Cooking with Love

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Walima - Celebrating Middle Eastern Cuisine - Aysh el Saraya

The November sweet was hosted by Joumana from - and she made a wonderful choice!
I did it!!! My first challenge for the Walima Cooking group. At first I was definately skeptical regarding this recipe....the bottom is bread....the top has no sugar in it, hmmmm doesn't sound too tempting. But checking the web and asking friends of Lebanese heritage I understood that this recipe is a winner. And it was. The sweet syrup poured over the bread with a wonderful hint of orange blossom water made this such a wonderfully typical middle eastern dessert.
I took it to my nephew's Bar Mitzva brunch and the dessert vanished way before the other desserts...:-)
This is definately a recipe I will make over and over again!!
I only wish that through our recipes maybe peace will prevail between our countries. AMEN!!!
Walima is a Middle Eastern Cooking Club, with talented cooks from around the globe.

The Club extends the invitation to all Arab Cooks around the world, as well to every cook who enjoys cooking and has passion for Middle Eastern Cuisine! In the mean time, the group does encourage and welcome every cook (blogger and/or non blogger) to join and be part of Walima’s talented and spicy team

The groups goal is to accept, support, and appreciate each other; while educating, respecting and indulging in each member’s culture and catering in a family environment. Moreover, to emphasize and generously the nutritional and healthy aspect of Arabic Food!

Walima November cooking challenge will represent the Lebanese Cuisine. Talking about Lebanon which comes from Laban or the high White Mountain, this also reflects our food and what a coincidence that both recipes have dairy

Sweet Challenge:The Bread of the Seraglio ( Aysh el-Saraya)
1 round loaf white bread, about 8 inches in diameter, 1 day old
9 ounces golden superfine sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
scant 1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon rose water
1 3/4 cups Lebanese clotted cream or Ashta 2 tablespoons pistachios, ground medium-fine
Cut off the crust of the bread and keep for bread crumbsSlice off the top of the white bread to get one flat slice about 1 1/2 inch thick and put it in a round serving dish about the same size as the bread.Tear the rest of the bread in thick pieces and use them to fill the gaps in the dish.
Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a deep frying pan and place over medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring constantly, so that the sugar does not crystallize in places, for about 20 minutes or until it is caramelized.Towards the end of the cooking time, measure 7 ounces of water and bring to a boil in a teakettle. When the sugar is caramelized, start adding the water gradually without taking the sugar mixture off the heat. Be very careful, because the sugar will start spluttering and you could burn yourself!Pour the boiling syrup all over the bread and transfer the soaked bread to the pan. Place over medium heat and cook pressing the bread with the back of a spoon to mash it and make it soak up the syrup.Clean the edges of the serving dish and slide the bread back onto it, spreading it evenly across the dish. Let it cool then cover the bread entirely with cream.
Chill then cover with pistachios right before serving.
Clotted cream or Ashta:
2 slices of white bread without the crust
2 cups half-and-half
Cut the bread in small pieces and place in a saucepanPour the cream or half-and-half over the bread Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often.Cool then refrigerate. It should keep for 4 to 5 days. Makes 1 pint.Makes 4
Just a goofy picture because Sylvester was so cute in the garden

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lahma Bi Ajoon - "Meat in Bread" or Meat Pie or "Sfih'a"

These meat pies originate in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. They are highly popular throughout the Middle-East. They vary from lamb to beef. I am not keen on lamb so I chose the beef version. I also omitted the cinnamon that is very common in meast throughout the Middle-east. I also omitted the pomegranate seeds, only because I did not have any on hand.
They are very easy to make. The dough very comfortable to work with. All in all they are easy to prepare and will defibately make them again. The addition of sesame seeds is my interpretation of how they should be.
Hope you like.

1 kg ap flour
2 TBS fast acting yeast
1 TBS salt
5-6 TBS Olive Oil
2 1/2 cups warm water

Knead about 10 - 15 minutes. Cover and let fremate till double in size.

Meat Mixture
1 large onion, chopped
500 grams chopped beef
1 tomato, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 TBS tomato paste
salt, pepper, paprika
50 grams pine nuts
sesame seeds

Mix all the ingredients, except the pine nuts and sesame seeds.
After dough has doubled inside, knead once again to let out air. Divide into approx. 10 - 12 balls and roll out into pita sized circles. Brush with olive oil and let stand till double in size. Make a "well" in the middle of each "pita". Sprinkle sesame seeds around the well. Take a golf sized ball of the meat mixturre and place in the "well". Sprinkle with the pine nuts.

Bake approx. 20 minutes on medium heat till meat is cooked and dough is golden.
Serve warm with tehina or labane.

Have a Wonderful Eid el Adha!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Pumpkin soup served in an acorn squash

Have a great Holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dinner Rolls - not only for dinner...

I work long hours. Fact. I don't mind. I juggle through my work life, my home life, my mommy life and also I am a thats life. I do my best. Try not to forget anything. Usually do. Today I forgot to by rolls for the kids school lunch. I've made the pita pockets and felt like trying something new. I had my eye on these from Chanit's blog. They are pretty easy to make.
The original recipe is by Dan Lepard and can be found here.

Buttermilk Buns

1 sachet instant yeast
50g wholemeal flour
450g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
50g soft butter
200ml cultured buttermilk
Oil, for kneading

Mix the yeast, wholemeal flour and 100ml warm water in a small bowl and set aside for half an hour. Put the white flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, and rub in the butter. Stir the buttermilk with the yeast mixture, then add to the flour, along with enough water (about 50ml) to make a soft, sticky dough.

Cover the bowl for 10 minutes, oil a 20cm area of work surface and knead the dough on it for 10 seconds. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and repeat the kneading procedure twice more at 10-minute intervals. Once kneaded the final time, leave the dough to rest for 45 minutes.

Shape the dough into eight equal-sized balls, roll into 10cm long ovals, space out on floured baking trays and dust with flour. Leave for about 30 minutes, to double in size, then bake at 220C (210C fan-assisted)/ 450F/gas mark 8 for 15 minutes. Remove and, as they cool, cover with a cloth to keep them soft.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Falafel Friday

Falafel. There isn't a human being in the middle east that doesn't love it. For us - it's like Mcdonalds. A fast food. There is the never ending argument in each city of who has the best Falafel. There are even blocks with at least 7-8 falafel stands. Each one announcing that he is king. We have Abraham the Falafel King, next to him is Abraham the King of Kings, and right by him another Abraham, only he is the King of all the kings. I think you get the picture.
Then there is the never ending argument of who invented the Falafel. Was it the jews in Egypt, while in exiled slavery? Did the Lebanese jews bring it with them to Israel?
Falafel is Falafel, whether Jews, Israelis, Lebanese or Syrians invented it. It just doesn't matter and definately not worth the argument.
Please see this fact sheet for more interesting info on Falafel.
Since making my wonderful pita pockets I figured its time to make Falafel. And they came out great :-)

  • 2 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh corriander
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2pices of dark bread, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil for frying


Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak overnight.

Drain chickpeas.

In a meat grinder grind the chickpeas,garlic, onion, coriander, and bread. Mix togehter

Add cumin,baking soda, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. The mixtures taste should be a bit bolder than expexted. It will mellow out during the frying.

Let stand 30 minutes to an hour.

Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball.

Fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (5-7 minutes).

Serve hot

The mixture
Serve in pita bread, with salad and tehina

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chicken more store bought....

Ever wonder what they put into your food? Especially Ground meats? Extra especially into your chicken fingers?? DON'T. Trust me - none of us want to know. Nothing good....
The worst part is - that this is what our kids are eating. I do try to make good healthy foods at home. And on occasion I buy the frozen prepared foods. I think those days are over. I finally found a great recipe for chicken rings (If I try - next time they will be made into chicken fingers...).
And at least I know what is in then. Hey - I even ground the chicken myself :-). Not something I like to do (had childhood flashbacks of my grandmother grinding carp fish for Friday night Gefilte Fish - which I despise). The whole grinding is messy but on the other hand totally worth it.

Chicken Rings:
1 kg. ground chicken
2 eggs
1 cup corn kernals (I used canned)

5 eggs
5TBS. self rising flour

Bread crumbs

Mix the chicken, eggs, salt and pepper. Add in the corn.

In a small bowl whisk the eggs and flour.

In an additional bowl put in bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 180C.
Make golf sized balls from the chocken mix. Place in batter and then in the bread crumbs. make sure the whole chicken ball is completelty covered in crumbs.
Place on parchment paper and using your fingers - form a whole, but make sure you keep the form of a ball. Contimue with all the mixture.
Bake 10 minutes and turn each ring over. Bake an additional 10 minutes.
Serve with ketchup, mayonaise or nothing...:-)

I made a bunch and froze them - so the kids need only to warm them after school.

Easy going!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eggrolls - Made Healthier

This is really an easy recipe and is open to any creative ideas you have. It can be adjusted to your tastes and whims. Mine are veggie, but I will definately make my next ones with shrimp...
I tend to wrap each one seperately in parchment paper and freeze them. This way - if ever I have unexpected guests, cravings etc - I just pop them in the oven....15 minutes - ready!
And they are both easy and healthier than store bought and fried.
I posted pictures of the steps of their folding. Each egg roll is about 30 seconds of work :-)

Eggroll Mixture:
Eggroll wraps
Onion, sliced thinly
Cabbage, shredded
Carrots, julienned
Mushrooms, sliced thin
Brussel Sprouts
Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
Sweet Chile Sauce
Fish Sauce

Heat oil in a pan or wok. Sautee onions. Add carrots. After 2-3 minutes lower heat and add the cabbage and mushrooms. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, chile sauce and fish sauce. Continue muxing and make sure all veggies are covered with sauces.
When the veggies are a bit softer - but maintained their crispness remove from heat.
Place a sieve over a bowl and place the UNCOOKED brussel sprouts (we want these babies as crisp and fresh as possible!) at the bottom. Pour the veggie mixture over the sprouts and let all liquids drain completely.
When mixture is cool and "dried" follow the following steps.
Bake in preheated oven on medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes.
Place filling
Fold one side
Fold the other side
Begin "rolling"
qǐng màn yòng (eat slowly in chinese)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Little Things Go Such a Long Way....

Ilan Amster - 1956 - 2008

Thank you Sabah from Sousou kitchen!
Its been a sad today. Today is the year (by the jewish calendar) of my best-friend and father of my daughter. We were together for 15 years. Death is a part of life, but impossible to comprehend with one so young. You live with the mourning on a day to day basis - but never get used to it. Its there. Always.

Sabah - your award warmed my heart on a day full of sadness. How sweet of you. From the bottom of my heart -I thank you!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homemade goodness...So easy

I can't beleive how easy it is to make Pita bread at home. No special utensils. No special ovens. No more running to the bakery or supermarket. From now on - I make my own. I just wish I could let you smell the awesome scent of fresh baked bread. Heaven.
Here in Israel, Pita, is part of the culture. It is eaten with Falafel. With Hummus. With Shawarma. Its what a atortilla is to the Mexicans. Calzone to the Italians. And it is so unbelivably doable.
I also made my own Labane - which is a missdle eastern type cheese - also - so easy.

A typical dinner or breakfast. All homemade with love.

Group Pita Picture :-)

I love this pocket.

Pita Bread:
1 1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 TBS. Olive oil
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour

On low speed mix the all ingredients until incorporated. If the dough is too sticky add a bit more flour.
Turn the dough onto a slightly floured surface and knead till sof and flexible. return to bowl and cover with a kutchen towel. Let stand about an hour till double in size.
Give it a good "box" and let out the air (I love this part).
Preheat oven to the highest heat.
Knead till all air is out and the dough is soft.
Divide into approx. 10 balls.
Roll each ball into a circle, approx. 1/2 cm thick.
Place on parchment paper and bake for approx 5-7 minutes. Pita should blow up like a ballon - this is the air pocket we love so much.
Cool (if you can - they are way to tempting not to eat).
Keep warm in a clean kitchen towel.

1 liter yoghurt (cow or goat - I prefer cows milk)
1 cup sour cream
1 TBS. salt
Cheese cloth

Place the ingredients in the cloth and tie over the sink. Let the liquids strain through - approx. 8 hours. Put the cloth in a sieve over a bowl and refrigerate for another 8-12 hours.
Roll into small size balls and place in a jar. Cover with olive oil (I add some xanola as olive oil tends to thicken in the refrigerator).
When serving sprinkle with Za'atar or nigela seeds.

Monday, November 9, 2009


First of all.... The Queen is Dead....

Long Live the King!!!

Looking at this pie will ruin your diet. FACT.
Not kidding...I warn you and warn you again. And its the BEST!!
There is a reason its called "Gone to Heaven Chocolate Pie" adapted from the Hersheys site. Its to die for. But making it even better - I added a thick layer of peanut butter. Use smooth or chunky, whichever works fine.
I made it for my grandmothers 95th birthday party - but since almost everyone is down with the flu, we will celebrate at another time.


  • One 9-inch pie shell
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips, divided
  • Peanut butter
  • Sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping(optional)


1. Bake pie shell; cool. Stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2 quart saucepan. Combine egg yolks and milk in container with pouring spout. Gradually blend milk mixture into sugar mixture.

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Add 1-3/4 cups chocolate chips; stir until chips are melted and mixture is well blended. (This is where I first spread the peanut butter) Pour into prepared pie shell; press plastic wrap onto filling. Cool. Refrigerate several hours or until chilled and firm. Garnish with whipped cream and remaining chocolate chips, if desired. 6 to 8 servings.
Egg yolks, milk, cornflour and sugar

Pie Crust (I made from scratch - much better)

Peanut Butter layer

Chocolate melted in the thickened "pudding"


Choloate pudding spread over pie crust


And I definately died and went to heaven.....

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Easy peasy spinach spirals

Just a quickie post with a quickie recipe since my oldest remembered that he needs to bring something for potluck ("HE" for ome reason always means me....). Since kitchenaid passed away a cake is out of the question. Quiche was made the last 3 times and being pretty tired was a major factor. I had a package of whole wheat puff pastry defrosting that I was planning on using for something else and a bag of fresh spinach. Lucky me I even had some feta cheese.

Spinach Feta Pinwheels

1 package whole wheat puff pastry
400 grams fresh spinach, washed and dried
1 onion, chopped
olive oil
salt & pepper

Sautee onion till golden, Add spinach a sautee for no more than a minute. Add salt and pepper. Drain and coll completely.
Roll out puff pastry and spread the spinach evenly.
Grate or crumble the feta over the spinach,
Roll the pastry lengthwise and cut.
Place on baking sheet and bake on medium heat approx. 20 minutes till golden and crisp.