Written by Dee
February 2016 was a busy month for Jay and me in terms of the Tasting Jerusalem section of the blog. Firstly, we were taking on the challenge of making a babka for the first time (read about that here), and secondly it was our first anniversary of joining the community.
Over the last year we’ve prepared so many delicious meals that it’s hard to believe that we’ve only been at it for a year, but the first blog entry was indeed on 14th February when we wrote about Grilled Fish Skewers with Hawayej (click here for details).
We wanted to offer up something special to mark the occasion and discussed a few ideas. Initially we were going to create a menu based on our favourite recipes to date, but decided instead to build the meal round one of our own creations. Well, I say ‘our’ creation: The recipe is actually our interpretation of one which appeared on Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast television series. He was visiting Israel and was working with a chef who put together a fantastic looking dish made from a flatbread topped with tomato sauce, goat’s cheese and sage. We fell in love with it straight away, especially the insistence on using the best quality fresh ingredients and not using any spices, and made a point to see if we could re-create it at home. After some experimentation with ingredients and quantities, we eventually had a recipe for what became known as our Jerusalem Pizza. We’d been waiting for an opportunity to write about it on the blog, and decided that there would be no better place to feature it than as part of our first anniversary menu.
The first dish on the menu was decided. The use of goat’s cheese and sage makes for quite a different taste experience than the mozzarella and basil pizza. It is distinctly earthy and strongly flavoured. In our recipe we used a reduced-down tomato sauce, to which we added more sage, both fresh and dried, for added richness. When we made it for our anniversary meal, we were delighted to be able to use sage from the sage plant in our garden which had started to produce leaves.
Choosing an accompaniment needed care and attention, but fortunately we had this already worked out.
Tomato and Pomegranate Salad
The second dish on the menu was a Tomato and Pomegranate Salad, which also appeared on the Israeli leg of Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast, but this time we had a recipe to follow as it was shared in the on-line scrapbook which accompanied the series, and later appeared in his ‘Plenty More’ book.
It is a fresh, vibrant and flavoursome salad that we have made several times. We mentioned it in Tasting Jerusalem#13, which featured pomegranate molasses (click here for details).
We had to make a slight change to the published recipe, as we couldn’t source any yellow tomatoes, but it still looked and tasted great. The sweet tastes and crunchy textures provided a nice contrast to the more intense flavours of the pizza.
Cream Cheese Babka
The third and final course for our menu was a dessert, and a continuation of February’s Tasting Jerusalem theme: Babka. This had proved to be one of the most popular themes so far, with much discussion and sharing of photos of finished bakes (insert link to ours ‘rad about ours here’). We’d been happy with our finished chocolate babka, but were also intrigued to try out a cream cheese variation which I had read about while researching last month’s blog entry. With this in mind, we agreed on this as the ideal dessert, and set about making our second babka.
We used a different recipe for the dough than last month, choosing one which is featured in Anne Shooter’s ‘Sesame and Spice’ book, which I have mentioned before as being a sister volume to the Jerusalem recipe book. Anne’s dough recipe was less butter and egg-rich than the Jerusalem book recipe, making it easier to manage. It also featured a small amount of vanilla extract and spice wheras the Jerusalem version didn’t. For the cream cheese filling, I went for a mixture of mascarpone, egg yolk and icing sugar.
Before the babka went into the oven, it was sprinkled with a sugar and spice mixture, which added a sweet, crunchy topping to the finished cake.
It had baked evenly and in the specified time, and tasted delicious. We both preferred it to the chocolate version, and somehow managed to save enough of it to enjoy for breakfast the next morning, where it was equally enjoyable as toasted slices.
We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, and agreed that it was a great way to celebrate our first year of being part of the community. We look forward to another enjoyable year.
“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)