Wednesday, 23 December 2009


I am back in my apartment, reacquainting myself with the space, and everything I forgot I had, belongings. I have less clutter and a new neighbor. Hidden behind shutters and facing my kitchen window, he is a faceless talking parrot. We have not been properly introduced and I do not know his name. His limited range of sounds varies between a ringing phone,a cheeky whistle and a meowing kitten. That’s it. Thats a lot.

Rolling the ring of a phone through his beak I imagine his desire to be talked to, and answered back. Meows of an abandoned kitten is the sound of loneliness and neglect, whilst the whistles of a construction worker are his call for the attention he so desperately seeks. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it.

I had yet to break the oven. As in ‘bake a yeast dough pastry’ that will fill the house with the aroma of home, so I spent this morning baking a Brunsviger, a sweet yeast pastry that is part of the Danish family of pastries.

Resembling a foccacia, it has a chewy thin yeast crust and a sugar- butter topping. The freshly baked crust has a bouncy, elastic tension, its a chewy and mildly sweet yeast bread that does a great job in balancing out the sugar- butter topping. The dark topping is where the goodness lies, all moisture and comfort. It is so simple to make, requiring little ingredients and a lot of butter. I have only started, as I clearly need to experiment with other, less traditional toppings.


Adapted from a recipe by Trina Hahnemann

(8- 10 slices)


250 grams (1 ¾ cup) flour

1 Tbs Sugar

A pinch of salt

75 grams cold, good-quality butter

140 ml lukewarm milk

25 grams fresh yeast


50 grams butter

50 grams brown sugar

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt.

Cut the butter into small squares, add to the flour mixture and work it with your hands until the dough reaches the consistency of sawdust. Add the yeast into the lukewarm milk, stir it and pour into the dough.

Knead the dough well and add a little flour if it is too sticky to handle.

Cover the dough with a cloth and place in a warm place to proof for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a a brownie tray with a baking sheet.

Roll the dough out onto the tray and stretch it into place with your fingers. With your fingers dimple the dough, making holes for the sweet syrup.

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. When the mixture is bubbling pour it over the dough and bake for 20-25 minutes. You will know its ready when the crust is golden and the house will smell amazing (You might want to line the bottom of the oven with a baking sheet to avoid a sticky mess situation).

Remove the Brunsviger from the tray and allow to cool before serving.

Slice and serve fresh with coffee (or you can keep it in an airtight container in the freezer).

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Six year Tchulnt

Last weekend we marked six years. Six years passed without my father around, in the physical sense. I say that because I feel his presence, support and influence and probably more then when he was alive. Now he is from within, constantly watching over.

Six years ago I knew how to defrost a pizza, make an egg and chop a salad. My favorite sandwich contained a bag of crisps and I thought that the ultra sweet and artificial tasting Chai tea latte was the greatest invention ever. I came a long way since then, unintentionally. Perhaps it was an inner understanding that I need to start taking care of myself and the realization that I needed to start caring. i never got to cook for him, though. Until this Friday.

My dad passed in December, and fittingly, it is a cold and raining season. It became a sort of tradition of making heavy Jewish comforting stews, specifically tchulnt, to commemorate him. T This year I was in charge.

There are two secrets to making a Tchulnt:

1. Its really quick and simple to make.

2. It cooks for so long, its practically impossible to ruin it as all the flavors have hours to build up and caramelize.

The Tchulnt originates in the European Diaspora, and as observant Jews did and do not cook on the Sabbath (Saturday), various techniques were developed to provide for a hot meal on Sabbath day. Tchulnt comes from the French 'chaud lent', literally meaning slow heat. It is a slow-cooked stew of meat, potatoes, beans and barley, with an endless variety of recipes. The ingredients are placed in a pot and put up to boil before lighting the candles on Friday night after which the pot is placed on a hotplate, or in an oven on a low heat, where it is left to simmer until the following day.

This is pure comfort food and a serious rib sticker, perfect for a cold winter day.

With the pot containing all the heavy and comforting elements of the meal,everything surrounding the Tchulnt should be light, fresh and tangy. I made a fresh salsa, and an orange & anchovies salad on the side. Vodka or anise type spirit work best, and a dry Lambrusco proved a successful lighter alternative.


Serves about 10

(Make sure to use a large ovenproof saucepan)

Olive oil

1 Tbs sugar

6 Desiree potatoes, peeled

1 thin rib, de-boned

Smoked duck breast, fat removed.

1 cup wheat (can be substituted with barley, quinoa or other grains)

1 ½ cups two different types of beans, soaked overnight

Eggs, washed (count half an egg for every person).

Kishkes (intestines filled with a bread mixture that can be bought at a kosher butcher)

2 Tomatoes, squashed



A couple of bay leafs

If you prefer serving each of the ingredients separately, the beans and wheat can be cooked in cheesecloth, so they soak the flavors but don’t mix with the rest. Otherwise, a hot mess is equally comforting. The ingredients are laid out in the pot in the following order:

Heat a little olive oil in the saucepan. Add the sugar, followed by the onions. Layout the potatoes and sprinkle with salt.

Carefully place the thin rib on top and the smoked duck breast. This gives a wonderful smoked flavor to the dish, that can be substituted with a smoked rib or sausage. Throw in the bay leafs and the tomatoes. Prick the kishkes with a fork and place it in the centre, surrounded with the eggs. This is also a good time to add the leftovers from the kugel.

Fill with water so that everything is just covered, add salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Once boiled cover the saucepan with foil and the lid and reduce to a low heat. Turn the oven to 100 degrees, and transfer the saucepan overnight. Make sure that water is always covering the stew- and never dry.

The Tchultnt will be ready for lunch the next day and in the meanwhile the house will fill with the most wonderful smell of home.

To serve, place each of the elements on a serving plate, peal and half the eggs, slice the intestines, cut the potatoes, and mound the beans and grains.

These are basic guidelines only, and open for variations; you can add chicken, bread dumplings, meat balls- anything heavy and hearty that can stand a long and slow cooking.

To my Father.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


I discovered an underground Bakery the other day. Just outside the city centre and over the highway, in a quiet residential neighborhood obscured by trees, birds and strollers a small sign pointed to a narrow alley. A fragrant Rosemary bush signaled we were there. Through the gate and up the stairs, in an old and rundown tiny apartment that had been converted into a makeshift bakery, Nina welcomed me with a warm and kind smile. The sourdough starter lays heavy in the corner as a variety of loafs were proofing, baking and cooling. Everything here was made with love, attention, care and modesty.

She was busy making bread for Friday morning, but had stopped kneading and showed me around. She began a year ago from her kitchen oven and has now spread to the apartment next door. She was the right person at the right time realigning me; it’s all about a screaming passion and a raging need to create.

These are the kind of surprises I have grown used to from Tel Aviv; underground kitchens that emerge from a raging passion and a local thirst for a quality underground.

I did some baking myself this week. Snickerdoodles are old fashioned seasonal cookies that date back to the 18th century, probably of German or Dutch origins.

They are incredibly simple to make and are essentially a cake trapped in cookie’s body.


Adapted from the Joy of Baking

(makes about 32 cookies)


2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 Tsp salt

2 Tsp baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1 Tsp pure vanilla extract


1/3 cup granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

If the dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 190°C and place rack in the center of the oven.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Once the dough has chilled combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Using a small ice-cream scoop, form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar.

Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the prepared pan, spacing about 5 cm apart.

Bake the cookies for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Can store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 10 - 14 days, but that wont be necessary.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Jerusalem style Kugel

I am still a nomad in residential limbo. My immediate belongings are in a suitcase and the rest is in boxes. My apartment is no mans land as it awaits a new coat of paint and some TLC.

The external chaos is reflective of the scattered nature of my current thoughts. I think its called confusion and I pretty much expected this to be the case after a yearlong absence from reality. The best place to realign my thoughts and balance is in the kitchen, and thankfully there are plenty opportunities to do so.

With time to spare and a pending dinner for 8 I headed to Jerusalem’s Mahne Yehuda market on Friday morning. Friday is the busiest day of the week packed with frantic shoppers racing against time to prepare the pending Shabbat dinner.

Slowly my bag began to weigh me down filled with herbs, baby eggplants, beetroots, shallots, figs and pears, sheep’s milk feta, Gorgonzola, nuts and seeds. There were freshly baked bagels I had to buy and wine, too. I spent the next two days preparing what are now quite a lot of leftovers in the fridge reflecting the confusion of my past, present and future. My Italian past seeped through the pasta fagioli soup, a nostalgic Jerusalem Kugel slowly caramelized for seven hours and a French Far Breton was served with cream. In between there were raw beetroots, feta and pears, shallots prunes and chestnuts, figs and gorgonzola, buttered almonds and fresh herbs, roasted eggplants, pomegranate and pine nuts, yogurt garlic and tahini. A confused collage of me, my adventures and culinary DNA.

Jerusalem style Kugel encapsulates what Friday afternoon is in Jerusalem; caramelized noodles spiced with black pepper and baked on a low heat overnight this is a sweet and spicy accompaniment to hearty winter stews. Traditionally served with pickled gherkins.

Jerusalem style Kugel

Based on a recipe by Sherry Ansky

(Serves 8-10)


½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup unrefined sugar

250g egg noodles, like vermicelli

2 large eggs

1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

To serve:

Sliced pickled gherkins

1. In a pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Add noodles and cook for about 3 minutes. Strain the pasta.

2. Place sugar and oil in a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes.

3. Very carefully pour the caramel over the noodles and stir until blended. Some of the caramel may harden up but that’s ok.

4. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs. Mix in the salt and black pepper.

5. Stir in the egg mixture to the noodles.

6. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius.

7. Heat a little oil in a heavy duty skillet. Add the noodles.

8. Cut out circle of parchment paper and cover the noodles. Brush the top with a little oil. This prevents the top from drying out and burning. Wrap the pan tightly in foil.

9. Bake for 7-10 hours. Flip the Kugel to a plate, cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature with the gherkins.