It has been stormy in Israel the last week. Stormy weather and even stormier regional politics igniting on our doorstep. On both fronts, the outlook makes me want to stay inside. I sit and watch the heavy clouds, angry trees and beating rain through the window; I ground myself in front of the telly, watching the charges of a million Egyptian protestors igniting their own storm. It must be cold for them outside.
My space, the space between kitchen, sofa and telly, is a comfort as it feels like nothing could ever happen here, in my little bubble. I have been cooking a lot lately, although nothing has been documented. A double-layed coffee and walnut cake brought delight, which followed a less sinful beetroot tart.
The new year has been quite a significant one. Big changes and more to come. As I reached the big 3-0 two days before new year hit, deep down my gut told me this year things would happen. A new year, a new decade in my life, and I would be finally taking the driving seat. Finally, because it has been a long time waiting.
One thing of my ‘new’ things is to fully embark on my passion for photography. I have partaken in a project entitled “Fifty-Two Frames”, which involves a group of ammeter (me) and professional photographers (most of the others) in posting a photo once a week for a year on different topics. The photo has to be taken during that week and has to relate to the topic. Given my lack of recent foodie photos, I thought I would show you a few of my snaps taken around Tel Aviv for the “Fifty-Two Frames” project. I used my Nikon D40 or iPhone 4.
Theme 4: Street scene. I went around Jaffa’s flea market to grab shots at the end of trade.
These were my two runner-up shots.
Theme 3: Macro. I always strive to get six glasses of water down my throat, especially in Israel. I took a close up of the condensation inside the bottle that accompanied me for the day. The hebrew type is the ‘keep till’ date and underneath, ‘kosher for passover’.
Theme 2: Weather. Taken along Tal Baruch (the beachfront by north Tel Aviv). I found it difficult to capture ‘weather’ in a country largely defined by all-day sunshine, as when you think of weather photography, storms, rain and dreariness comes to mind. This lizard caught my eye, an inhabitant of the desert, lovers of heat and dry air.
Theme 1: Self-portrait. I used my iPhone and the application, Instagram. I found it hard to get a direct shot of my face, hence the mirror lent a hand.
This week, the theme is ’emotion’, as with weather, I am not sure how to capture this, unless I get a face of someone crying or laughing. Will keep you posted.
The new year dashed into Tel Aviv. Rain finally came too, bringing much relief to this old, dried out desert.
In Tel Aviv, the seasons blurred into a haze, adopting the undeterred character of its surroundings. Throughout December, you wouldn’t have guessed it was winter. No signs of Christmas, 80 degrees and a blazing sun for the entire stretch of day light. For 11 months of the year, it could be any season at all in the sin city, as it is known to the world. Cafes are filled with all its regulars, cool cats sat for long stretches of the day, smoking on cigarettes, sipping on cappuccinos, sitting back with a sense of ease in the warm breeze and exchanging kisses in the air. Business as usual.
In the city that strives to turn a blind eye to their place on the world map, it is the weather that reminds you that is indeed Arabia, not Europa.
A few weeks ago, I happily took a stroll to the city’s northern port, to enjoy the European swagger in the city’s food establishments. I headed for Tel Aviv’s latest offering, its take on Barcelona’s La Boqueria, as founded in the “Shuk Ha’Namal”, the newly erected indoor food market.
I visited La Boqueria several years ago, and although much of my loyalties do lie with London’s Borough Market, for me, La Boqueria, is food market heaven on earth. My eyes were transfixed by every tapas bar I passed, each serving their specialities on little clay bowls. The most delightful stand was the fish bar, an elegant small fish joint, situated in the heart of the city’s food market. Buttoned up cooks in white overalls served the catch of the day on white places, dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, crushed garlic and, of course, a side glass of Cava.
As I strolled up to Tel Aviv’s food market during this warm winter day, my expectations had already been set quite high. The trickle of the blue sea in my periphery was of course endearing, but I wasn’t going to be forgiving. If Tel Aviv wanted to be all European, then it had a lot to live up to.
Tel Aviv’s food market from the outside seemed promising, but on entry the hope for an all-emcompassing, imposing food market was replaced by the reality of a small gathering within a mediocre space. Booths sell imported gourmet delicatessens at extortionate prices; others sold multi-coloured carrots, amongst an array of organic local vegetables, olives, spices, flowers and bread.
There were also food bars, much like those found in La Boqueria, but here, there was an international offering of American-style meat sandwiches and Italian-style freshly-made pasta, dolloped with a variety of sauces. I scoured the place and finally took a seat in the buzzing tapas bar, situated in the corner of the market and squeezed next to the window, as to catch every glare of sunlight.
And this is where the comparisons began. Was this going to be anything like La Boqueria’s freshly caught fish on a plate? I decided to go simple and ordered patatas fritas, scrumptious fried cubes of potatoes drowning in aioli and tomato sauce; seared sirloin with a tangy salsa verde; and grilled sardines.
The latter dish was the day’s special. I hoped it would carry the salty flavours of the Mediterranean and the smokiness of a charcoal singe. Since the bar was attempting to reinvent Barcelona’s trend of tapas, surely the essence of the food would be in its freshness and locality? No? Unfortunately the sardines lacked flavour, the poor little mights weren’t that fresh and were slightly over cooked. And worse of all, the plates, along with two glasses of wine, came with a heavy price tag of around $50. Unfortunately, Tel Aviv was just trying a tad too hard to be European, and somewhere down the line, they lost the point. If sardines weren’t there thing, they shouldn’t do it.
Anyways, the bubbles of the cava and the heat of the sun calmed by overly critical British cognition, and I melted in the moment of the cool vibe of Tel Aviv. After all, it was mid-December, so I couldn’t complain too much.
Every pocket of the city stays the same throughout the year, except January. January has arrived and Tel Aviv enters indoors. Cafes wind down and food turns to a short-term binge of soup and stew. It won’t last long and the city will be back to its usual swing.
Lunchtime in the many cafes across Tel Aviv is a constant reminder of why I think this country has one of the strongest culinary scenes in the world. Gone are the days of lunchtime offerings of flimsy slices of bread filled with a lining of cheese and pickle, cut in half and sat for days in a plastic triangular prison. Instead, see exhibit a, a lunchtime special in a standard local cafe: chicken meatballs, crispy onions, on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, and a large side salad, filled with the country’s most flavoursome carrots, rocket, radish slices and herbs.
In a recent visit to London, I gave the whole cafe culture a go for lunch. Sadly, my low expectations were met. If Tel Aviv cafe food fulfils modern-day expectations in the culinary world, then England was stuck in the middle ages. We had grabbed a bite to eat in Muswell Hill’s supposedly most trendy cafe. The over-priced roasted vegetable ‘open’ sandwich, a few scraps of roasted vegetables desperately distributed on a slice of ciabatta bread, was half of what was meant to be a whole. Despite the fact for not really appreciating the concept of an ‘open’ sandwich, I was disappointed that my sandwich, or whatever it was, had not successfully extinguished the tiny volcanic grumble in the pit of my belly. No fireworks in my taste buds, no hug in my belly and definitely, no satisfaction with leaving my precious pounds behind on the heavy wooden table.
I think my expectations from dining outlets have changed. I don’t think it is acceptable for a city’s culinary scene to be largely defined by high-street monopolies, such as Pret a Manger, Marks and Spencers, Yo Sushi and Pizza Express. The odd alternative cafe, striving to stand out with artisan bakery and pompous-sounding sandwiches just isn’t enough for me anymore. Tel Aviv’s food scene is leaps and bounds ahead of England zero-personality lunch time scene.
Lunch in Tel Aviv was served at Nechama V’Hetzi, Kikar HaBima 2, corner of Ahad Ha’am.
There are literally 1000s upon 1000s of food blogs. Far too many to consider. Why would I bother pursuing a food blog with so many in mind, you may ask. My first move towards blogging was defined by my move to Israel. I took writing oh so seriously, in the hope that I could build up my meager writing repertoire to become a full-fledge Lois Lane. Yet, after five years, nothing materialised for me and my writing career in Israel, minus a few spats on some Israeli lifestyle sites. “Failure!”, screeched the little old bubbe sitting on my right shoulder.
After a 5-year vacuum of parties in smoky bars, heart-wrenching conversations over wine-stained tables and smelly cheese, and a few extra ripples of flab fuelled by a never-ending social existence of dinners of tapas, chicken wings and mini pizzas in hip Tel Aviv bars, food and drink became my definition. My love for food and cooking reached an all time high as I realised the main satisfaction I got from day-time television was reruns of Ina Garten and Everyday Food martians.
In a hope to save my hedonistic soul, I thought blogging about food and life would make it a tad worthwhile. My last blog became slightly too self-indulgent, all emotions and experiences of the Aliyah movement turned into a cheerleading dance and a preview for a Dr. Phil intervention. My new venture required a bit of a punch. Hence the food blog. A place where food would guide me through life.
A year down the line and my food blog has drowned in the online universe of annoyingly beautiful food blogs, decorated with baby pink gingham backdrops, flattering fonts and perfectly shot photos of effortlessly exquisite creations. To get any street cred, you have to be part of Martha’s Circle or at least have the stamping of some type of food blog award. The others, like me, are sitting on the sideline, waiting for a response, an answer in the comments box, or at least a #FF tweet on twitter … see, I am getting it! Despite all this, I still have to remind myself why I bother in the first place. First, this is for me. And second, I need to stop obsessing over the competition and taking this food blog thing too seriously. I am no professional photographer and I haven’t (yet)written for a ton of glossy magazines. But there is hope for us all, and that’s why so many of us bother with the chore of blogging in the first place.
You may be rolling your eyes, demanding to know, is this post just another self-depracating rant? Well, there is meaning to the madness, and a recipe is insight. This blog comes after a year since the inauguration of the Dining Minx. And so, I wanted to recap my underlying voice in this overcrowded discourse: leftovers.
This recipe is for those who are wary about cooking chicken soup, for sake of a whole, entire chicken. It capitalises on the discarded chicken discarded, and turns this humble flesh into a delicious chicken stew, with a Spanish twist. This recipe was taken from the summer edition of Jamie Oliver’s magazine. I urge you to check out this delightful, unpretentious and inviting food magazine, made by one of my all-time favourite TV chefs, Jamie Oliver.
Leftover Chicken with Tomatoes & Crispy Chorizo
1 Yellow Pepper
1 Orange Pepper
1 Onion, finely sliced4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 kg mixed tomatoes, roughly chopped (if the tomatoes do not have great flavour, replace this with 3 cans of chopped tomatoes)
1 heaped tsp sweet paprika (instead, I used smoked Spanish paprika)
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (you can replace with half a tsp of dried chilli flakes)
A few sprigs of oregano, leaves picked and chopped (or 1 tbsp of dried oregano)
1 poached chicken (on the off chance you haven’t got a spare poached chicken and you aren’t planning on making a batch of chicken soup, you can replace this with a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket)
200ml chicken stock
2 fresh chorizo sausages (I don’t eat pork so I replaces these with less authentic beef chorizo sausages)
1 heaped tbsp creme fraiche (I omitted this)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. (The first part of the recipe is for scorching the peppers. If you don’t have the energy for this step, you can replace it with pre-scorched peppers, available in supermarkets in the canned food section.) Blacken the peppers over a gas flame or under the grill then pop in a sandwich bag or bowl covered with clingfilm to steam. After 15 minutes, they should be easy to peel, so get rid of the skin (In a more simple fashion, I slice the peppers in half, lay them flat on a board and scrape the skins off with a sharp knife).
2. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, tomatoes, paprika, chilli and most of the oregano. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until starting to soft. Meanwhile, pull the chicken off the bones in chunky pieces. Get rid of the bones and skin. Add the chicken to the pan with the stock. Tear the peppers into strips and add to the pan. Stir well. Leave to bubble away for 25 minutes, or till sauce has reduced and is thick and shiny.
3. Put a second frying pan on a high heat. Split open the skins on the chorizos. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan then add the meat from the sausages and the fennel seeds. Stir with a wooden spoon, squashing and breaking the meat into crumbs. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, or until dark golden, crisp and smelling fantastic.
4. Add a good lug of extra-virgin olive oil and generous pinch of salt and pepper to your chicken pan. Take the pan straight to the table, dollop over the creme fraiche, drizzle with the balsamic and scatter with the crisp chorizo (if you haven’t munched on it all, already) and reserved oregano.
Serve this with flat bread or even white rice.
Most of my friends in Israel are American, which means I have become extremely knowledgable on American traditions, foods and un-humourous humour. I even have had the pleasure of participating in a Thanksgiving dinner, and this year was no expectation, except for the fact that this Brit was hosting! Some may say I had no right to host a Thanksgiving dinner, given my empire’s distasteful role in US history. But not only do I demonstrate loyalty to the stars and stripes with the use of a pseudo-American diction and the words ‘trash’, ‘apartment’ and ‘whack’ (my English-side shivers at the thought), but I also fully appreciate America’s food tradition to combine savoury with sweet into one plate of food. Heck, dessert and meat combined in one meal can only, surely, be totally and ridiculously delicious. A sweet crunch of cranberries and crumble next to slithers of white meat and gravy can only mean one thing, food heaven.
So, along with the help of one of my American pal, Tina, we created a full traditional banquet of Turkey, graving, sausage stuffing, veggie stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry crunch, beans, pecan pie, and <breath> mashed potatoes. Our delightful table spread (minus the arrival of the turkey):
Yes it was good, oh so good. I just wish someone had pre-warned me about the bird’s enzyme, triptaphin, because I have been in food coma ever since. Now, what to do with the bones.
This morning, I decided to complete a choir that I have been planning to undertake for the last 3 months, clean the kitchen cupboards. I reached the food stuff, pulled out all my spice, oils, vinegars, and realised that, asides from the major need for organisation and labelling, I had collated a decent range of spices over the last year. People often say you can gage a person’s character by looking through their wardrobe or bookshelf. For me, I guess, one should trawl through my kitchen and fridge to realise the type of person I am, or should I say, the Dining Minx I really am.
My spice collection developed from purchases in food markets, speciality stores and supermarkets across Israel, England and the US. The most unusual blends I have found have been those in markets around the world, where individuals showcase blends that define their own food culture. In London’s Borough Market, spices are quietly tucked away in ready-to-buy plastic containers. In Israel, traders in the ‘shuk’ (market) display spices in large bowls, encouraging interaction between the customer and trader with opportunities to taste, touch and smell. Traders present their Moroccan, Libyan, Persian cultures through spice blends, which are used to turn raw ingredients into dishes their grandmother’s would serve, such as chamim and chreime. Spices are sold loosely and according to weight. Given this, I have a large number of spices stored in plastic bags, still awaiting decanting in their own container. I reuse glass jars to store spices, which I love, because it adds to the richness of the food history sitting on my shelf. Old piccalilli and jam jars bring me back to a time in London, and they in turn, no longer empty vessels, regain their pride as showcases for food experiences in my new life in Israel.
As I stood in front of the shelf, with the contents laid out on the work surface below, I was brought back to visits back home, trips to America and flavours I experienced enjoying their local cuisine. My favourite spice is La Chinta, a Spanish smoked paprika, which I bought in a Spanish speciality store in Portobello Market, London. I recommend mixing this with garlic slithers, olive oil and sea salt, as a simple and powerful smokey marinade to meat and poultry. My most scary purchases, which are still on guard in their boxes, are the Japanese ingredients bought in the Japanese speciality store, Atari-Ya, London. Nanami Togarashi, Japanese chilli powder made with orange peel, sesame, ginger and seaweed, Dashi, a seasoning for soup and bonito flakes, dried fish flakes used for seasoning, are presented in colourful, cartoon-animated boxes. Gazing at these, I am reminded of the time I scoured Atari-Ya’s shelves after having eaten their delicious and cheap sushi on uncomfortable high stalls with my mum and brother on a typically rainy Sunday afternoon. Fine, these aren’t spices, but I seriously love their packaging. They bring playful tones to cooking miso ramen soup.
My kitchen shelves host Indian masala spice blends (tandoori masala, 3 versions of garam masala and chaat masala), a range of chilli blends (La Chinata, Nanami Togarashi, hot paprika, Hungarian paprika, sweet paprika, local smoked paprika, hot chilli, chilli flakes and whole chillies) and several Middle Eastern spices (Fenugreek, Sumak, not actually a spice, but a ground dried berry, Baharath and Zahatar seasoning). I also love my “High Sierra” meat rub, a blend I found in a flee market in Nashville, and ingredients I cherish from my trip to Nazareth, black cardamon pods, lavender and rose tips.
Whilst living in the US last year, I watched an excessive amount of television. To be precise, my TV set was stuck on Bravo TV and Food Network for a large part of the day. Inspiration from the Barefoot Contessa, Iron Chefs, Top Chefs and Martha was flowing in my culinary cerebral cortex, as I jotted down recipes and ideas. Bravo must have had me in mind when launching Chef Academy, as it began just as I settled down in Nashville. I couldn’t get enough of Chef Jean Christophe “Hottie” Novelli and his crazy class of amateur cooks, who, for reality television, weren’t all that irritating. Chef “Hottie” Novelli’s “Grandma Louise’s Tomato Sauce” recipe was a particular favourite and I kept it mind for my return to Israel, the home of the finest, most full-flavoured and sweetest tomatoes.
As following on from my last post, you will appreciate the fact I am a big sauce lover, maker and eater, especially of the tomato kind. So once back in Israel, I gave Chef Hottie Novelli’s Grandma Louise’s Tomato Sauce a go. This recipe involved interesting methods for a tomato sauce, including roasting the tomatoes in a dry pan, a method that brings a deep, intense and slightly caramelised flavour to the sauce, and then combining garlic and oil at the end as an infusion. The unusual flavour-combination of star anise and vanilla in a tomato sauce drove my taste bud curiosity to an all-time high.
Even though on TV the recipe seemed simple, after having attempted it, I realised I need a few more practices to conquer the recipe. This definitely was created with the ‘chef’ in mind, rather than the home cook, given the attention, timing and practice required for a successful outcome. I would also make a few amendments to the recipe, including removing the tomato skins and tough inner parts, which seem to be common in israeli tomatoes.
This sauce is a great addition to pasta, otherwise, you can use it as a rich condiment for meat and fish.
Recipe taken from Bravotv.com
6 lb (2.7 kg) Beef or Heirloom tomatoes
4 Star anise1 Vanilla pod
Sea salt & cracked black pepper to season
2 Sprig fresh thyme
1-2 Bay leaves
28gm bunch fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
• If you have added too much sugar to start this can be balanced out with a touch of vinegar.
• Always taste the tomatoes uncooked to determine their natural sweetness before you add the sugar.
• The amount of garlic to infuse with greatly depends on its strength; again make your own judgment.
• Additional seasoning such as cumin, fennel seeds, chilli etc. can be added this is of course personal taste again.
Wash the tomatoes and halve roughly.
Place into the hot pan and season with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar.
Add the anise and vanilla.
Allow the tomatoes to start to cook then press them gently with a masher to help them to release their juice.
Reduce the heat down to just simmering and continue for about 1 -2 hours until a thickened paste. This slow evaporation of the moisture from the tomatoes will produce a deep colour concentrated flavour without any bitterness.
Crack the garlic and add along with the basil which is just halved and throw in.
Combine with the warm paste and finish with a good amount of olive oil to finish the infusion. Allow to cool before storing ready for use.
I haven’t been in the best of moods lately. I am working from home, which I hate. I don’t reap any financial benefits from my start-up business, which I hate even more. When mixing a depressed state of mind with a lack of funding, you end up with one desperate cook turning to desperate culinary measures and a bleak prospect for meal time. I may have said it in the past, and I will say it again. When I am down, the first thing to drop is my motivation to cook. At the same time, I turn to soul-enriching comfort food to make me feel a tad better. Cooking meals will encompass the most simplest of recipes with the cheapest of ingredients. Given that pasta is one of my all time comfort foods, and more importantly, that it is easy to make, most of my lunchtime meals consist of pasta dishes with sauces made from larder ingredients. Comfort: check. Easy: check. Tasty: check. Healthy: ok, not check. But remember, it is lunch!
In this post, I share with you two of my all-time favourite Minx-original pasta dishes. Yes, these I made up myself. However, before I move ahead with two of my most favourite pasta dishes, I need to set a few pasta rules out (inspired by an old Italian university flat mate):
1. The water, which you boil for the pasta, has to be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea.
2. When cooking spaghetti, never break the pasta into two. This is almost sacrilegious amongst Italians. I wouldn’t dare.
3. Add the drained pasta TO the sauce, not the other way around. And especially, never dollop a spoonful of sauce on top of drained pasta. I gasp at the thought of it, and it is SO eighties.
4. Always save a cup of pasta water aside and use it to loosen the sauce.
As these recipes are my own inventions, the ingredients have been listed in an uncalculating, random manner and should be used as a rough guide/guesstimate. So I recommend to taste the sauces throughout the cooking process and add/omit the ingredients depending on taste.
Minx’s Tuna Linguini
This pasta dish incorporates my all-time favourite ingredients: garlic, lemon, parmesan, pine nuts and tuna. This is true comfort in a bowl.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1 tin of tuna (always get tuna in oil, rather than water or brine, as it is tastier and less dry)
Handful/a cup of pine nuts
Handful of chopped parsley
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
2 knobs of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 portions of linguini (around 100-150 grams. But remember, more pasta needs more sauce, so if you like saucy sauce, use less pasta, or make more sauce!)
Large pan of boiling water, with a generous few pinches of salt
First, place the linguini into the boiling water , stirring every few minutes, and allow it to cook. Whilst the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Place a small-medium sized frying pan and heat over a low flame. Add the pine nuts and dry-roast until golden brown (careful, because they burn quickly). Remove the pine nuts from the pan and put aside on a plate. In the same pan, heat the olive oil on a medium-low heat. Whilst heating, add the minced garlic and stir. When the garlic sizzles, sending an almost orgasmic waft up your nose, add the lemon zest and pine nuts and stir for a about 5-10 seconds. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Stir for about 15-30 seconds, until the lemon juice reduces. Add the drained tuna, stir, season with salt and pepper, add the parsley, stir once more and then turn off the flame. Drain the pasta, although keeping aside a 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the frying pan, add the pasta water, butter and parmesan, and stir thoroughly. Serve with a extra topping of Parmesan, if one my desire.
Minx’s Spicy Sauce
My second pasta dish was inspired by in-laws, whose dishes are built upon their combined cultures of Tripoli (the Italian colony in Northern African) and Israel. My mother-in-law, to be exact, makes a wonderful spicy tomato pasta. The sauce includes tomato concentrate (a staple in Israeli home cooking), garlic, paprika, oil and water. She makes the sauce thick and deep enough, so that the dried pasta can immerse itself in the sauce and cook. It is extremely oily and spicy, which all together makes it delicious. I adapted this recipe for the more health conscious, whilst adding a few of my own favourite ingredients. The result is a rich and spicy pasta dish, with the punch of anchovies and smokiness of paprika.
Note, this recipe is adapted for a lonely diner in mind (i.e. one) and if the diner doesn’t like anchovies, they can omit/or replace it with tuna or pan-fried mushrooms.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 heaped tbsp tomato concentrate
1/2 cup of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Spaghetti (enough for one helping, around 55 grams)
Large pan of boiling water, with a generous few pinches of salt
First, place the spaghetti into the boiling water , stirring every few minutes, and allow it to cook. Whilst the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil on a medium-low heat. Whilst heating, add the minced garlic and chilli flakes. Once the garlic and chilli imparts their aromas, add the tomato puree. Mix the puree for a few seconds to cook out its raw taste, add the paprika, stir, and then add the water. Reduce for around 30-60 seconds, till you have a rich sauce. Season with salt and pepper and then add the drain pasta, again with a 1/4 cup of the pasta water, directly into the sauce. Stir well and serve with grated parmesan cheese and basil leaves.
Stay happy and satisfied people!
The absent Minx has had an excuse for the lack of postings. I was living in London for the last 5 weeks and returned to Tel Aviv just 5 days ago.
London was interesting. There were a few culinary delights: Selfridges food hall, an exotic dosing at a Malaysian food fair, three-tiered cream cake at Soho’s Patisserie Valerie, rack of lamb in an Oxford 750 year-old pub, and Cotsworlds’ shortbread and pheasant and cider stew.
As romantic as this sounds, most of my foodie experiences consisted of wanders through the local supermarket giants. Immaculate shelves created a distance between me and food. Multi-coloured packaging with bold fonts and bold prices. Exquisite lines of polyester-wrapped tomatoes, perfectly round and red. Grapes sat in crates, almost plastic looking, firm and shiny. Carrots, much larger than those found in Israel, were not scarred with a single dent. Their bright orange surface stayed perfectly in tact.
If there was to be a beauty contest between the world’s fruit and veggie, England would win hands down. Israel wouldn’t have a hope in hell. But seriously, these multicultural vegetables, from every corner of the world, shipped and dragged over by Britain’s supermarket heavy weights, can keep their pristine little bums on the UK shelves, because this girl was not tantalised at all. They weren’t speaking my language or taste. I missed vegetables that looked like vegetables, donations of mother earth on the stalls of the market, presented by loud, gravely men, who shout to high heaven over the price of their delights.
Keeping up with a fitness routine for this wide-hipped girl was quite a predicament. Heavy carbs in the form of scones, tea cakes, thick slices of white, synthetic bread, with lashings of butter, clotted cream, all the dairy-defined treats I miss back in Israel and devour once I step into London, suffocated my inner cavities. The final night’s dinner of China Town’s crispy Peking duck, chicken chow mein and beef in pepper sauce, ached like a swirling thunderstorm at the pit of my belly for days after. Food just didn’t go down as well. Goodness know what I ate, but one thing is for sure, my back side isn’t too happy about it.
Nightlife in North London was one big dirty martini. Not much going on except a few shots of life, desperate lit-up windows and noises on the streets of Crouch End and East Finchley, high streets trying to make a point that it was worth stepping out of the drizzle to be visited. All I thought was “Aggh, get me back to the bustling cafes on the dusty street of Dizengoff.” I am no longer interested in high-heeled stilettos and designer handbags, well only some times. I want to have a drink in a place where people will collide, step on each other’s toes, look and comment. The peering-over-shoulder and careful-not-to-look-in-my direction kinda looks weren’t doing it for me anymore.
There were few culinary delights in Engalnd for this Minx. But only a few. I was definitely happy to return to the hearty stuff in Israel.
Tonight, Jewish homes across the globe join to celebrate the Jewish New Year. In Israel, this simply means a nation fully focused on food: preparing, serving, sharing and discussing. Family meals and barbeques define the two-day stretch.
My ashkinazi traditions direct me towards a roasted bird, chopped liver and kugel. My marital, serphardi/tripoli traditions mean lamb’s brain, fish head, salke (spinach omelette), carach (leak omelette) and arubia (stewed pumpkin) at the table. If I was hosting the Rosh Hashanah dinner, I would take the Persian route, incorporating the festival’s fruit, the pomegranate, with a precious bird, either the chicken or duck. One of my all time, recently discovered, easy-to-do, and terribly delicious dishes is Chicken Fesenjan – chicken pieces served with a walnut and pomegranate sauce. The rich Fesenjan sauce, ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup is so simple yet so tasty. Give it a go and happy new year!
Fesenjan (pomegranate walnut chicken)
By Janet Brinkworth on Good Food Live
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1.5 kg chicken, portioned
- 1 onion, chopped
- 200 g ground walnuts
- 80 ml hot water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tbsp sugar
- salt, nd freshly ground pepper
- 500 ml pomegranate juice, or 125ml of pomegranate syrup
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan.
2. Add the chicken and fry over a high heat, stirring often, until browned on all sides.
3. Add the onion and walnuts and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Gradually mix in the hot water, then mix in the lemon juice, tomato puree and sugar.
5. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
6. Mix in the pomegranate juice or syrup.
7. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the dish for 45 minutes, stirring now and then, until the chicken is tender.
8. Place the chicken portions on a serving plate, spoon over the sauce and serve.
Who is the Dining Minx?read more