm thick. Keep in bowl of cold water until they are all scooped and you are ready to stuff them.
- Place beef, crumbs, onion, garlic, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, and the eggs in a mixing bowl. Combine well.
- To stuff the potatoes, grab a handful of meat mixture and press down into the potato cavity. Place upright into pan containing sauce. Repeat until the pan is full of stuffed potatoes.
- Add enough water to the pan to almost cover the meat patties. Bring to a light simmer, cover and cook until potatoes become soft. Reduce the liquid and serve garnished with cilantro.
(Page 99 in Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
- 1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas (or a can of chickpeas; drained)
- 1/2 medium onion; finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic; crushed
- 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley; finely chopped
- 2 tbsp cilantro; finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 tbsp flour
- 3 cups or more sunflower oil for frying
- 1/2 tsp sesame seeds; for coating
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit over night.
- The next day drain the chickpeas (or drain the canned chickpeas) and combine them with the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro.
- Blitz the mixture in batches in a food processor, pulsing for 30 to 40 seconds at a time until it’s very finely chopped. Take care not to process to a mush or paste.
- Add the spices, baking powder, , 3/4 tsp salt, flour and water.
- Mix well by hand until it becomes smooth and uniform. Cover and place in fridge for at least an hour.
- Fill a deep pan with enough oil to come 2 3/4 inches up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil to 350 F.
- With wet hands, press one tablespoon of the mixture into a ball, sprinkle with sesame seed.
- Fry in batches in the hot oil until well browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Fava Bean Kuku
(Page 39; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
- 2 cups fava beans; fresh or frozen (I used frozen peas)
- 5 tbsp boiling water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 5 tbsp dried barberries
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions; finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic; crushed
- 7 large eggs
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup fresh dill; chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint; chopped
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Pre heat oven to 350F. Rinse frozen fava beans or peas under hot water. If using fresh fava beans, simmer in a pan of water for 1 minute and drain. Refresh under cold water
- Add sugar and baberries to a small bowl. Pour boiling water over top and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Bring cream, saffron, and cold water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside for 30 minutes to infuse.
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick oven proof frying pan for which you have a lid.
- Add onions to oil and cook for about 4 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the fava beans/peas and set aside. Drain barberries and add them as well.
- Beat the eggs well until they become frothy. Add flour, baking powder, saffron cream, herbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Whisk well.
- Add egg mixture to the still hot fava bean/pea, barberry, and onion mixture.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the eggs are just set. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.