Monday, 24 May 2010

What’s in a name

Last week I went to the spice market, in the south of Tel Aviv. I go there when I need to top up my spice supply, in search of a salted herring or just treasure hunting. There is a shop that makes and sells fresh phyllo sheets, kadaif, another is a coffee roaster, therers a shop that sells parking tickets and cures fish and there is a pastry shops in business for over 50 years, where the decor is frozen somewhere areound 50 years ago, making marzipan nuggets for generations.

My loot from the day was a paper bag with 9 pieces of marzipan and a dehydrated mystery fruit.

The market consists of shops on both sides of a narrow one-way street. Bags of dried fruit, nuts, legumes and grains spill onto the pavement in a bid to catch the gaze of passers by. It worked. As I was walking along I noticed a large brown bag with strange looking fruit. They were a dark red colour, and at first i thought they were dates, but dates are juicy, sticky and succulent, while these had the texture of stale marshmallows and a taste reminiscent of a dried apricot.

The vendor told my their name, and said they came from Iran. I have no more on them as google seems too have never of them and proved uninterested and least helpful. I had one or two but decided that more can be done with them. So I boiled them with sugar, water and spices (Anise, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves) and simmred for and hour.

I don’t know their name, but in the words of William Shakespeare “that which we call a rose 
by any other name would smell as sweet”. The taste is in the fruit, not the name.

I'f you can shed a light on the real name of this now gooey succulent toffee candy in a compote, I'll be grateful and enlightened.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Homemade Pop Tarts

When I was young and often complain about a sore bruise, my dad would always suggest amputation. That way, the pain would be gone, or rather, it would be replaced with a different pain, so the old one wouldn't matter. I couldn't really argue with that nor could I wallow in self pity.

I had one of these weeks. Its behind me now, I think. Thank god for weekends. They have that quality of wrapping up the passing week, elevating it to a climax and then washing it all away, for a new slate starting with a new week. Like tax years, but I digress.

Last week everything around me seemed to shatter, crack or drop dead. An exotic looking beatle showed up on my kitchen floor and died. Then, at a yoga class, an enormous dead fruit fly was right by my mattress. Today I nearly ran over a dead rat on the street. As if that doesn’t seem like an omen of sorts the glass pain over my kitchen table decided its time was up and out of the blue just snapped in half. I didn’t know glass could do that, but this was not an ordinary week. To top it all up a drinking glass bounced of the dish rack and on to the floor, smashing to a halt. So that was a week I really needed to get over. I decided to start the week on a right foot, and this was easily achieved by dressing that foot in a new Yves Klein blue pair of shoes. It did the trick. I now have a new blister, marking a new week.

I also made these pop tarts which resulted in a very messy kitchen, and also with a batch of charming, homemade, rough looking pop tarts. The home version is far better then the industrial one, and I get to choose exactly what goes into it, both the dough and the filling.

For a coffee break.

Homemade pop tarts

Adapted from Here, originally seen here

Makes about 9 large pop tarts, or 14 small pop tarts


2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pats

1 large egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling

For the filling:

Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Make the dough:

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive. 

Divide the dough in half.

Shape each half into a rough 7 x 12cm rectangle, smoothing the edges.

Roll out immediately; or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Assemble the tarts:

If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 3mm thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 20 x 30cm.

Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the rectangle of dough. 

Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you’ve just rolled, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine rectangles. 

Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides.

Cut the dough evenly in between the filling mounds to make nine tarts.

Press the cut edges with your fingers to seal, then press with a fork, to seal again. 

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries.

Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 175°C. 

Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack.

While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown. 

Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan. 

Variation: Instead of chocolate chips, fill the tarts with a tablespoonful of jam filling Or cinnamon Filling.

Cinnamon Filling

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste

4 teaspoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Every so often a gem lands on my lap. In my case this usually refers to a recipe, most probably a sweet one.

With an attraction to the far east’s culinary offerings, a world of flavours and textures so far from my daily reality it’s the second best thing to travel, and cheaper by far. So I was delighted when I saw a recipe for Bibingka.

Bibingka is a Filipino dessert made with rice flour (that’s right, no gluten!), condensed milk, and coconut. Its chewy, gooey and not too sweet with a mild coconut whiff. It has a texture that is midway between a flan and the Japanese mochi, so if you’re a fan of either, this one’s for you. I read that traditionally it is served at any sort of gathering, so I chose to make it for Keren’s ‘Friday afternoon on the porch birthday do’, and I think it went pretty well. There is nothing quite like this in the local food-scape and I was pleased to see that it was all gone within minutes. It couldn’t be easier to make and the only obstacle is tracking down the ingredients. You should be fine at an Asian market or food store.

The next time ill make this cake, and there will be a next time, I’ll probably play more with the ingredients. I suspect the addition of cherries to the batter will add a nicely balanced acidity to the equation.


(Adapted from here)

Makes 24 pieces

½ can coconut milk 

½ can sweetened condensed milk

150 gr butter, melted

3 eggs

1 jar macapuno coconut strings in heavy syrup*

230 gr box mochiko sweet rice flour (look for glutinous rice flour)

½ cup packed brown sugar

1/8 cup finely chopped almonds

A few droplets of vanilla extract (optional)

A handful of candied peanuts, roughly chopped

Ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 190°C and line a brownies tray with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, beat coconut milk, condensed milk, and melted butter until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.

Add the macapuno coconut strings with the syrup.

Beat in the mochiko flour gradually (do not pour all at once or it will get clumpy), then add the brown sugar and almond meal.

Once you achieve an even consistency, add vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Pour batter into the baking tray.

Sprinkle evenly the roughly chopped candied peanuts and bake until lightly browned, about 45 minutes.

Sprinkle cinnamon evenly over the cake and continue to bake until golden brown. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, between 2-15 minutes longer, the cake is ready.

Remove from pan and let cool on the parchment paper.

Once cooled down, cut into squares and serve.

You can store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.