Cooking with Love

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Sephardic Douhnut - Sfenj

Hannuka, Hannuka - such a fun holiday. Such a fattening holiday, but then again....aren't all the jewish holidays? Judaism is all about food. Trust me. But I do love the "merging" of the different origins during the holidays - the Ashkenzi jews (European decscent) & the Sephardic jews (African descent) have integrated over the years and on a holiday table you can find the ashkenazi gefilte fish sitting by the sephardic "hraime" (spicy fish).
I grew up with a ashkenazi spoon in my mouth. Everything is sweet. Nothing very spicy. Definately hot peppers and spices were not a big part of the culinary ashkenazi life. My Safta Tova is a wonderful cook and baker - raising us on good polish recipes. Her Hannuka sufganiyot are the best in the world. The past few years she hasn't been able to cook nor bake. The years have taken their toll on this amazing woman who is into her 90's (tfo tfo tfo, touch wood, hamsa hamsa, hamsa). So this year I was the sufganiyot maker. She called to say that they were very good. Coming from her - that is the ultimate compliment. I need nothing more in life.
Now, back to the Ashkenaz and Sephardic jewish culinary. We have the sufganyot, which  I made last week (and will make again tonight for the office potluck tomorrow) and the Sephardic have the "sfenj" - which is quite like a beignet, only with no sugar in the dough, and usualy served with an aromatic syrup on the side.The Morrocans claim that sfinj is theirs. So do the Tunisians....the Liberians....and so on. Kind of like the Hummous war...but no getting into that! It doesn't really matter. And I don't really care. As long as there are Sfinj's in the world...does it matter?

And these are yummy - best served warm.

1 kg Flour, all purpose
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp sugar
1TBS. brandy
2 TBS yeast, fast acting
2-2 1/2 cups warm water

Oil, for frying

Place all ingredients in lage mixer bowl, with hook.
Knead slowly for about 5 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Knead again for 1 minute. Let rest for 10 minutes. One more time - 1 minute kneading. 10 minute resting.
Knead last time to let out air and make approx. 25 ping-pong size balls. Let stand approx. 15 minutes, covered. In the meantime heat deep frying oil on medium heat.
Don't let the oil heat too much, or else the sfinj's will burn.
Oil your hands, take a ball and with you fingers make a whole in the middle, like a sloppy doughnut....:-)
Place carefully in oil and fry 2 minutes per side.
Cover with sugar, powdered sugar, syrup or jam.
Serve warm.


Monday, December 14, 2009

I am a Daring Cook Salmon en Croute

Salmon en croute:
Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own!
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized
1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.
Shortcrust pastry
While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry. Watch this video to check the correct consistency of the dough Making shortcrust pastry
450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.
Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.
For best results make sure the butter is very cold.
Instructions for Beef Wellington (serves 4)
Button mushrooms - 17.6 ounces/500gr (stalks removed and finely chopped)
Olive oil - 2-3 tbsp
thyme - 1 sprig
Beef fillet, center cut piece - 21.16 ounce/600 gr
English mustard - 1 tbsp
puff pastry (all butter pastry pack) - 17.6 ounce/500 gr
parma ham (prosciutto) - 3 slices
egg yolk - 1 pcs, beaten
For the herb crepes:
plain (all purpose) flour - 0.3 cup/1.76 ounce/50 gr
milk - 0.5 cup/125 ml
mixed herbs - 1 tbsp (chopped, use herbs such as cervil, chives and tarragon
butter - 0.5 tbsp
1. To make the crepes, whizz the flour, egg and milk with a pinch of salt in a blender or processor until smooth. Pour into a jug and stir in the herbs and some seasoning. Leave to rest.
2. Fry the mushrooms in a little oil until they give up all their moisture and it has evaporated, leaving you with a thick paste. Add the thyme leaves and some seasoning and keep cooking for a few minutes. Cool.
3. Stir the melted butter into the crepe batter, heat a 15 cm crepe pan and oil it lightly. Pour in enough batter to make a thin layer on the base of the pan, cook until the top surface sets and then turn over and cook briefly. Remove and repeat with the rest of the batter. This will make a couple more than you need so choose the thinnest ones for the recipe.
4. Sear the beef all over in a little oil in a very hot pan. Brush with the mustard, season and allow to cool.
5. Lay a large sheet of cling-film on a kitchen surface and put two crepes down on it, overlapping a little. Lay over the parmaham (prosciutto). Spread the mushroom mixture over the ham and put the beef in the centre. Roll the cling-film up, taking the crepe with it, to wrap the beef completely into a nice neat log. Chill for 1 hour.
6. Heat the oven to 200°C/390F. Roll out the pastry, remove the clingfilm and wrap the beef in the pastry like a parcel, with the ends tucked under. Trim to keep it nice and neat. Brush with egg, score with shallow lines across the top and chill for 20 minutes.
7. Cook for 20 minutes. The best way to test if the meat is done to your liking is to neatly and carefully stick a skewer into the beef, count to three and then test it against your inner wrist. If it is cold, the beef will be raw, if it is warm then the beef will be rare and if it’s hot, it’ll be cooked through. Leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

The salmon rolled in saran wrap

Before going into the oven (I have my nephew's name put on it between the fish)


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Safta Tova's Potato Latkes

Another fried goodie for Hanukka are latkes - traditional potato pancakes. very easy, very tasty, very fattening.

  • 500 g potatoes , peeled & grated
  • 1 medium onion , peeled & grated
  • 3 egs
  • 3 tbsp bread crumbs
  • salt & pepper
  •  vegetable oil for frying
  • salt and pepper
  1. Transfer the grated potatos and onion into a sieve and with a bowl placed below, squeeze out all the excess liquid. Discard the water, before placing them back to the bowl.
  2. Add the eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper into the bowl of grated vegetables and combine well.

  3. Placing the frying pan onto a medium heat, add some oil and allow it to warm through. When warm, add a spoonful of the latke mixture. Using the back of your spoon, flatten it out into a disk shape. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Allow the cakes to brown on both sides then remove with your spatula. Transfer onto a plate lined with kitchen paper, to drain. Repeat with the remaining mix.
  4. Top with crème fraiche, or dust with some sugar or eat as I do - plain with no toppings


Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel - I made it out of Clay....then I made Latkes & Sufganiyot

Well, partially true. I have never made a dreidel. And the sufganiyot I made many years ago assisted many army's in winning battles when used as heavy bombs....but this year I decided to make amends. I was willing to give the another try. I am not sure my success was wise as sufganiyot are calorie bombs....but Hannukah comes only once a year and with it all the fried goodies...
A little about Hannuka, from Dianes Desserts:

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an eight-night celebration. The Hanukkah celebration includes lighting the candles of the Hanukiyah (in English-speaking countries this is often called a Menorah, which is the Hebrew word for a candelabra) on each day of the holiday, playing with the dreidel, eating latkes and exchanging Hanukkah gelt.

The holiday of Hanukkah is spelled several different ways in English, including "Hanukah," "Hanukkah," "Chanukkah," and "Chanukah."

Like another famous winter-time holiday, Christmas, Hanukkah is about history. The celebration of Hanukkah is a commemoration of an event that happened more than 2,000 years ago.

In 167 B.C., the Syrian king Antiochus IV began to outlaw Jewish religious practices and forced Jews to adopt Greek rituals. His men took control of the Jews' Holy Temple in Jerusalem, looted it and erected an idol of a Greek god there. One Jewish family, the Hasmoneans (led by Mattityahu and his five sons), decided to take a stand against the persecution. The Greek forces arrived in the town of Modiin, near Jerusalem. It was here that after refusing to violate his own religion by praying to the Greek god Zeus, Mattityahu attacked the Greek soldiers.

This action began the Jewish rebellion. Mattityahu and his sons became known as the Maccabees, which means "men who are as strong as hammers" in Hebrew. The small army, led by Mattityahu's most famous son, Judah Maccabee, fought sizeable Greek forces. In 165 B.C., the Maccabees were triumphant. On the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev, the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple.

They decided to rededicate the temple -- the word "Hanukkah" means dedication. The Jewish army was unable to find enough oil to light the Menorah, or candle holder, to be used in the service. The Maccabees found only one bottle of oil, enough for only a single night. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight nights, giving the Jews time to produce more oil.

The holiday of Hanukkah commemorates this miracle. By lighting candles for eight nights, beginning every year on the 25th of Kislev (usually in December on the Western calendar, but not always), Jews celebrate the triumph of the Maccabees, the rededication of the Holy Temple and the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. This year (2009), Hanukkah begins at Sundown on December 11.

As a child I loved the 8 days of Hannuka. My grandparents would spoil us to death with various gifts and hannuka gelt, The word gelt means "money" in Yiddish. On Hanukkah, there is a tradition of giving real or chocolate coins as presents to children. Most likely because Hanukkah falls near Christmas, giving gelt has evolved into giving and receiving other presents on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

So here are my Hannuka goodies - Hope you enjoy and have a wonderful holiday season, whatever your religion is....


  • Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
  • 1/4 cupLukewarm water
  • 3-3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Milk 
  • 2 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Butter, room temperature
  • 1 TBS Brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Dulche de Leche
  • Oil for deep frying


Mix the yeast and warm water together in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and sugar. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, milk, brandy, beaten egg, butter and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to mixthe ingredients and bring the dough together. Add a little more flour if the dough is too wet.

  1. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still a little sticky. Lightly butter or oil a large bowl. Add the dough to the bowl and cover it with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Set in a warm corner until the dough is doubled in size.

  2. Return the dough to a lightly floured surface and punch it down to deflate. Knead lightly for another 2-3 minutes. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a biscuit cutter or large glass to cut out 24 rounds with a diameter of 3 to 4 inches.
  3. Place 12 of the rounds onto a baking sheet. Put 2 tablespoons of dulche de leche in the middle of each round, taking care to keep a border of about 1/2 inch clean. Place the remaining rounds on top of each filled round and press the edges together to seal. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and set aside again until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Add at least 3 inches of oil to a large, deep pot or deep fryer. Set the oil over medium-high heat . Reduce heat to maintain temperature. Working in batches, add a few of the stuffed dough balls to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on one side. Flip over with a spatula or fork and brown on the second side.
  5. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly, then toss in the sugar to coat. Set aside and repeat with the remaining dough. Serve warm.
  6. Ganache: 200 ml cream + 200 grams chocolate. Melt over low heat.
  7. Cover each sufganiya with the ganache and sprinkle with candy, nuts etc.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Tortilla Love Affair

I do so love tortillas. They are so versatile....fill them with guacamole and salsa - your in Spain. Fill them with Satay chicken and chile sauce - you are in Thailand. You can even fill them with Falafel and tehina and remain in Israel....but here they are so darn expensive. So I figured they must ne difficult to make. They are not. After preparing them once - I assure you that you will never purchase them again.

I found these on Tammy's blog. She has such a great blog, very down to earth.

Tammy's Spinach Tortillas
9 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
1 TBS water
2+ cups flour (you will use more than 2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt or garlic salt
dash of pepper
1/4 cup oil

The dough

1. In a large pan or skillet over medium to medium-low heat, cook spinach in water. Cover, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and soft. This will probably take about 5 minutes after the pan is hot and the spinach has started to cook.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, and oil. Stir until crumbly.
3. Add the (hot or warm) spinach mixture, including the water left in the pan from cooking. Knead or stir, adding additional flour as needed (may take a cup or more of extra flour) to make a smooth dough. Knead dough for about 5 minutes, which will mix the spinach in better, and give the dough an even consistency.
4. Divide dough into 8 parts (for 10 to 12-inch tortillas) or more (for smaller tortillas).
5. Pre-heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a thin circle.
7. Brown tortillas in pre-heated pan for about 5 minutes on each side, just until cooked. A few light brown spots should appear.

Stack cooked tortillas on a plate or in a bowl with a clean towel around them, until all are cooked. Serve warm, filled with your favorite fillings - I used avocado and sprouts - but the sky's the limit.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

The BEST Srawberry Cheesecake. Period

My baby is 24. This is his favorite cake in the world and it had become a tradition on his birthday. It is very rich, beautiful and yet very easy in preparation.
It is from Epicurious

Strawberry Topped Cheesecake with Graham cracker Crust

For crust
  • 20 whole graham cracker (10 ounces total), broken
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar

For filling
  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs

For topping
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 16-ounce baskets strawberries, hulled
  • 1 18-ounce jar raspberry jelly
Make crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Wrap foil around outside of 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Combine graham crackers, butter and sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs onto bottom and 2 3/4 inches up sides of springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.
Make filling:
Beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt in large bowl until very smooth. Beat in flour. Add eggs and beat just until blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Pour batter into crust.
Bake cheesecake until outer 2-inch edge of cake os puffed and slightly cracked, center is just set and top is brown in spots, about 55 minutes. Transfer cake to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Make topping:
Whisk sour cream, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl to blend.
Spoon topping over cake, spreading to edge of pan. Bake until topping is just set, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Run knife between crust and pan.
Cool hot cake in pan on rack, Chill overnight.
Release pan sides from cheesecake. Arrange whole berries, points facing up, atop cheesecake; cover completely. Stir jelly in heavy small saucepan over medium-=low heat until melted.Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Brush enough jelly over berries to glaze generously, allowing some to drip between berries. Reserve remaining glaze in saucepan. (Cake and glaze can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover cake and refrigerate.)
Rewarm remaining glaze until pourable. Cut cake into wedges. Pass remaining glaze separately.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Caramel Apples...Is the Circus in town??

As a kid, my grandparents, especially my grandfather, would take us each year to the circus. Barnum and Bailey.  After the first time we kind of understood the concept and foubd it pretty boring. Millions of people, silly clowns that were never really up to our standards and kids that fly from cannon balls. We just didn't buy it. But we knew that my grandfather adored the circus. We were just an excuse for going. Today, I really miss it. I have taken my kids on occasion to circuses but they are never the same. I miss the innocence of the silly clown, the poodles running around and the elephants! Yes. I miss real elephants.
And I miss the caramel apples. No body seems to make them like they do at the circus.
So surfing the net I found a recipe I can handle....They are great.
The caramel has a taste that you certanly cannot purchase anywhere. Completely addicting. They are easy, and they dont break your teeth when trying to take a bite.This is for you Dobby, I hope you are smiling. I hope the circus comes to visit you in heaven.

 8 TBS. butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 pinch salt
1 can (14 oz.) sweetene condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
10-12 small Granny Smith apples
popsicle or lolipop sticks

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Mix in the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cool the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Stir in the condensed milk. Cook and stir until a candy or instant read thermometer reads 248 F (firm ball stage) Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Insert a lolipop stick in each apple so that it is firmly in place. Dip the apples one at a time into the caramel mixture, turning slowly to coat evenly. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with wax paper and allow to set. Decorate as desired.