Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pita Bread pockets

In Israel we eat on many casual occasions Pita with Hummus together (see previous recipe). We even used to eat Pita Breads as kids, as a snack at birthday parties - usually the Pita Bread will be cut to halves or even quarters, filled with Hummus and served. Yumm!

To celebrate the long weekend here in New Zealand last week, I made this amazing Pitta Bread recipe and served it fresh out of the oven with a variety of salads for everyone to pick and choose from ;)
The smell of freshly baked bread filled the house as our guests walked in and the tastes, flavours and different filling textures added a whole new layer to the aroma.

Pita Bread

Makes 5-6 Pita Bread pockets

3 Cups Bread flour or All Purpose flour
½ tsp Instant yeast
½ tsp salt
1 Cup warm water

How to:
Best to make the dough a few hours ahead of time.
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the yeast, and add the water slowly while stirring with a plastic or wooden spoon until everything is combined into a ball. You might need more or less water than the 1 cup. Once the dough comes together, transfer it to a floured surface and knead for a good ten minutes until it is soft and elastic. Roll the dough into a log and cut it into five or six equal parts (cut into fewer pieces if you want bigger loaves). Roll each piece into a ball and put them all on a floured baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let them rise in a warm place for about an hour or until almost double in size.

Preheat your oven to 500F / 270C. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven to pre-heat thoroughly. Flatten each dough ball and with a rolling pin form it into 1/8 inch (3mm) thick round about 6 inches (15cm) in diameter. After rolling all the dough, cover and let them rest on a floured surface for 15-30 minutes. If you have a baking stone then bake them on the stone by sliding the dough rounds onto the stone and baking till they puff up like balloons (about 2-3 minutes). Leave them in the oven no more than one minute after they puff up even though they might not have much color on them. This will insure that the bread will be soft and pliable once cooled. If you do not have a baking stone in your oven, place the rounds on a baking sheet (making sure they are not touching) and bake in the oven until they puff up.

As soon as you remove the baked bread from the oven, place in a container, flatten gently and then cover with a damp towel. Keep stacking the flattened baked bread on top of each other and covering them. Store the baked bread in a well sealed plastic bag. Never let the baked bread cool uncovered or it will harden.

Serving suggestion:
Serve with Hummus, fine chooped vege salad, Falafel, lighly browned Chiken breast pieces or anything else you like. Eat lots until full.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

There is no Israeli without Hummus

You could have a full day long conversation with an Israeli over Hummus, how it should be made and who is making the best Hummus in town. Just by doing a bit of research today for the entry,comparing a few recipes, I found so many variations, ideas and opinions... though at the end of the day the basics of making a good Hummus stay the same.
In Israel there are places which are called "Hummusia". A Hummusia is a Hummus house where all that is served there is Hummus and lots of pita bread to eat it with. Usually they will have a certain way to make the Hummus or they will give a special touch to it, ie: served hot, cold, with egg, onions, mushrooms or fava (broad) beans that will make it taste better and the customers coming back for more.
And this is where that loyalty to your Hummusia comes into place as there is nothing like the Hummus at..... ;)


Ingredients (4-6 servings):
2 cups of Chickpeas
1/2 ts of Baking Soda
2 Garlic cloves (crushed)
1 ts Salt
1/2 cup of Lemon juice (fresh)
3/4 cup of Tahini (Tahina)

2 ts Pine nuts (optional)
1 cup of Olive Oil
1/2 ts Cumin (optional)
Parsley to taste (Chopped)

How to:
1) Soak the Chickpeas in 8 cups of water over night (in glass/plastic bowl only)
2) Drain the water, add fresh water and boil in a pot with the Baking Soda on high flame until white foam is formed. Lower the flame and cook on low heat for 2 hours.
3) Drain the water, keep aside a handful of chickpeas for garnish and the rest blend to a smooth paste in a food processor. Put aside and let the Chickpeas cool off.
4) Add to the Chickpeas the Garlic, Salt and Lemon juice and blend.
5) Fry lightly the Pine nuts in a pan for a few second until they lightly brown. Put a side to cool off.

Put the Hummus on a plate and garnish with the Pine nuts, the handful of Chickpeas we kept aside, spread the Olive Oil, Cumin (optional) and Parley on the top and serve with pita bread or other fresh bread.

Dip in and enjoy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cinnamon snails (pinwheel)

The Israeli culture, as many other Mediterranean cultures is all about hospitality and feeding people. We usually feed people until they are full... though the fact that you are full, will not stop us to offer you more...

This is a great recipe for making new friendships, which last forever... as long as you continue to make these of course ;) Traditionally in Israel, people will make this beautiful recipe for the weekend or to start the weekend with.

There are two ways to make this recipe- if you know people are coming, make the dough ahead of time (even a day before) and let it rise, but if people are coming over on a short notice, you can still make it, its just that the "snails" won't come out as big and fluffy, but still going to be so very yummy ;)

Cinnamon snails

2/3 cup of Milk
1 Egg
50g soft Butter
3 cups of Plain Flour
1ts Salt
1 dessert spoon on yeast
1/3 cup of White Sugar

50g soft Butter
3/4 cup of Brown Sugar
1.5 dessert spoon of Fresh ground Cinnamon

1 Egg - beaten
1 cup of Icing Sugar
1ts Vanilla essence
2 spoons of Milk

How To:
1) Mix together the dough ingredients and make a soft and smooth dough (You can use a bread maker machine to make the dough, if you have one). Cover the dough with a towel, put the dough mix aside and let it rise until it double its size (may take 1-1.5 hours)

2) Roll the dough to a square leaf at about 5mm thick and spread the soft butter on it

3) In a small bowl, mix the Brown Sugar and the Cinnamon and spread evenly over the butter

4) Roll the dough to a long and tight roll. With a sharp knife cut the roll to 1.5cm thick slices

5) Spread the snails over a tray (covered with baking paper) at about about 2-3cm a part and leave aside for about 15 minutes

6) Make sure you open your windows wide open so your neighbours can have a smell too

7) Glaze the snail with a beaten egg and bake for 10 minutes in a preheated oven to 180c - until the snails are lightly browned

8) In a little bowl mix the Icing Sugar, Vanilla essence and Milk and pour over the hot snails as they come out of the oven

Serve hot and enjoy every bite ;)

* For variety:
1) You can use Chocolate spread for the filling
2) You can put all the snails in 1 round cake tray, so they stick together and come out as a "cake" like this one below. Then you can cut it to slices or break off one snail at a time

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quick and Easy

In today's world when communication is done via computers, mobile phones and social media sharing, what can be a better way to bring people together than a dish that needs to be shared?

So, let me introduce you to the Shakshuka.

Shakshuka is a tomato based dish originating from North Africa and was brought to Israel by migrants. Its a custom (and much more fun) to share a Shakshuka dish with others, sitting at the dinner table or low on the ground. You can pretty much add to the Shakshuka anything you like but there is one basic rule to a good Shakshuka and it is... Do Not stir the Shakshuka once the eggs are in.


Ingredients (for 4-6 people):
3 Desert spoons of Olive Oil
2-3 Garlic gloves (sliced)
8 ripe Tomatoes cut into cubes
1 Red Capsicum (cut to strips)
1/2 ts Cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste
6 Eggs

How to:
1) Heat up a pan with Oil and brown lightly Capsicum and then add in the Garlic (make sure the garlic is not browning)
2) Add in the tomatoes, and the spices and cook for 10 minutes without a lid until a tomato saurce is formed
3) Make 6 dimples in the sauce and break and Egg into each one of them - cover the pan with a lid and cook for 2-5 minutes (depends how well you like your eggs cooked) - Do Not stir the Shakshuka once the eggs are in.
4) Take off the element and serve with fresh bread

Dip the fresh bread into the thick Shakshuka and eat with family and friends

Topping Suggestions:
You can add to the Shakshuka (before you add the eggs...) :
Spring onions
Bacon (to be browned after the capsicums are in)