Saturday, 18 December 2010

Chickpeas and spicy merguez salad

The past few weeks have been hectic to say the least.

Still recovering from the copious amount of food (mainly gluten based baked goods), and since I chose a career path based on me eating, a day off is a rarity. Food is work and I’m happy to earn my bread, literally. Food, however, is all consuming and, and so my blog seems to be paying the price…

Its not all fun and games, as a short recap of some of my culinary adventures in the past few weeks reveals.I made another trip up north to Matat for work, always a highlight. This time I was mainly in the kitchen cooking for a photo shoot, and eating it all, which goes without saying. On the way back, and since we simply had to have dessert after a day of roasted, cooked and baked lamb, chicken, bread, casseroles and stews, we stopped in Kfar Yasif and found an ‘off the beaten track’ local patisserie for what was possibly the best halva Baklava I’ve had and exceptional Knafe. Nothing short of corrupt indulgence.

Last week was also our (Adi, Dafi and me) second meeting with the kids at ‘Shaked’ preliminary school in Ra’anana, as part of the year long ‘Garden to plate’ gastronomy workshop. This week’s theme was mother earth and, once we had finished reading a variety of mythological stories about her, and a short working session at the vegetable garden we set up, we prepared miniature plant pots inspired by Noma’s recipe, simplifying it to fromage blanc covered in savoury granola ‘earth’ and radishes from the farmers market.

Some don’t like cheese, others may take a dislike to radishes but then there was the kid that told me he hates radishes with a passion but he ate this one and liked it. If that doesnt make it all worth while I dont know what does. I feel how little by little, we're taking part in something bigger and helping to make difference as small as it may be. It’s the reason I do what I do and this is the place it all comes together.

Food is as a tool, a communicator and a creative outlet. It tastes good and it feels even better.

It’s the season for heavy casseroles, comforting meals that fit in a bowl, can be eaten with a spoon, thirsty for a dribbling poached egg.

This is one I made earlier.

Chickpeas and spicy merguez salad

(serves 2-4)


500gram chickpeas, soaked over night in water, rinsed and strained

3-4 sage leaves

1 garlic clove

6 merguez sausages, cut to bite size pieces

¼ curry powder

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely

2-3 tbs olive oil

¼ cup dried cranberries

coriander leaves, washed

¼ cup hazelnuts, roasted and chopeed coarsely

sea salt, to taste

White peppercorns, to taste, freshly ground

1 lemon, juiced

Place the chickpeas in a large sauce pan with the sage leaves and the the garlic clove. Cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil.

Use a spoon to remove the foam from the top surface, reduce to a low heat and cook until the chickpeas are soft but firm, about 1 hour.

When they are ready, strain and set aside.

Prepare the sausages:

Heat an iron skillet and fry the merguez until they turn a deep colour and covered in burn marks. You don’t need to use any oil since the merguez are oily as it is. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess fat.

Alternatively, these can be oven baked, placed on a baking tray and browned in an oven preheated to 200C, around 5 minutes.

In a dry saucepan, fry the fenugreek seeds and the curry powder until the aroma is released.

Remove from the heat and stir in the olive oil.

To assemble the dish use a large bowl to mix the cooked chickpeas, merguez sausages, coriander leaves, cranberries and roasted hazelnuts.

Season with the spiced olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Transfer to a plate and serve drizzled with raw tahini, chopped nuts and more coriander seeds.

If you’re feeling up to it, serve with a freshly poached egg on top.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Israel (and Jordan), a mouthful

Kate came for a 10 day visit. This was always going to be an ambitious project, us trying to squeeze a diverse, ever changing, constantly evolving rich foodscape that is made up of dozens of different cuisines, local and from the various Diaspora; Street food, gourmet, cheap and expensive, simple and pretentious, fresh and seasonal, slow and traditional, we had it all.

This was a week of chicken, turkey and lamb shawarma, good hummus and bad, cheap borek, good borek and luxury crab meat borek, brains on toast, kibbeh soup, shakshuka, mujaddara, sweet knafe, mild Malabi and a sour sweet tamarind juice.

The new covered market at Tel Aviv port was the place we had a fluffy kebab and an inspiring gelato, at Levinsky spice market we collected spices, from dried Persian lemons to white Yemenite coffee, a mediocre borek and an unforgettable pomegranate orange juice. Lastly, we made a pitstop at HaCarmel market for some succulent Medjool dates.

Ali Karawan’s mind blowing hummus in Jaffa was a Friday breakfast appetizer, but then we simply had to stop at the doctor for a spicy shakshuka, a taste of his shawarma and a cuscus (Dr. Shakshuka has a Phd in shakshuka, in case you wondered).

A visit to Jerusalem's Mahne Yehuda market began with coffee and a visit to 'Marzipan' patisserie for their gooey dripping Rogelach and boreks before we headed to Azura for a taste of Kibbeh soup and okra cooked in tomato sauce. We had no time to waste and so we headed to the old city, for more food and some spirituality at the wailing wall and the church of the sepulchre.
It was late afternoon, and we had already sampled the local Knafe (fried kadaifi with sweet sheep's milk cheese, rose sugar syrup and pistachio) when the search for the best shawarama began. We didnt have an address as such, or a name for that matter, but we knew what we were after. Eventually we made it to a fluorescent lit dining hall, and were greeted by a large shawarma and several men with a smile that says: " I know you made quite a way to get this far and its well worth it". We were sat down and were served some salads, pita bread and two heaped plates of freshly carved shawarma. It was thanksgiving in the US and the turkey meat cooked in sheep fat was appropriate for the occasion. And it was wonderful too. Dinner was a disaster so I wont go into it. Suffice to say it didnt change Kate's mind regarding eggplants or tahini, both of which were badly made and expensively charged.
As part of the' once in a lifetime' experience we made plans to visit Petra. Although Jordan is the closest thing to abroad from Israel, this was to be my first time. A taxi ride, flight, border pass, and more taxi ride later we were in Wadi Mussa, ready to see the wonder. It may have been the end of November but you couldn't tell from the heat wave. We saw the wonder and even saved our packed lunch to have in it's presence. Several hours later, after marvelling at the landscape and trying to avoid the donkey rides that kept appearing in front of us we had dinner at a restaurant specializing in typical Jordanian cuisine.
Despite a few glitches like a random apple mayo salad, we were served local dishes such as stuffed zucchini and a fragrant lamb Maqluba, fresh yogurt, Hummus, bitter olives and beet salad. However, we both agreed that apart for the cold beer and free nuts at the Movenpick hotel lobby it was the 1 Dinari falafel and fried shawarma wrap that did it for us.

As a fitting finale to our Jordanian adventure, our taxi driver shared with us a freshly baked bread he picked up in a bakery on his trip back, still warm and humid from the taboon.
Dipped in fromage blanc and a bottle of beer it made for dinner, Biblical style.
There were many more dishes and meals, from 'North Abraxes', to 'Shila' and a hedonistic meal at the 'Basta', a Russian breakfast at 'Cafe Mersand' and a sabich finale at Tchernichovsky.
Now that I have caught on my sleep and the workload and had some time to ingest the week and digest the copious amount of foods I feel I must mention some of the catastrophes, mishaps and general cloud of strange coincidences that came flying our way from all directions and at all times, from dentists and mormons, to a fringe, a spilled jar of tahini in a suitcase, lost chargers, unstable bikes to one very bad film, to name but a few (all of which added to the experience and the taste of the food). I'd do it all over again kate.
Till the next time, however, there is no rest for the wicked and I have landed directly in the hands of Hanukah (thats code for fried latkes and more fried doughnuts).
Must. carry. on.