Monday, October 29, 2007

coffee break — time for a snack

churik (choreg)

these mildly sweet little buns are brioche-like but with a different taste than the commonly known french type — it is one of the eastern mediterranean, namely turkey, armenia and greece. flavoured with mahlep, the ground kernals of a particular (wild) cherry tree, these breads are served with strong coffee and enjoyed with preserves and sometimes kaymak which is a very thick cream, something like that of english devon cream. the mahlep cannot be replaced and there is no substitute for it. do seek it out and give it a try. we also add orange flower water to these and sometimes a bit of cinnamon mixed with allspice but only in a very small amount.

makes 7 buns (recipe can be doubled)


1 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp water

4 tbsp butter or margarine, melted (or oil)
4 tbsp milk or soymilk
1 large egg
3 tbsp sugar
2 capfuls orange flower water (opt)

1 1/2 c ap flour
1 tsp mahlep
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 egg yolk + 2 tsp milk or water
sesame seeds (and/or nigella seeds)


place yeast and water in a small bowl and let sit 10 minutes.

in the meantime, melt the butter in the microwave or on stovetop (only just to melt — don't make it scorching hot). add the milk and sugar only and mix well. once the mixture is only warm, add the eggs and orange flower water, if using, and mix well again.

add the yeast mixture and stir again. set aside.

in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, mahlep*, baking powder and salt. mix well with a whisk.

*make sure to pulverize the mahlep completely or pass it through a fine sieve as it tends to clump. this is very imporant.

add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well.

add the rest of the flour mixture and knead for about 2 or 3 minutes. it should be a soft dough and feel a bit greasy but not sticky. as you knead more, it will become less sticky (it may be initially when you start kneading it).

place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. cover the tea towel with a plastic bag and let everything rise for about 1 1/2 hours. it needs to double. i usually place it above a smaller bowl filled 1/3 of the way with boiling water to keep the dough warm as it proves.

once doubled, take the dough out of the bowl and deflate it slightly.

cut 7 equal pieces of dough and roll them into balls. make sure they are nice and round. if you have handled the dough a lot before cutting, it is harder to make nice cohesive balls of dough. it can still be done however.

cover them and let them sit for 10 minutes.

take one of the balls and flatten it into a disc shape.

with your thumb, press a small hole into the center of the dough and almost all the way through.

place the disc on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet and press again into the disc to make the hole open up all the way through.

continue with the rest of the dough, leaving space in between.

cover the baking sheet with a tea towel and let it rise for another hour. tedious yes, but necessary or they won't puff up properly. i've made these countless times and they are always smaller if i don't prove them fully.

after 30 minutes of proving, heat the oven to 350 F.

before placing the churik in the oven, make your eggwash and coat them fully. sprinkle sesame seeds and/or nigella seeds all over.

bake them for 20 to 22 minutes until they are just golden brown.

let them cool on a rack.

serve with turkish coffee and jams or preserves. store them in a plastic ziploc type bag and they will stay fresh for about 2 to 3 days. you can reheat them slightly in the microwave, if you like them warm.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

swiss, you say? i think not ....

this is another typical sefardi (moroccan) "salade" that is served at room temperature and part of a myriad of other ones that is seen on the table for the sabbath and on certain holidays like passover. the vegetable used this time is swiss chard or les blettes.

swiss chard has a flavour similar to beets, kale and spinach and is very healthy, as it is rich in vitamin K and A, in addition to C. it does, however, have a distinctive flavour which may not please everyone. i like to think of swiss chard as more of an adult vegetable than one for kids. chard typically comes in two varieties — a ruby red one, with big (red veined) leafy greens and a vibrant crimson stalk and the white variety which is a bit milder but with creamy white stalks. the red variety reminds me of rhubarb but definitely does not taste anything like it. other colours are also available (see link below).

what makes this vegetable swiss, you may be wondering? absolutely nothing! it was named as such due to a beetle infestation at one point in history which rendered its leaves looking like swiss cheese. how's that for interesting (random) facts? :))

more information here about chard from one of my favourite british food magazines, and also here. this site shows you the different colours of chard available. isn't the orange one great?

look here for a different recipe using swiss chard which actually involves pita bread! another one here involving chicken.

salade de blettes (swiss chard "salad")

here is another common morrocan jewish "salade" which is not really a salad at all but an appetizer served at room temperature as opposed to cold which would completely dull the flavours. i like to use a lot of olive oil with this as it adds more depth than when made with little. as with all these kinds of "salades", they need to marinate for several hours or overnight to achieve their maximum flavour, otherwise they are insipid.


1 bunch of swiss chard (~15 leaves)
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
4 - 6 tbsp extra-v olive oil
juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp saffron, crumbled or powdered


wash the chard carefully and remove any parts of the leaves that are not perfect.

gather the chard and match the bottoms together. remove the bottoms of the stalks and then chop the stems into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.

still holding the bunch, chop the leaves cross wise into 1/2 inch strips.

place all the chard into a pot or pan and add water until it reaches half way up the chard.

bring to boil and cook the chard for about 10 minutes or until the stems can be cut easily. they should be tender and not tough when you chew them.

carefully drain the chard and let it cool a bit. press out all the water. don't skip this as you'll end up with a watery dish if not drained properly.

in another bowl, blend all the remaining ingredients together except the lemon juice.

add the lemon juice and mix again.

place the drained chard into the dressing and mix well.

let it sit 15 minutes and then taste and adjust the flavours and oil if you feel more is needed.

the "salade" needs to rest for a few hours before serving. if using that day, leave it out on the counter or place in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature when serving.


exponentially hot

this is a recipe for north indian style carrot pickles from julie sahni's book, classic indian vegetarian and grain cooking.

while pretty much on the mild side when first made, over the span of two to four weeks, these will intensify to the point where a little will go a long way. in other words, they become hot, hot, hot. the combination of red hot chillies and cracked mustard seeds really heat things up but not so much as to make it unpalatable, in any sense. if you like hot, then this is for you. they are also tart and crunchy due to the addition of lemon juice and very short cooking time.

as with many north indian pickled vegetables, they are preserved in mustard oil. there are several brands available however many are now mixed with other oils and are considered as "blends". often, on the bottles, you will notice that it says 'for external use only'. at one point, there was a problem with the production of this oil where it is said that some corrupt manufacturers mixed it with other oils which were not fit for human consumption. it has become controversial and many countries put 'for external use only' on the bottles to avoid problems. the brand i use is "ktc" (from the UK) and works well for the following pickle.

mustard oil also has to be heated to smoking point very briefly before being used. if all this is "too much" for you, stick with vegetable oil :) just don't do the 'bring to smoking point' part of it. the other necessary ingredients like asafetida and brown mustard seeds are items you'll need to get from a store which sells indian food products.

hot north indian-style carrot pickles


1 lb carrots (~4 large carrots)
1 tbsp (kosher) coarse salt
1 tbsp crushed brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground asafetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
whole red chillies, enough to make 1 1/2 tbsp crushed

1/3 c lemon juice
1/2 - 2/3 c mustard oil (i use ktc)


carefully wash and dry a glass jar that will be appropriate to store your pickles in. it must be perfectly clean and dry to prevent contamination or spoilage.

peel and cut carrots into 2 1/2 inch lengths and then into a little less than 1/2 inch wedges or sticks. set aside. do not cut them too thinly as they will cook through and be soft — you want a crisp pickle, not a cooked soft one.

grind the brown mustard seeds until they are coarsely powdered. place in a small bowl.

take the chilies and break them and remove the seeds. crush them with your hands or in a mortar. they should be coarsely crushed and not powdered.

measure out the asafetida and juice the lemon.

make sure to have everything ready as the recipe goes very quickly and you may chance cooking the carrots too much if you have to stop and measure.

place the salt, turmeric, chillies, mustard seed and carrots in a medium sized bowl and mix them all together well.

on medium high heat, place the mustard oil in your wok or khadhai or cooking 'vessel'. you must heat the mustard oil to the point where it is only just starting to smoke. this is absolutely necessary so do not avoid this step. it is only ever used for mustard oil.

add the asafetida and stir quickly. add the carrots and all the spices in the bowl.

stir fry this for only 1 minute.

add the lemon juice and stir fry for another 2 minutes only. do not exceed this time or you may risk cooking your carrots.

remove the carrots from the heat and pack them in the clean jar and cover with all the liquid from the pan.

let cool completely in the jar and cover.

the pickles need to sit for about 4 to 5 days. shake twice a day until ready to eat.

as they age, they get hotter and hotter.

store in the fridge and only use a dry clean fork to remove them. they will mould if they come into contact with water.


Monday, October 22, 2007

brown is beautiful, part II

a picture is worth a thousand words, they say....

who wouldn't want to dive into a big bowl of chocolate frosting, head first?!

this is a simple no-brainer recipe for a frosting that is great for topping brownies or cupcakes. the added bonus is that it only uses 2 tablespoons of fat (butter or margarine) and still tastes great. of course, if you are worried about sugar, there is no way out of this one: either take your insulin or call the dentist!

the only caveat to making this recipe is that you need to add the liquid (milk or cream or soymilk) slowly to get the texture you like. if you add too much all at once, you'll have to add more icing sugar. too much liquid always messes up an icing so proceed carefully.

simple chocolate espresso frosting

this can be made with or without espresso (if you don't like coffee). if you do, make sure to use extremely fine-ground beans and not the instant kind — the flavour is just not the same. this icing also doesn't require a mixer. it can be done with a wooden spoon or a good wire whisk. as always, make sure to sift the cocoa as it tends to be pesky and leave little granular bits if not fully sieved with the icing sugar beforehand.


4 tbsp dark cocoa powder
2 c confectioners (icing sugar)
2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 - 4 tbsp milk or cream or soy milk, a little at a time
1 - 2 tsp finely ground espresso coffee (from beans)


sift the icing sugar and cocoa first to eliminate granular bits (of cocoa).

mix everything together with a whisk or spoon. you can use an electric mixer too or the food processor.

voilà, easy and perfect frosting!


brown is beautiful, part I

having to come up with something to bring to work, what does one choose that will likely please everyone? brownies, of course.

this is a recipe which never fails and takes very little time to throw together. in fact, i've made it so many times, i have it committed to memory now. such a good recipe, it uses one bowl and a whisk {maybe a spatula and measuring spoons, too} and can be made in 5 - 10 minutes. if you're like me and hate washing up tons of dishes, this is definitely the recipe for you.

i have to say, it tastes great either at room temperature or cold, straight from the refrigerator. i've noticed that the texture changes after sitting in the fridge, almost making it denser than it already is and even fudgier.

this particular recipe is not for those kind which are gooey or cakey but rather something in between. it seems many people are very particular how they like their brownies — nut, no nuts; thick, thin; dense, airy; frosting, no frosting ..... i could go on.

frosting these does make a difference: in your overall weight ;) but hey, what's an extra pound or two? you know you want to ......

the 10 minute brownie

thin, dense and very chocolate-y these are hard to resist. they taste even better slathered with a simple 2 minute chocolate espresso frosting. nuts, optional :)


1/2 c unsalted butter (or margarine)
2 oz semi sweet chocolate*
2 tbsp dark cocoa
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c all purpose flour

1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)

*you can use 6 tbsp of chocolate chips

1 x chocolate espresso frosting


preheat oven to 35oF and butter an 9 x 9 inch (22.5 x 22.5 cm) pan or, if you have one, a brownie pan 10.5" x 6.5" (26.5 cm x 16.25 cm).

melt chocolate, cocoa powder and butter on high in microwave for only 1 minute. stir to dissolve chocolate. make sure it's not hot for next step. cut up the chocolate if it is in chunks (like below) to help it melt quickly.

add sugar and eggs and whisk to blend well.

add the vanilla and salt.

add the flour and mix well.

pour into pan and spread out evenly. it may not seem like there is enough but there is.

bake for 30 minutes. it will crack on top and may puff a bit but that will stabilize once it cools.

remove and let cool completely.

when cool, ice. cut in squares or refrigerate and cut when cold.

grab one and enjoy!