Sunday, 13 April 2014


Our family's traditional Haroset is made with date honey (Haleq, Eng pron: hullake) mixed with chopped walnuts. Haleq is mentioned in the writings of the Ben Ish Hai. Making it is a little labour intensive, but we can't get ourselves to compromise with any other kind of Haroset. This stuff is liquid gold!

4kg of stoned dates in a large pan.
Add water and boil to a pulp (adding more water as you go to prevent burning). As the dates swelled up I moved half of the mixture to a second pan.
Our trusty Boots Wine Press makes squeezing the juice out of the pulp a cinch. (Well, it's still pretty time consuming, but it doesn't hurt your hands the way squeezing hot pulp through a pillowcase does.)

The cakes of date leftovers are pretty tasteless and I discard them, but I know that the real pros add water, boil again, and press a second time.

Simmer the resultant liquid gently for several hours

When it is reduced to less than half, and the froth turns an orange colour it's ready. Leave to cool and then bottle.

Done! 4kg of dates yielded just under 2 litres of Haleq.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Matza Kleis

These matza balls are quite different to kneidlach, being made from whole matza (with pieces still visible in the balls) and fried onions - but every bit as delectable in their own right - arguably more so. Somehow it's become our custom to have kneidlach on the first day of Passover and kleis on the last.

If you've got leftover matza from Passover this is a good way of using it. The secret of making them light and luscious is to make the mixture soft, and refrigerate before forming into balls. They are very easy to make.

This recipe is from Judy Jackson. There's been some interesting discussion on my Facebook wall as to its country of origin; it seems possible that it is Dutch. 

  • 2 machine matzas
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs oil (or rendered chicken fat)
  • 2 Tbs matza meal
  • ~2 Tbs water
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley or coriander (optional)
  • Break the matza into large pieces and soak in water for five minutes
  • Meanwhile, finely chop onion and fry till soft and transparent
  • Drain the matza and squeeze out gently, breaking it into pieces, but not till it completely disintegrates
  • Mix all ingredients together, including enough water to make a soft, smooth mixture - but with small pieces of matza still discernible
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour
  • Form into walnut-sized balls, drop carefully into boiling salted water, and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add to clear chicken soup

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Individual Steak and Guiness Pies

Cooking beef goulash in Guinness (or other dark beer) with this simple method produces a soft and succulent pie filling, with a rich, brown gravy. I made individual pies, but of course you can make one large pie if you prefer.

  • 750g beef goulash, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 350ml Guinness (2/3 bottle)
  • 1 can button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs chopped thyme (optional)
  • 1 tsp Worcester Sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp nustard poweder (optional)
  • 500g pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten

  • Sprinkle beef with flour, and mix well to coat
  • Fry onions in 3 Tbs oil till soft
  • Add meat and cook on a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, till browned all over
  • Add the beer and next three ingredients, bring to boil, cover and simmer for an hour, stirring regularly to prevent sticking
  • Don't drink the remaining beer yet; you may need to add a bit more to the meat
  • Roll out the pastry and line pie molds
  • Fill and cover
  • Bake at 180C until golden
I had quite a lot of leftover pastry trimmings, which wouldn't make good pies (well actually I just couldn't be bothered to roll out any more). So I just rolled them out roughly, cut them into irregular strips, sprinkled them with paprika, salt and pepper, and served them drizzled with thick gravy (a la vol-au-vent) at a different meal.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Cornish pasties

Nostalgia is the most powerful seasoning!

The Cornish pasty is a simple and delicious English lunch item: a pastry wrapper filled with chopped meat and vegetables. It originated in Cornwall, where it served workers heading off to the mines both as their meal itself and as the lunch box in which to carry it.

These pasties were prompted by my discovery last week - at Ra'anana's famous "Meatland" which has all sorts of food items you can't find elsewhere in Israel - of ready-made empanada wraps. So I suppose they have at least as much claim to being "empanadas" as they do to being "pasties". In any event, they enable me to revel in the name "pasty", which I find so evocative, even if these weren't pasties in the purest sense.

I stir-fried onions, potatoes, carrots, peas and courgettes, in addition to the beef mince, and flavoured the filling with sage, pepper, and a hint of rosemary. 

I should probably have used a more fatty mince. That way the filling would have bound together better, enabling me to stuff the patties more fully. I once heard pasties described as "overstuffed purses" - and that's ideally how they should look.

But they were delicious. The ready-made pastry was perfect, and I was complimented on their appealing appearance.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Crystallized rose petals and marzipan

This week's culinary excursion began with last week's unsuccessful attempt at Bakewell Tart which I won't bore you with. Suffice it to say that I used regular Israeli coarsely ground almonds, and it was all wrong. My daughter-in-law put her finger on it when she said "it doesn't have the marzipany taste of the original."

Marzipan! That put me on the right track, looking for finely ground blanched almonds - which to my delight I found, from a new Israeli firm called Maimon - run, I suspect by French immigrants who wanted quality baking ingredients that were hitherto unavailable in Israel.

I discovered on the Internet that in Germany, the original home of marzipan:
  • Marzipan must be two thirds ground almonds to use the name "marzipan" 
  • Rose water is used in addition to egg white for binding.

There's your recipe right there - I thought to myself - and so I used:
  • 200g finely ground blanched almonds
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbs rosewater

And I had my marzipan.

But somehow my mind was running ahead of me, and the mention of rosewater took me on an internet search for kosher violet and rose creams - or at least a recipe so I could make them myself.

Quintessentially English and devised by the Victorians. A soft fondant cream mixed with violet or rose water and dipped in dark chocolate topped with crystallised violet or rose petals.

Sadly, I didn't find any kosher ones, and the requirement for double cream stymied me (it's unknown in Israel) but on one site I found this priceless quote:
People often tell us they are buying our violet creams for their grandmother - but we know better.
Just so! Just what I would have said to the shopkeeper! But of course they're for me - though intricately wound up with my memories of my grandmother, and various other old ladies of my childhood.

So I started looking for crystallized petal recipes and got this basic idea:
  • Pick and wash the petals (buds are best as the petals can be used whole and they tend to be thicker than larger petals - which is good)
  • Paint them with a mixture of egg white and rosewater using a paintbrush
  • While damp, sprinkle liberally on both sides with icing sugar
  • Spread the sugar evenly with the damp paint brush
  • Sprinkle with granulated sugar
  • Leave overnight to dry
  • Turn petals over to dry other side
By this morning they were dry on one side and I turned them over. In a couple more hours they were completely dry.

So here are my rosewater flavored marzipans, enrobed in bittersweet chocolate and decorated with crystallized rose petals from our garden. But you'd better come over quickly if you want any. They won't last long.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Savoury Kadaif Hors d'Oeuvres

Last hametz recipe before Passover!

I suppose this is a kind of fusion cooking; or at least fusion between the need to get rid of hametz from the freezer before Passover and the inability to throw away precious ready-made kadaif pastry. I'm sure the Turks don't do this with kadaif.

As we didn't want one of the traditionally sweet Turkish or Greek recipes made with this special pastry, I tried something savoury instead, and kept it butter-free, for serving with a meat meal on Shabbat Hagadol.

I rubbed the pastry with olive oil and pressed it into muffin moulds, making a well in the middle of each one, which I filled with a mixture of:
  • walnuts (finely chopped)
  • onion (finely chopped)
  • courgette (finely chopped)
  • salt and pepper
  • sugar
  • paprika
  • garlic
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a dollop of Heinz tomato ketchup
If I'd had minced meat on hand, I think I'd have added some to the filling for a little more body, though the chopped nuts did well enough on their own.

I baked them till golden and will be serving them with a rich beef and tomato gravy, as shown above, poured on just before serving so they don't get soggy. A thickened sauce would have been preferable, it just wasn't practical today.

The test-taste was delicious.

Sunday, 9 January 2011


One of the quintessential Indian snacks, known and loved around the globe, these are a little fiddly to make, but not nearly so hard as you might have thought. This recipe makes 16 samosas. 

Filling ingredients:
4 medium potatoes
2/3 cup frozen peas
2 chillies, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs lemon juice
4 Tbs oil
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp garam masala

Making the filling:
  1. Boil potatoes till cooked but firm, and leave to cool
  2. Peel and cut into 1 cm cubes
  3. Stir in lemon juice and salt to taste
  4. In a saucepan, heat oil and add cumin, stirring till it releases its aroma
  5. Add chillies and fry till soft
  6. Stir in peas and remaining spices for 2 minutes
  7. Stir in potatoes
  8. Leave to cool while you prepare the pastry
Pastry ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs semolina (optional, makes pastry crisper)
3 Tbs oil
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Making the pastry:
  1. Mix flour, semolina (if using) and oil till mixture is like breadcrumbs
  2. Add half the water and knead to a firm dough, adding more water only if necessary
  3. Knead for 1 min
  4. Leave to rest for 20 mins
  5. Divide into eight pieces
Making the samosas:
  1. Roll each piece of dough into a 10 cm circle and slice in half
  2. Wet the edges of each half circle and form a cone, pressing to seal the join (Fig 1)
  3. Fill cone carefully with about 2 Tbs potato filling, letting the cone bulge out as you fill it (Fig 2)
  4. Seal the open end to form a plump triangle, gently shifting the filling around to make an even shaped samosa (Fig 3)
  5. When all 16 samosas are formed, fry in at least 2 cm oil, turning once, until golden all over. (Deep frying obviously produces a plumper, rounder samosa)
  6. Serve hot with mango pickle, mango chutney and/or tamarind sauce
Fig 1: Form each half circle into a cone

Fig 2: Fill generously

Fig 3: Seal open end and rearrange filling

Fig 4: Repeat till all samosas are ready
Fig 5: Fry, a few at a time, till golden