Sunday, December 21, 2008

..... and on the first night

with hanukkah now upon us, tonight being the first of the 8 nights of the celebration, there is no better way to start things than with something sweet.

this is one holiday where counting your calories will have to be put on the backburner — most foods traditionally eaten for this celebration are fried in oil or prepared with it. while it doesn't have to make up the bulk of what you are eating during the week, you can't fully enjoy this festival of lights without partaking in some of 'the good stuff'.

one of the best things which are enjoyed at this time of the year — from the sefardic side — are golden billowy fritters, called bimuelos. crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, these delicious and addictive fried irregular shapes of dough are glazed with a honey (or sugar) syrup and, as we do it, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

the following recipe comes from my family and is very simple to make. like many sefardi recipes, it is based on the measurements of a drinking glass, wine glass or teacup, in this case a turkish teacup called 'la kupa' which equals 1/2 c or 4 oz. the recipe makes enough for three to four people (approx. 10 to 12 fritters) and is easily doubled or tripled. people tend to eat many of these so you will have to decide based on your crowd.

these bimuelos can also be made two ways: the first is the fritter (free form) way that is dropped from a spoon into the hot oil or as a type of 'doughnut' in which case the amount of flour in the recipe needs to be increased. first time makers of these fritters may want to start off with the dropped version as it is easiest.

note: this recipe is vegetarian/vegan - no eggs involved. if you are vegan, then make a sugar syrup instead of using honey (see lokma lessons).

happy hanukkah!
חג שמח
joyeuse fête des lumières!

bimuelos de hanuka

makes 10 to 12 fritters


1/2 c (+ 1 heaped tbsp) AP flour
1/2 tsp INSTANT yeast*
1/2 - 1 tsp sugar (i recommend 1 tsp)
good pinch of salt
1/2 c warm water
2 tsp light olive oil
grated orange zest, optional

1/3 c honey
1 - 2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp orange flower water (optional)

powdered sugar

*i use SAF INSTANT yeast which can be mixed directly with the flour. if you don't have it, use regular or rapid rise —> proof these types of yeast in the warm water with the sugar first and THEN add the salt, oil and the flour.

TO MAKE DONUT SHAPED ONES: increase flour to 2/3 c (you may need a little more ~ 1 to 2 tbsp). the final mixture should be slightly thicker than the above fritter one. remember the mixture will be kind of 'gloppy' once proved which is what you want but still hold a shape. see below for how to form donut shapes.


make your syrup first:

in a bowl for microwave, or small pan, place the honey and water in it. stir to mix. heat it until it is hot and then add the orange flower water, if using. set this aside for later.

now make your bimuelos:

in a bowl, place flour, sugar, instant yeast and salt and mix it together. otherwise proof regular yeast first in warm water with sugar and then add the flour. if using orange zest add it also.

add the warm water to the mixture and stir well with a whisk. add the olive oil. make sure there are no lumps. the mixture will be loose and somewhat watery (unless you are making donut type bimuelos).

place plastic wrap over the bowl and put in the oven with the pilot light on. you may want to warm your oven at 150F first for 1 minute.

let the mixture proof for about 60 minutes. it should be very bubbly and have risen.

take a spoon and mix the batter. you will notice the texture is somewhat like wallpaper paste! that is what you want.

heat your oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. make sure it is hot but NOT smoking hot. if the oil is too hot or too cold, the bimuelos will be either burned or greasy and uncooked in the centers. drop a small amount of batter in the oil and see if it immediately floats and sizzles with bubbles around the dough. if it does, then proceed.

always only test one bimuelo first to check your oil.

drop the batter by tablespoon into the hot oil. it will immediately puff up. bubbles will form on the top.

wait until the top looks cooked and is not raw before turning it. if the heat is too high, remove the pan to another burner and lower your heat a little and continue frying.

turn the bimuelos over and fry both sides til golden brown.

IF MAKING DONUT shaped bimuelos, either oil your hands well or wet them with water but shake off the water. you want moist, not wet, hands. place a tablespoon or two of batter in the center of your palm and then press a hole in the middle of the dough and open it up a bit. carefully place the bimuelo in the oil. DO NOT DROP IT or you will be splattered with oil.

with a slotted spoon, remove them to a platter or cookie sheet which is well lined with paper towel. let them drain while you continue to fry the rest of the fritters.

when serving, either dip the bimuelos in the honey syrup or drizzle it over them on a platter.

optional: sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon over them before eating. they're really best this way! :))

ADVANCE PREPARATION TIP: while i don't recommend it, you can make these earlier in the day, frying them and storing for serving later. place them in a 350F oven on a cookie sheet. glaze them before serving. i don't recommend it simply because these are at their best served just after you make them; it is, however, still possible to do. if you are making them ahead of time, underfry them a little and finish them off when reheating in the oven.


Monday, November 24, 2008

madeleine, je t'aime!

some things in life are just worth the calories and these classic little shell shaped cakes from france are definitely one of them. ummm, let me restate that — this recipe definitely makes them worth it.

as we all know, not all recipes are created equally. having tried/tested quite a few versions over the years, this one (from baker florence edelmann), is really one of the best. madeleines can be of a very light and spongy (génoise) variety or a slightly heavier, almost poundcake type, one. these fit the latter description however there are purists who will say they should be of the former texture. that is up for debate.

as génoise recipes are fussy and can be difficult for the average baker, this is a good alternative. note that a génoise does not use baking powder but only the eggs itself as a leavener. this recipe includes a leavening agent in addition to the eggs. there are, however, many variations of madeleine recipes. you should also plan ahead for this recipe as you need to chill the dough overnight. trust me though, it's all well worth your effort .... after trying these, you won't say no to them — in fact, you won't be able to stop with just a single one.

these small cakes, best eaten the same day they are made, should be sweet, light and buttery (not to mention memorable). these ones are all that and more. the only drawback is that you must use a madeleine pan which come in two sizes: the regular size (large) and the mini (about the size of half your thumb). i recommend buying the standard sized pan. you may want to invest in a non-stick one. i have the regular kind which must be well buttered and floured (an essential step).

whichever type of pan you end up buying, fill them up with this cake batter and watch some really wonderful french pâtisserie come out of your oven :)

madeleines classiques

it is best to make the mixture the night before and let it chill in the refrigerator until the next day. you can, in a pinch, use it right away. the dough can also be kept until the day after, if not baking all the madeleines that same day.

makes ~ 24 +


2 eggs
3/4 c - 1 tbsp (150g) sugar
1 pkg (2 tsp) vanilla sugar
8 tbsp butter (1/2 c) = 125 g, at room temperature
1 c + 2 tbsp (150 g) AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 - 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (optional)

1 tbsp dark processed cocoa (for 1/2 the dough; double it for all chocolate)


place the eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar in a medium sized bowl.

in another bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder together. set this aside.

divide the butter into 3 equal portions and set aside. make sure it is at room temperature before blending it in (see following).

with an electric beater, beat the eggs and sugars for about 4 to 5 minutes until it is pale yellow and very thick. this is very important (1 to 2 minutes of beating will not suffice); the idea is to have the sugar melt completely & incorporate enough air so as to form a very thick mixture.

once the eggs and sugar have been mixed, add the butter and flour in 3 separate additions, beating well each time.

after the butter and flour has been added, decide how you want to flavour the batter.

you can have it all vanilla (add the lemon zest, if wanted) or make a half batch of chocolate or all chocolate.

if making a chocolate batter, you'll need to sift the cocoa very well first into another bowl. either take half the batter (or all of it - double the amount of cocoa (2 tbsp) here) and blend it with the cocoa.

take note: the chocolate madeleines do not release as well as the plain vanilla so take extra care to flour your pan very well.

at this point, refrigerate the dough overnight or for several hours (overnight is best).

before baking, set your oven to 375 F (170C).

remove the cake batter from the refrigerator; it will have solidified. this is correct. well butter your madeleine pan(s) and flour them.

using a tablespoon, measure out enough batter for each and place it in the center of the madeleines.

you may need about 1 tbsp and 1/4 tbsp more for the chocolate batter. it seems to require a little more than the plain vanilla.

bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

remove and LET COOL COMPLETELY. with a butterknife, carefully pluck each madeleine out. the chocolate ones tend to be fussy so proceed carefully in extracting them.

enjoy with a nice espresso or cup of strong tea!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

recipe revisited — quick black bean soup

the following recipe is perhaps one of the tastiest, not to mention quickest and easiest, soups you'll ever make. i posted the recipe for it here, along with two others, quite some time ago but never posted any pictures to go with it. i was prompted to revisit the recipe when i saw it published yet again recently in our daily newspaper. the best part about the recipe is that it uses canned ingredients in order to make it a 'no fuss' recipe — all you need are cans of diced tomatoes, black beans and corn.

with winter well on its way - soups are probably on the minds of many people. this one is full of flavour and healthy, not to mention having almost no bad things (fat!) in it. it is also vegetarian and vegan. of course, you could always throw in some ground turkey at the beginning of the recipe to give it some more protein.

as a note to the recipe, the chili powder used in this recipe is the kind which is sold here in the supermarkets. in other words, it is on the milder side and is a mixture of cumin, coriander, paprika, red chilis, salt & pepper. it is more of a mexican / southwestern type of mixture and NOT an indian one. i add some red pepper flakes to make it a bit hotter but much depends on how hot your mixture is and how picant you like your food.

served with some fresh corn tortillas and guacamole, it makes for a nice and easy lunch or dinner.

quick black bean soup

makes 8 to 10 servings

recipe by anne lindsay


2 tsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 tsp mild chilli powder, or to taste
pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (or use whole tomatoes & pulse in food processor)
2 c vegetable [or chicken] stock or (2 tbsp stock powder + 2 c water)
1 19 oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 1/2 c corn, canned, frozen or fresh
3 tbsp packed, coarsely chopped coriander

salt and sugar, to taste


in a large pot, heat oil over med. heat and cook onions chilli powder and red pepper flakes for 5 to 8 minutes.

add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and lower heat to med-low and cook, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.

you can puree 2 cups and return it to soup if you want a thicker soup.

stir in the coriander. add salt and sugar to taste & serve.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

counterparts — sweet roskitas (ka'ak)

the following sweet little rounds, roskitas dulses [or just biskotchos] as i know them, are a common sight in many sefardi homes, served at many an occasion or kept in a cookie tin just to have on hand for everyday eating. also known as sweet ka'ak or bracelets (in arabic), they are commonly found in middle eastern countries. they are also the counterpart to their savoury version which is also very popular.

while terribly easy to make, this recipe takes a little planning in terms of timing and you NEED to read through the whole recipe before starting. i also say that because you have to decide which flavouring you want (to see if you have the ingredients on hand!). these roskitas are very commonly made with anise which is a favoured taste by many people.

the dough for these particular cookies is different from standard cookie doughs in that it needs a full (8 to 10 hour) chilling in order to be workable and will seem a little strange at first in that it will feel a little loose compared to a regular dough. no worries, it works perfectly :) just follow the instructions below and you'll have great cookies. also, don't overcrowd them as they expand while they bake.

happy baking!

roskitas dulses (sweet ka'ak)
sweet sesame rings

makes approx 24 cookies


wet —

2 eggs
1/2 c sugar
1 pkg vanilla sugar (2 - 3 tsp)

1/2 c oil (light olive or vegetable)

dry —

2 c flour (AP)
1/8 tsp salt, heaped
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch ("maizena")
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

flavourings —

2 - 3 tsp mazaher (orange flower water) or raki*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract IF you didn't add vanilla sugar

*if using raki, add 1 1/2 - 2 tsp anise (seeds) & omit vanilla

3 - 4 tbsp medium coarsely chopped pistachio nuts (green part only) - optional - this was added if they were made with orange flower water & not anise.

coating —

~ 1/2 c sesame seeds (you can also add 1/4 c coarse crystal sugar)


in one bowl, mix the dry ingredients together and set aside.

in another medium sized bowl, mix the eggs & regular and vanilla sugar together. it is best to do this with a electric beater.

add the oil and beat again for a minute or two. it will take on a consistency of lemon pudding.

now add the flour in two or three portions and mix it until it is like a thick paste.

put it (covered) in the fridge overnight or in the early morning and make the cookies in the evening. you cannot skip this step or speed it up. remember: it won't look like a regular cookie dough you are used to seeing.

the next day or later that evening:

preheat oven to 325 F.

take 1/2 c sesame seeds and put them on a plate.

take 1 level tablespoon of dough and roll it out into a "finger" about 4 inches long. put the ends together (they will fuse when they bake) but make sure they are closed (i.e. sticking together). now dip one side into the sesame seeds and place it on your baking tray. i always use parchment paper.

make sure to leave space in between because they will expand!! the best way to do this is measure out 12 pieces and put the other half of the dough back in the fridge. also, if you oil your hands, it is easier but i never do it. as long as the dough is cold, it works well.

bake the cookies for only 18 to 20 minutes. they should only be very lightly browned. remove them and bake the next batch.

now put the oven to its lowest temperature (~ 150F) and bake them for another 20 minutes.

remove from the oven and let cool completely. they should be "duro" (crisp) - but light and crunchy!! these store well for several weeks in a tightly covered cookie jar or in a ziploc.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

partners in crime

the following "staple" dish was served at home, always usually on a sunday night, to go with bulgur pilav .... and for good reason: they go together excellently. of course, it can be partnered with rice or orzo pilav just as nicely, and alongside a salad, it makes for a nice light meal.

the recipe, written on a very old yellowed card by some relative, was like many (sephardic) recipes — totally unclear about the measurements. much of the time you'd see just the name of the ingredient(s) and it was kind of assumed you knew what to do unless, of course, there was something specific or special about what you were making. over the years, however, this one was deciphered and resulted in the following.

hope you like it — simple, uncomplicated and always good!

berenjena kon kyma (karne)
eggplant with ground beef

serves 3 - 4 people, easily doubled or tripled if wanted


1 medium eggplant
150 g (a little more than 1/4 lb) ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
6 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp (approx) salt
1/8 tsp black pepper (or more) - hot red pepper flakes, too, if you like spicy
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pomegranate syrup*
1 tsp red pepper paste, if wanted
3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

1 "kupa"/turkish tea cup = 1/2 c water

3 tbsp fried pinenuts & extra chopped parsley for garnish, if wanted

*if desperate or you can't get it, substitute 1/2 tsp molasses + 1/2 tsp lemon juice; it's not the same thing but close enough. try to use pomegranate syrup!


prepare the eggplant —

wash and dry your eggplant. then take a sharp paring knife and, beginning from the bottom end to the stem end, remove a 1/2 inch strip of skin. don't cut too deeply. repeat this every inch or so until you have a striped pattern.

cut the eggplant in approximately 1 inch slices (rounds).

place the eggplants in a wide bowl and sprinkle a lot of salt on them, on each side. cover with cool water and let sit for about 45 minutes.

after 45 minutes, rinse under water and squeeze them dry. repeat and place on a plate with paper towel.

fry the eggplant —

heat a [cast iron] fry pan (if you have one, it's the best way) over medium heat for about 5 minutes. add 2 tbsp oil and fry the eggplant on one side until it is browned. don't burn it. turn them over and add another 2 tbsp oil (or brush the oil on top of the eggplant rounds) and fry until the other side is browned.

place these on a plate and set aside to cool.

make the meat layer —

in the same pan, over medium heat, add another 2 tbsp oil and fry the onion until it is almost browned. add the garlic and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes.

add the meat and fry it for about 10 minutes or until it is cooked.

add the diced tomato and fry the mixture for 5 minutes.

add the spices and parsley and cook it for about 1 minute.

remove from the heat and let it cool a bit while you put the dish together.

assembling your layers —

in a pot with a lid that can accommodate ONE LAYER of the cooked eggplant, place the slices side by side.

add the meat layer on top of the eggplant layer and deglaze your pan.

take 1/2 c of water and place it in the fry pan you cooked the meat in. heat it up and stir it to release the flavours of what you just fried. important: if you burned anything, then just add the water straight to the finished layered dish; don't deglaze your pan or the final dish will not taste good.

add the deglazed liquid to the eggplant and meat layers.

cover the pot with its lid and cook the mixture for 30 minutes over medium low heat or until all the liquid has been absorbed. if you have a little liquid, that is okay.

once cooked, the top of it won't look so nice but once you serve it out, it will look fine :)

serve the finished dish with bulgur pilav or rice or orzo pilav. garnish with fried pine nuts and finely chopped parsley, if wanted.