Thursday, 24 September 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #23 – Tahini

Dee – Tahini, the featured ingredient from June 2014, is an oily paste made from sesame seeds, and is versatile enough to be included in either sweet or savoury recipes.  It is described in the book as Jerusalem’s answer to Peanut Butter, making it an instant hit with me.
It is most commonly encountered as an ingredient in hummus, and I was considering writing about hummus for this blog entry, but a call for baked goods at Jay’s workplace led me to choose a sweet recipe instead.
Tahini Cookies
 Tomorrow, Friday 25th September, is the day of the Macmillan coffee morning; a charity fundraising event for which people sell cakes, biscuits etc to raise money for supporting victims of cancer.  Jay’s work colleagues had asked if I was going to bake anything, so I decided to make the Tahini Cookies on page 292.
The recipe was easy to follow, but as with all cookie recipes, there was an ever-present temptation to eat the raw dough.  I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe; I left out the cream as we didn’t have any in, and I mixed sugar in with the cinnamon as we didn’t have a lot of the spice left.
I was pleased with how the cookies looked when they came out of the oven, but it’s important to mention that they are extremely fragile when they are first taken out of the oven and need to be handled with care when placed on the cooling rack.  I was a little heavy handed with a few of them, and they crumbled and lost their shape.  Not to worry though, I used them as quality control samples. 
The taste of the cookies was close to lightly textured shortbread, and the tahini, which I thought would be the predominant flavour, was actually quite subtle.  They were not too sweet either, and I imagined that they would be an ideal accompaniment to a cup of coffee at the end of a meal.
I hope that they are well received tomorrow, but it would be nice if Jay brings a few back so that I can see how well they pair with that coffee.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the omgyummy.com web site)

Monday, 14 September 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #22 – Pickling

Dee - September 2015’s Tasting Jerusalem theme was a method of food preparation rather than a specific ingredient, so I was able to exercise a degree of creativity with regard to the recipe I chose.  In the end, several different recipes all met around the central theme.

Za’atar Spiced Flatbread with Labneh, Tabbouleh and Pickled Chillies
The idea for this first recipe came not from the book, but from an episode of the ‘Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast’ television series in which he travels to Israel to sample the food there.  It was only briefly mentioned and he didn’t include any recipe for it as part of the programme, but it sounded like something that I would enjoy, so I made several versions of it before arriving at the one I’ll be covering here.
Although it was mentioned as being a popular Israeli lunch time snack, none of its elements would be at all out of place in any part of Jerusalem and I am sure would be enjoyed throughout the entire city. 

The Za’atar flatbreads were one of my own ideas that I first wrote about in the article on Dinner Parties for Tasting Jerusalem #20 (click here for details).  They proved popular and I even received a couple of requests for the recipe.  They are not difficult to make, and I am happy to share it, so here it is;

This recipe makes 4 flatbreads

Ingredients;
150g White Bread Flour
100g Wholemeal Bread Flour
5g Salt
3.5g or half a sachet Instant Yeast
1 Tablespoon Za’atar spice
150g Warm Water
Olive Oil (optional)
Mixture of white and black sesame seeds (optional, white seeds toasted if desired)

Method;
-Add the flour, yeast salt, za’atar and water to a large bowl and mix them together to make a dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic.
-Wipe the bowl clean and return the dough to it.  Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place for about 2 hours to prove.
-After 2 hours, knock back the dough and leave it to prove for another hour
-Once the dough has finished proving, weigh it, and divide it into four equal pieces
-Lightly coat the bottom of flat frying pan with a little oil (not too much) and heat the pan
-Roll out the first piece of dough into a circle.  Use a little flour on the worktop to stop the dough sticking to it if necessary, but don’t use too much.
-When the pan is hot, put the rolled out dough onto it and cook it until bubbles start to appear.
-As soon as bubbles appear, turn the dough over and cook the other side.
-Cook the flatbread until it puffs up.  Don’t leave it too long on either side as it will burn.
-If desired, as soon as the flatbread is cooked, brush both sides with a little olive oil and sprinkle one side with a few sesame seeds.
-Put the flatbread on a cooling rack covered with a very slightly damp tea towel.
-Repeat with the other flatbreads, and leave them to cool completely before serving them.
They should be soft in texture and slightly chewy in taste with a small amount of spiciness in each bite.

It was good to make and use some labneh again, after enjoying it as part of Tasting Jerusalem #15 (click here for details).  I was pleased to have been able to make good my promise of revisiting it.  As before, I used Greek yoghurt as the basis, but I still intend to seek out some goats’ yoghurt to see how that works out.

I used the recipe for Tabbouleh on page 85, but we had to make two versions of it; one using the recipe from the book and the other with extra mint replacing the parsley, on account of Jay’s dislike of it.  I hadn’t used pomegranate seeds in a tabbouleh before but they worked well, giving a subtly sweet taste to the salad.  I think I will cut down on the allspice if I make this version again though, as it was very domineering, even with lemon juice and pomegranate.  I had half a chilli left over from another recipe, so chopped that up finely and added it to give it a little extra fire.

The final touch was the pickled chilli, which I sliced in half lengthways and removed the seeds from.  I’d had a jar of pickled chillies for a while and the one used here was one of the last ones, so I can’t remember which recipe I’d used for them.  There was a sliced garlic clove a bay leaf and a few black peppercorns in with the vinegar though.

The photograph of the finished dish shows how it is assembled.  As well as the pickled chilli being placed on top of the tabbouleh, some of the pickling vinegar can also be sprinkled over it to give it an extra hot dressing. 
It is probably best rolled up before being eaten, as this would ensure that each bite included the labneh, salad and chilli, but I ate mine off the plate with a knife and fork, which gave extra hot bites from the chilli when I got to the middle.
If everything is made in advance, this is a quick tasty and filling lunch

Pickled Vegetables
The picture above shows the early stages of two recipes for pickled vegetables. 
The first, on the left, is simply chopped up carrot and swede pickled in a mixture of vinegar from a jar of pickled beetroots and white wine vinegar.  The idea for this recipe came again from Tasting Jerusalem #15, in particular a root vegetable slaw, where I had noticed how, after being mixed with pickled beetroot, some of the vegetables had taken on a visually pleasing colour.  It remains to be seen how the carrot and swede will end up, but initial indications are promising.
The second is Pickled Mixed Vegetables with Curry, from page 307 at the end of the book.  I was intrigued by the spices and use of cider vinegar in this recipe so was keen to make up a batch.  The vegetables used are the other half of the swede that was used in the first recipe and half a cauliflower, which I’ve pickled successfully before.  It has to be one of my favourite pickled vegetables, so I am keen to try it out.

At the time of writing, the jars are sitting in the pantry while the pickling process takes place.  The vegetables should be ready in about five to six days’ time.  In terms of recipes to use them in, I still have six more ‘old’ themes to catch up with as well as the ‘new’ monthly themes, so there should be plenty of opportunities to include them, so this is certainly not their last outing.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the omgyummy.com web site)

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #21 – Cardamom

Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios & Rose Water
Dee – Cardamom was March 2014’s featured ingredient and offered a wide range of possibilities for selecting a recipe to use it in, as it is versatile enough to be used in sweet or savoury dishes.  We haven’t made a dessert for a while, so went for the elegant sounding rice pudding on page 270.

I first made reference to this recipe in Tasting Jerusalem #17 when I mentioned it in the context of a Persian themed menu which started with a Pistachio Soup click here for details, and although we didn’t prepare that particular menu, the rice pudding was preceded by Olivieh and Shirazi salads; two more well known Persian dishes.

The cardamom was used in the first stage of the recipe.  Eight pods were added, along with a vanilla pod, to a milk and cream mixture, which was mixed the day before serving and left to infuse overnight.  The pods were crushed and added whole, rather than the seeds being extracted.  Cardamom has quite a strong and distinctive flavour, so this ensured that it didn’t overwhelm the other ingredients.

The most challenging element of the recipe was the cooking of the rice in the milk and cream mixture.  Close attention needed to be paid to this as the rice had a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan if left unattended.  It was also quite quick to absorb the milk and cream, so a little water needed to be added to prevent it from drying out.

Once the rice was cooked, a mixture of honey, condensed milk and butter was stirred through it to loosen it and enrich the flavour and texture.  This was a test of willpower for me as I find it difficult to resist the temptation to grab a spoon and eat condensed milk straight from the tin.  I didn’t this time though.

Once the rice pudding was dished up, the final touch before serving was to add the garnishes.  First, a drizzle of syrup made from honey and rose water, followed by slivered pistachios and dried edible rose petals.

The finished dish looked great and tasted great too.  It was very sweet and rich, as expected, with the main flavour coming from the rose water rather than the cardamom.

The portion sizes proved to be spot on.  The pudding was served in small bowls, with enough left over for a small second helping.

This wasn’t one of the simplest recipes in the book, and required several different preparations and some overnight infusion.  The frighteningly calorific ingredient list prevents it from making too regular an appearance at the table, but for an occasional treat it is fabulous.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the omgyummy.com web site)