Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This got me started...

...and sure enough, it is a starter, more precisely, a sourdough starter.

I had my first try at it last Winter, without much success, but this year, I came back with a vengeance.
For those unfamiliar with this, sourdough is more than just a kind of bread, it's a whole different wave length when it comes to bread making... it's the hard core stuff.

My grandfather was a baker. I remember how he kept his starter in a jar next to  the wood fire oven. As far as my memory can stretch, it actually didn't look much like the sourdough you'll see around on so many websites, a foamy liquid goo. Nop. All it was, was a large piece of dough, kept from the last batch of bread. It looked a bit dried out, on the outside,  but inside, it was swarming with live cultures.
Sourdough is a bit like a pet that you need to feed every now and then. You can practically keep it forever on the back of the fridge, forgotten. Feed it and those suckers will be back and ready for action in no time.

Want to try it home? Don't know where to start?
I decided to try the method at The Sourdough Companion.The instructions might seem a bit tedious and it might take you over 2 weeks to get a proper starter that is strong enough to make a good loaf, but believe me, it's amazingly rewarding and it's really not much work at all. When you see those first bubbles appear in the jar, it's magic!

Here are my first signs of activity after 6 days...

After 8 days of refreshing, it was nearly coming out of the jar!
It was time to test it.
And here's my first sourdough bread this year...

The rise is much slower than when using regular store bough yeast so I ended up cooking the bread at 2 am! This means, that cooking sourdough bread is something to be planned ahead of time, preferably the day before or even a couple of days before if the starter is kept in the fridge.
In any case, the result was seriously amazing!

This loaf was made with 1 cup of sourdough starter (called sponge), 2 cups of mixed flour (white and rye), 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and just enough water to make a soft dough.
As instructed at The Sourdough Companion, it was folded several times while rising and the final rise took about 3 hours. I baked it on a preheated stone, second top rack, at 240 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes (keep an eye, I usually lower it to 200 after 10 minutes). I also added steam  by pouring about half a cup of water at the bottom of the oven (first 5 minutes, to help the rise). As a side note, I have been treating my oven pretty roughly, so you can always put an aluminum tray at the bottom and pour the water in. I just feel I get more steam this way. 


The crumb wasn't heavy, but I hope I can get it to be more airy in the next batches. It might have to do with the fact that my starter is not yet strong enough, but in any case, it was really good and I like that slight sour tang. Still much work ahead!

Meanwhile, here's a sourdough pizza that turned out equally yummy!

 Mushroom pizza with basil, straight out of the oven.

Anyone out there managed to build a good starter? Maybe we could  make a swap. Just drop me a note. It would be fun to see if different starters really taste different or not.
I'll gladly send out free samples to anyone who links my page.

Cheers all!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


...Or more correctly, Mallard, is a wild duck which was the ancestor of most domestic ducks. It is less fatty, more meaty and less expensive than regular duck, making it a perfect option for preparing at home without spending too much. Today, I'll show you how to get a fantastic fancy looking meal for a fraction of what you would pay in a restaurant and the triple of what you would ever get. Each breast roughly weight between 300 and 400g and cost around 40 shekels each. One whole breast for each person makes a really large portion... but worry not, you won't hear any complaints... or see any leftovers. Only happy faces munching away.

So lets start with these two beautiful mallard breasts. They usually come frozen, so let them gently defrost in the fridge without removing from the plastic pouch.

Here they are, completely defrosted

With a sharp knife, slash the fat, just until reaching the meat. This will give the fat more surface to melt down and flavor the meat underneath.

Try not to reach the meat when slashing the fat!

Now, sprinkle the meat with coarse sea salt. Be generous, most of the salt will melt away with the fat and only a part of it will reach into the meat.
Here's our salted meat, nearly ready to be cooked!

Now, there are two ways to cook your mallard: On a heavy frying pan, skin down or under the oven grill, skin up. I prefer to do it in the oven, since the fat drips down and the skin crisps up far better than when frying in it's own fat.
Find yourself a griddle, like in the picture (this one is actually used for putting cookies and cakes to cool on). You can get one for around 30 shekels at any cooking store or improvise with the griddle from your barbecue. Put that griddle on top of any shallow pan (I usually line it with  foil to make cleaning easier). 
The main idea is to raise the meat so that the fat falls to the bottom and the meat stays out of the cooking juices.
Set your oven to around 250 degrees celcius (no need for turbo, just up and down heat).
Put your mallard breasts in the second top shelf of the oven and keep a close eye on the meat.

This is what it should look like after about 10 to 15 minutes later:

Don't worry about giving it another extra 5 minutes to have that super crispy skin . Any more than this, and your meat might start to overcook. You should aim for a slight tint of pink at the center of the meat. Practice makes perfect, so don't worry if you don't get it exactly right the first time. It will still be very tasty! If unsure, you can always use a meat thermometer.
And there we have it, oven roasted Mallard Breast:

A nice shade of pink on the inside

 Super crunchy salty skin...

More food porn...

Now, something like this is meant to be the star of the dinner, so you do not want to clutter your plate with too much things. This time, I decided to prepare a simple potato and apple medley  (I will write down the recipe at a later occasion) and serve the meat with a homemade berry sauce. You can always buy a good quality cherry or wild berry jam. Just try to pick something with a sour twist to it. Also, put it in a blender and add a little boiling water to give it a more sauce like texture.

So this is the time to keep you mallard breasts somewhere warm until ready to serve.
When your done with the side dishes of your choice, cut the breast into slices and make a pretty fan shape on the plate, add the side dishes and drizzle a bit of sauce over the meat. Leave on the table for anyone to add more. 

Here's my potato and apple spicy meddley:

And at last, but not the least, the berry sauce I made. Believe it or not, it was all gone at the end of the dinner!

Raspberry & blackcurrant sauce

Bon Appetit!

Afternoon Lunch at Nana's Resto Bar

Located in the beautiful rustic area of Neveh Tsedek, this restaurant might go by unnoticed, hidden away behind a lush vegetation. The inside is quite light and open aired and has that feel of old Tel Aviv, with black and white pictures and classic paintings all around. The center of the restaurant is dominated by a pretty patio, which brings yet more light to the entire place.
We were all quickly seated and our waitress tended to us very professionally.

On with the food!

Our starters:

Beef filet Carpaccio with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic with parmesan cheese and baby roquette
I love a good carpaccio and I wish this one could have lived to my expectations. Unfortunately, there were no surprises and a few disappointing notes about this no brainer of a dish.
The meat was completely unseasoned and not at it's prime condition, the roquette salad was so small I would rather describe it as a decoration and I could not understand why  I was served thick slabs of old parmesan on a side bowl. I was given another bowl with a tiny little bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, not early enough to season my bland carpaccio. We also ordered the bread, which was rather nice and crisp.  

Chicken Livers Pate with homemade jam
This was my partners starter. Though simple, it was quite tasty and the liver was done just right. The jam was a nice touch and complemented the tender livers.

Main Courses:
Baked Salmon Fillet on penne pasta in supreme sauce
A nice piece of well cooked salmon, nested in a bed of penne and covered in a cream and butter sauce. Here was an uncomplicated, delicious and well seasoned dish.  This was a very healthy and filling portion. Thumbs up!

Fillet of Mullard served with red wine sauce , mashed root-vegetables and asparagus
This dish was wrong in so many ways that I was starting to feel that someone hadn't put his ideas well together or was just experimenting as it went. The mullard was overcooked, but strangely enough, the skin on top, which should be golden, yummy and crispy, was white and mushy, which made it very unpleasant to eat. I would say that this was about 1/3 of a mullard's, so the portion was quite small (no more than a 100 g). On the other hand, the mashed root-vegetables took nearly the entire plate and didn't add anything good to the dish. The color was an unappetizing orange/green and the mass had already formed a thin dry film on top, like soup left on the stove. Two sad, cold and estranged spears of asparagus didn't make it any easier on the eye.  

Chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream
We were presented with three pieces of fondant, milk chocolate, dark and white chocolate over a light vanilla custard and ice cream on the side. I'm not sure if eating squares of fondant counts as a true dessert, but it was nice ending to our meal.

Foodwise, there's a lot to be done. You can just feel that they are putting an effort, but it's just not there yet. The menu doesn't present anything new or particularly exciting and overall, it's quite expensive. Most dishes can easily be whisked up at home in 30 minutes at a fraction of the price and probably with better results (see my next post). Don't expect to come out of there for any less than 150 shekels per person.

Rating: 7/10


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dressed Up Salmon Futomaki

This is what happens when you both have a craving for sushi and have too much time on your hands. Sometimes... there's a sparkle.
This was by far one of the best sushi rolls I ever had, both in a restaurant and at home. And interestingly enough, it just took a little extra 5 minutes to make it so extra delicious. A simple tempura batter and panko created a crispy outside that was so irresistible that you will find yourself eating more than you think you could. I used teriyaki as a drizzling sauce, but a spicy mayonaise or even ponzu sauce might add the right kick. I will certainly try it on another occasion.
This particular roll contained salmon, grilled salmon skin (I never have the heart to throw it away!), tamago, cucumber and avocado.
After shaping the futomaki, I lightly rolled it in tempura batter and then panko. I carefully fried each side until just golden (I didn't want the contents to cook). I removed it from the hot oil and let it drain a little. Because of the crispy outside, I found it easier to slice with a bread knife.

The salmon at the center remained uncooked, but the pieces closer to the surface did. Far from being a bad thing, this was actually really nice. The tempura/panko layer was also quite thin and crispy, yet, more than enough to retain the teriyaki.


 Cheers all!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Black Bar 'n' Burger - Anyone feeling Nostalgic?

Having a bad cold can sometimes make us feel nostalgic, and being sick as a dog, thoughts of my mom rubbing Vics on my chest and giving me hot milk with ungodly amounts of honey pop into my mind. Ahh... it was good to be 5 or 6 years old. The world was rather forgiving.

I was just looking at some pictures and stumble upon this one:

That's me, with the blue MJ's style Thriller jacket

Yes, I grew up in Canada in the '80s, by the time Burger King and McDonalds still had that innocent charm and it was cool to do birthday parties there and bring the cake. The employees would put up balloons and even join in to sing Happy Birthday. 
It didn't seem all that bad then and I sometimes wonder what changed.

Today, I don't even like burgers all that much. Or so I thought.

I suddenly had a craving. Not just any craving, I wanted a big burger. Not a sad mushed up Whooper, no, no, no. I wanted a burger that would make me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. The moment I mumbled the word 'burger', my husband proposed me to go out and have one, so my friend (thanks Roni!) shook me around a bit and slapped some senses into me and dragged me to Azrieli.

We sat down at one of the booths at Black Bar 'n' Burger and were quickly attended. My  partner in crime ordered the "chicken burger" and I decided I wouldn't go for any less than the "Schwarzenegger" (220g of meat). For someone who usually takes "happy meal" portions, this was  fantastically big... but then again, so was my appetite.
The burger took a little long to arrive (around 20 minutes), but aside from the fact that the restaurant was packed at 9pm on a week day, I was feeling very forgiving and waited patiently. 
Both plates were very well presented and everything looked nice and fresh. We had an assortment of sauces on a table and when I picked the ketchup I suddenly realized that someone had carefully cleaned all the nozzles of the bottles. No greasy bottles, no bits of dried out ketchup. Nice!

I looked at my friend's chicken patty and wondered why on earth would someone pay 51 shekels for a chicken burger. 
Until I tasted. 
While most of us dread the thought of a  burger made out of anything but beef, this was delicious, moist and full of flavor. I dare to say it was nearly as good as the beef patty. I highly recommend it, specially if your looking for something a little lighter, yet still have that burger craving.

The OffBurger

As for my burger, it was frightening, in fact, I will not display the pictures where it actually looks bigger than my head. I managed to get hold of it and started to dig in as gracefully as I could.
The bread was lightly toasted and warm, as it should, the vegetables were fresh an crisp and the meat patty itself tasted amazing. Just the right amount of salt, not too greasy, yet juicy and medium rare, just like I asked.

I was one happy gal. Yum.

The Schwarzenegger

The dessert menu seemed interesting and we decided to try The Kremlin. Wonder why they call it that way? Take a look...

The Kremlin 

Lots of chocolate in the shape of brownies, mousse, truffles and nuts. Though it was really nice and chocolaty, we felt almost immediately that typical "left in the freezer for ages" taste.
The brownie at the bottom was still frozen and we struggled to break into it. This, in contrast with the soft chocolate mousse on top, made the whole "building" very unstable. Sadly, some of the nuts were also rancid. But aside from this (which is pretty bad in itself), the dessert was nicely presented and the different parts tasted pretty good (once defrosted).

This wasn't the perfect ending to our meal, true. But the burger was the star and ultimately, until I find something to top this, me and Schwarzenegger are going to see a lot of each other.

Score: 8/10

Cheers all!

EDIT: I have heard from several sources that these last weeks, the quality of Black Bar n' Burger has went downwards and the prices have just equally gone upwards. This deserves a second appreciation and perhaps a new rating.  

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jalebi - Golden Coils of Happiness

Admittedly, one of the prettiest little things I made in a long time, these sweets are not only an amazing display, they are also very tasty. Unlike other fried goodies, these remain crispy due to the light caramel coating that protects them.
After searching several recipes and tweaking the dough, I realized that there isn't a fixed recipe, so bear this in mind.
The original method calls for fermentation of the batter. Well, for one, I didn't have live curd and secondly, I felt slightly intimidated by the prospect of letting cheese ferment on my counter top. So yes, I cheated a bit. 
Instead of curd, I used what we call here "labane", which is in fact a yogurt based cheese. The problem is that bought "labane" doesn't have anymore live cultures and so, fermentation may not occur properly. So I gave the dough a helping hand and simply added a little baking powder and moved on to prepare them immediately..

Again, this requires individual adjustments!


250 ml of labane or curd
150 g flour
30 g corn flour
safran strands for coloring (or yellow food coloring)
5 g of baking powder
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
vegetable oil for frying

Sugar syrup for dipping

Mix everything until there are no lumps and start heating the oil. The dough should have the consistency of pancake batter. If it's too hard, add more curd, if too liquid, add more flour.
Using a plastic bag with a cut corner or a funnel with a small opening, put the batter in and test the oil. Working in circles, try to make a small coil. It should first go to the bottom and them float to the surface seconds later. If the batter breaks off in the oil, either the oil is too hot or the batter is not consistent enough (both maybe).
Once you get the dough right, fry your jalebi on both sides, until pale golden.
Now that you have a heap of prepared jalebi, make the sugar syrup.
Mix 2 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar, let boil until it just starts to thicken. with a spoon, take a little bit, let it get cold on the spoon and touch it with the tip of your fingers. It should form a little strand, glue like.
Take each of your jalebi and dip in the warm caramel. Lay them on a griddle to cool. A delicious thin crust of caramel will form and keep you jalebi for days (if they last that long!).


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dinner at Yoko Uno - Gourmet, Gourmet, Gourmet...

Picture by Drew Kaplan

This was about to be good.
"All you can eat" sushi, raving reviews saying this was probably the best (kosher) sushi in Tel Aviv... it seemed we just couldn't go wrong.  Right?
After some difficulty finding the place amongst the maze of buildings of Ramat Gan's Diamond Trade Complex, we finally found it and made our way in.
The setting, while certainly trying to convey a sense of austerity and zen, was just gray and gloomy. Also surprisingly... we were utterly alone. The waitress tried to seat us in a what looked like a cubicle and was coincidentally in full view of the kitchen entrance, for her convenience. We politely refused and asked to be seated next to the large fish tank.
If not for the grim sight of a very large dead fish being ravenously eaten away by other fish, this was at least the most lively spot in the restaurant.
We were a bit worried when we were told that the "all you can eat" deal consisted of a small plate of different sushi. We could order that same plate over and over again. But basically, we didn't get to choose anything and were stuck with whatever they would serve us.
Our first round of sushi came amazingly fast and consisted of this:

First plate, minus one salmon skin

2 salmon inside out rolls: salmon, salmon skin, veggies. Served with a nice slab of fatty salmon on top, this was a good start and we wished there wouldn't be just two.

2 tuna inside out rolls: tuna and sweet potato. Very bland and the fish itself, though seemingly fresh, felt pasty in the mouth.  Sweet potato and tuna just don't go together.

2 veggie futomaki rolls: kampio, omelet (not tamago!), pickled daikon, cucumber and carrot. Nice sweet and salty bite. Less rice would have made these much more enjoyable. 

8 makis: mostly made out of thickly caked rice with a tiny piece of cucumber or salmon. Incredibly filling and almost hard to eat. We lovingly called these "The fillers". As a word of caution, try to stay away from these if you want your money's worth.

Since I never had this type of set "all you can eat" platter, I found myself in a dilemma. I didn't like half of what I had been served and asking for another round meant either suffer and eat it all again or leave what I didn't like, which feels a bit rude.
We then decided to order another plate, but asked the waitress not to add anymore makis, since we didn't particularly enjoyed them. She told us that's how the plate is made and could not be changed.
Could not be changed?!
We are alone in a 200 seat restaurant and they could not be accommodating enough to spare us the embarrassment of leaving off 8 rolls every time we ordered?
This was both absurd and liberating, as we didn't feel guilty anymore.

We finished the second plate and 8 neatly aligned makis marched back into the kitchen.
We ordered another round.
As our waitress walked by the restaurant counter and asked the sushi Chef a third order this is what transpired:

Waitress: Another order please.
Sushi Chef: What?! They already ordered two times!

The sushi Chef looked at our table angrily and realized I was looking at her the whole time, wide eyed.
Well, it was clear we would not go back to that restaurant, but we ordered another 5 plates just to make sure she figures out the true meaning of ALL YOU CAN EAT!

As it went, it got worse and slight changes took place, like the missing salmon skin and the sweet potato being substituted for cooked carrot. It was hard enough to eat the tuna roll as it was, now it was plain terrible. Who in it's right mind would put a thick log of cooked carrot in a sushi roll?

We decided to call it quits and asked for the bill and this is what we got:

Since when 2 times 54 equals 118?

YokoUno, with it's standard sushi, second grade fish and cooked carrot shenanigans might impress anyone new to this cuisine, but will disappoint any seasoned sushi eater.

Score: 5/10

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chinese Five-Spice Carrot Muffin


There are muffins... and then, there are Muffins.

No, this isn't about size and these don't even count as having the famed muffin top, but they are so delicious that I thought it would be unfair not to share them with you. 
This one was obviously striked down with a big bite before I could take a picture, but it didn't seem to mind too much and smiled for the camera nevertheless. 

Chinese Five-Spice Carrot Muffin

200 g of white flour
250 g brown sugar
50 g wheat germ
8 g of cinnamon
4 g of Chinese five-spice blend 
5 g baking soda
2 g baking powder
4 g fine salt
2 eggs
140 ml of canola oil
6 medium sized carrots (grated)

Heat oven at 180 degrees Celcius.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and oil together.
Add the liquid ingredients and the grated carrot to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a spatula until almost all the dry bits are gone. If some are left, it's alright. Don't mix beyond this point!

Fill your greased muffin cups with spoonfuls of batter (I like to use paper cups for convenience).
Cook for about 25 minutes.

Cheers all!

Rambling about sushi...

Salmon, grilled salmon skin, avocado, cucumber and green onion
I don't even know where to start. 
I had my first bite around 12 years ago and it turned into a love affair. This was a whole different world of yumminess I had just discovered. I am still puzzled at how something so simple can be so good... and yet, so tricky.
Everything is important. 
The rice should be cooked just right, otherwise, it will form an unpleasant mass when shaped... if undercooked, it won't hold together. Please, I beg, stay away from brown rice... just keep it for something else, anything else, but not sushi. Don't get me wrong, I like brown rice, but the texture is wrong, it doesn't adhere correctly and the taste competes with all the other delicate ingredients you are about to fill your sushi with.
Finding extremely fresh salmon is harder than you might think. At the best of times, when a fish is caught, particularly Atlantic salmon, chances are, it will have probably already travelled a long way and by the time you buy it, it's already a couple of days old. At best. 
In my case, buying high quality frozen norvegian salmon (whole fillet) is the closest to fresh salmon, since it frozen immediately after being caught. 
Some purists (I am one in many aspects)  might say frozen is the least desirable option. Well, I say your senses will usually give you the answer. It should not smell fishy in any shape or way... only a crisp, fresh ocean's aroma will be detectable. Yes, you heard right, it should smell like the ocean.
When raw, the flesh is firm, plump and fatty. The taste should be slightly fruity and buttery in the mouth. If it feels very oily, the fish was probably exposed to too much heat and the fat (which should remain in the flesh) migrated to the outside. That is not a good thing.
The vegetables, if adding any, are up to you dear reader. 
In sushi, as said before, everything is important. 
Proportion to me, are also something too important to ignore. If making a big roll (futomaki), try to keep the rice between 150 to 200 g for the whole seaweed sheet. More than this and you will probably end up with a mouthful of rice... and not much else. The salmon should always be the star, so don't be cheap. A nice 1cm wide strip of salmon is just right in my opinion. Add your vegetables, be sensible. You just can't cram everything in there! 
me: Of course I can! Watch... ermm... eeee...there... almost.
[cucumber flies like a bullet sideways, avocado whirls out like a wet bar of soap]
Roni:I told ya, now you can't close the darn thing. Nice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mitarashi Dango - Revisited

Just look at them... 

They are so cute to look at, you cannot help but feeling a bit guilty about biting into them. But fear not, these are worth biting into and they were gone before I even had time to say Jack Robinson.
The green dango was a bit out of the ordinary and was surprisingly good! I didn't have any matcha tea, so I used what I had at hand, green tea with roasted rice. It was grinded to a fine powder...

 Here are the uncooked dangos:

Here they are now, cooked and neatly skewered, ready to be drizzled with warm mitarashi sauce...

Compared to my first attempt, this was better in every possible way... taste, texture, look.
I went a bit overboard with the pink dango, which turned out bright red, but the dango itself was delicious, light and ever so slightly sweet. Our panel of tasters felt divided when it came to the sauce. I myself loved it and thought the combination of green tea dango and mitarashi was perfect.  Yum.
Big thanks to Hiro for the great recipe and wonderful tips!
Thanks to Roni for helping me explore the mysterious world of ear-lobe textured doughs.

Cheers all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Japanese Azuki Butter Cookies

I have a secret love for shortbread, all that buttery melt-in-the-mouth texture and that hint of salt, which I believe makes it so addictive. If this wasn't enough, I decided to fill these little guys with japanese azuki bean paste before baking.
Perfect and incredibly addictive!

Japanese Azuki Butter Cookies

Shortbread Dough
200 g of plain flour
50 g of powdered sugar
3 pinches of baking powder
125 g of salted butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of ice cold water

Mix the flour, powdered sugar and baking powder. Add the vanilla and the butter (cut in small pieces).
With a spatula, work the butter into the flour, until it all looks grainy (no more visible chunks of butter). I always get better results when doing it by hand.
Add the cold water and shape a ball. Do not overwork the dough! Just work it until you can form a ball and the dough doesn't crumble. If necessary, add a bit more water (1 teaspoon at the time).
Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. You can also leave it in the fridge, but take it out 15 minutes before using, or it will be hard to work.

Azuki Paste
1 cup of dried azuki beans
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of salt

Soak the beans in plenty of water for 10 to 12 hours.
Put the beans in a pan, cover with water, add sugar and salt and start cooking. You will have to add water as it cooks, but just enough to keep the beans covered until they are nice and tender.
Let it cook a little more (without adding water) just until you get a thick paste (enough to shape a ball).

Shaping the cookie...
I suggest dividing the dough into little walnut size balls and shaping an equal amount of bean paste balls (should be smaller) before starting to put everything together.
Take a little ball of dough , flatten with your hands into a small disk and put a little ball of bean paste in the middle. Close the dough around the paste and shape it all into a nice ball with a flat base (very much like the final cooked cookie pictured above).
Lightly run a fork on top of each cookie before cooking.

Lay on a very lightly oiled tray and cook at 170 degrees celcius 15 to 20 minutes (don't let them brown!).
With time, you can adjust the thickness of the cookie and the amount of azuki paste you like in it.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mitarashi Dango!

Curiosity got the best of me and after searching on the subject, I decided to try and make what's called "Dango", which in Japan is considered a sweet treat.
No recipe for the meantime, as this was done without following a strict recipe.
I must add, since I never tasted the real thing (ohh I wish!), that it certainly needs some improvement and if anyone out there could tell me what the taste and consistency should be, tips, the right cooking times... I would be incredibly grateful!

These where slightly chewy and reminded me of a more consistent gnocchi. I also added a couple of drops of rose water and interestingly, it gave it a kind of fruity after taste, which was nice.
I also prepared a mitarashi sauce, which was really yummy.

...to be continued.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Morning China!

You Tiao, known in English as Chinese cruller, is a fried bread stick. The dough is made into a long strip, deep fried and eaten for breakfast or lunch. It can be lightly salted and it is often dipped in soy milk.
I browsed through different recipes and strangely enough, all of them require powdered ammonia. Why?? I'm guessing it's used as a dough improver of some kind, anyhow, I decided I would go on, minus ammonia. These turned out delicious!

Here's my simplified version of the recipe:

You Tiao - Chinese Crullers
350 g of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of instant yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
250 ml of water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add lukewarm water and mix until there are no more dry bits of flour. Turn into a lightly floured surface and start kneading for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. If it's too sticky, sprinkle with a little flour.

Shaping the dough is a little tricky to explain, but I got a little help from this video on Youtube. As an end note, do not let the dough rise again after the final shaping (stretching), otherwise, the strip will rip.

It turned out really tasty and the kids loved it!
I served it with warm strawberry flavored soy milk.
These You Tiao also doubled as a snack in the afternoon!

<-----Here's Eitan, dunking his you tiao.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Worldly Breakfasts Part 2 - French Crêpes

A crêpe is a type of very thin, cooked pancake usually made from wheat flour. The word, like the pancake itself, is of French origin, deriving from the Latin crispa, meaning "curled." While crêpes originate from Bretagne, a region in the northwest of France, their consumption is nowadays widespread in France and it is considered a national dish. In Bretagne, crêpes are traditionally served with cider. Crêpes are served with a variety of fillings, from the most simple with only sugar to flambéed crêpes Suzette or elaborate savoury fillings.

This is so tasty and versatile! Tilting the pan can be a bit tricky though.
I don't usually follow a recipe for crêpes, because I have done it so many times. But here's one that's tried and true.

It's a recipe from the book "Pâtisseries Maison" by Florence Edelmann.

Crêpes - Bretagne
Serves: 4 to 6 people

250g of flour
20 g of powdered sugar
1 coffee spoon of vanilla
pinch of salt
2 whole eggs
50cl of milk

I highly recommend adding 2 tablespoons of canola oil or melted butter to the batter, otherwise, the crêpes will stick very easily to the pan (even a non-stick pan!).

For the sake of simplicity, the recipe was simplified:

1. Whisk everything together.

2. Lightly coat the pan with oil and heat to medium/hot
3. Now, pick the pan in one hand, and drop a laddle of batter with your other hand in the upper part of the pan. Start tilting the pan so that the batter thinly covers the whole bottom.
As a side note, my first crepe nevers comes out right and I usually add a bit of water to the batter to make it more spreadable. Remember, this is not pancake batter! It's supposed to be very fluid.
When it's nice and golden, flip it and cook the other side (less time).
Result: a thin, soft texture and crispy edges. Yum!

Any better way of starting the week?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

English Muffin Turned Pizza?

I had way too much dough left from that last batch of English Muffins and I just had to show you all how it turned out into a great pan-style mushroom pizza.
Kids raved about it and I must say, this dough kept in the fridge for 4 days and the flavor and texture just improved. One thing though, after rolling out the dough, you should let it rise for at least 20 minutes before putting the toppings and baking.
Cook in the oven's second top rack, 230 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown (depending on how much topping are added).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Toddler friendly Around the World Breakfast - Part 1 - English Muffins

It's been a couple of weeks now, I decided to introduce my 2 toddlers to the wonders of culinary goodies and breakfast sounded like a good time to put it to work.
Today, I decided to make them English Muffins.
Now you must know I am a born tweaker and unless I'm completely unfamiliar with what I'm getting myself into, chances are, some steps will be cut off.
This time, I set myself on making some English Muffins and these are, I assure you, the easiest EVER. You don't need any experience or expensive equipment, beside your precious bare hands. Your kids can also help cutting up the shapes too!
These will be ready for tomorrow morning.

Easy English Muffins (makes about 16-18)
6 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of active yeast
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of warm water
1 cup of warm milk
1/4 cup of canola oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large tupperware. (the dough will rise in it)
Mix the wet ingredients and add it to the flour mix.

Now start mixing with your hand or a wooden spoon until you don't see anymore dry bits of flour. If the dough seems too dry, add a little water to adjust.
You should now have what looks like a ragged semi-soft ball of dough.

Cover your tupperware and leave it to rest for 2 hours in a warm spot.
After this time, your dough will nearly have trippled.
Put the tupperware in the fridge and forget about it until tomorrow morning (the texture and flavor will develop over night!).

Take the dough out the fridge and start working!
Take as much dough as you intend to make and work it on a a well floured countertop. Do it VERY gently, just to form a ball and with a rolling pin, roll out until it's 3/8″ thick, more if you like thicker muffins. Dust some more flour when needed.

With a cookie cutter or anything the size of a tuna can, cut out the circles and place them on a large tray, lined with waxed paper and dusted with a good handful of corn flour.
Don't over crowd your tray! Use two if necessary, otherwise they will stick together when raising.
You can also let your toddler cut up the shapes.

Dust some more corn flour on top of the muffins, cover them with a dish cloth and leave them to raise for 30 minutes, preferably in a warm place.

Now, heat up your griddle to medium/low heat and rub it with a little bit of oil on the bottom.
Cook the muffins for about 10 minutes on each side. And keep them warm in the oven until you are done.

ps: if you don't have time or need for making that many muffins, use only part of the dough and keep the rest in the fridge. This dough can keep for up to 4 days without any problem! You can make fresh muffins everyday in just minutes if you like.


And so it begins...

Tel Aviv morningI can fairly say I am still a stranger in this land.
The language still challenges me and people are not as polite and diplomatic as they were back in Europe. Which does not imply that any is better than the other, but Israel is not for the faint of heart.
I have been away from my family for nearly 6 years and there are days when I feel out of touch. On the other side of the balance, I'm happily married with 2 toddlers which I have to keep up with. I love cooking for them and I often find myself hoping that they will always prefer my cooking over a BigMac.
I'm one of those "do it from scratch" kind of gal and I must say I have been enjoying every bit of the ride. I'm a proud green, DIY nut.