8/08/2014

Life's simple pleasures. Stewed Apples.

Stewed Apples

There are days when you don't feel like doing anything...rarely in my life...but it happens. Yet, I still want a sweet treat that doesn't require much work. When I looked at my kitchen and saw a bowl full of apples, too tart to eat raw, at least for me, I thought: why not make something simple, delicious and fast. Old-fashioned stewed apples were the answer to my cravings. I peeled and diced them in 2 minutes flat, threw them in a pot with brown sugar, raisins and cinnamon, some water, just barely any, covered the pot and 15-20 minutes later we were enjoying the treat.
You may ask: "what's new or special about stewed apples"? Nothing really, but we love these simple treats on days when I am not up to baking or creating anything elaborate.

8/03/2014

Pane Ibleo - Traditional Whole Wheat Durum Bread from Monti Iblei

I love browsing through cooking blogs and bread baking forums. Recently, I came across a bunch of visually very appealing loaves here and simply couldn't resist the urge to bake those beauties. My challenge was to find more pure durum wheat flour; I only had half the required weight. I could have bought more on the web but I didn't want to wait and decided to add other flour varieties to make up the missing 50%. All I had was some very fine semolina flour and I was left with no other choice but to simply add bread flour. So, it's not completely pane ibleo but I was OK with that. My recipe is modified; I did'n bother with a 50% hydration starter because I maintain mine at 100%. As long as the total weight of flour and water in the foinal bread dough are right, you are fine. What is sourdough hydration and how to change it...well some other time :)

PANE IBLEO – TRADITIONAL WHOLE WHEAT DURUM BREAD FROM MONTI IBLEI



200 g (100%) rye sourdough starter, fed and very active
1 kg whole wheat durum flour
(mine was 50% durum wheat, 30% semolina,

20% bread flour)
500 -550g water
3 tsp sea salt


  1. This recipe is not suitable for mixers; you will have to work the dough by hand. Initially it will be hard but eventually the dough will become softer and silky to the touch. 
  2. Sift the flour onto a large work surface and make a well in the center. Place the sourdough in the well and gradually add water by pouring it over the starter and start dissolving it with your hands. Continue adding water while gathering the flour from around the well and incorporating into the dough. Work the remaining water and salt into the flour until incorporated. 

8/02/2014

Moroccan night...Lamb (Pork) Tagine with Honey and Apricots

Moroccan Lamb/Pork Tagine with Apricots and Honey
 
  • 2 lb (1kg) boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat (about 1 1/2 pounds or 750 g), I used pork loin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 C diced onions
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 C chicken broth
  • 8 threads Spanish saffron, crushed
  • 16 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied together with a cotton string
  • 1 C dried, pitted apricots
  • 1/2 C golden raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Cilantro/coriander green sprigs, for garnish

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous


My first experience with Moroccan food was in Morocco...a long time ago, probably longer than you have been around this world! Guessing my age now? Go for it!

It was in Tangier, a vibrant port city full of narrow streets filled with aromas of  local food, noise and music. The moment I entered Medina, the old quarter, the magic began; I had my first meal and I was irrevocably seduced by the flavors, aromas and colors. I found the love of my life. Later I discovered different shades of the great  Berber cuisine of Marrakesh. Is Moroccan food still my favorite? Yes, it is. It is sublime and sophisticated, tantalizing all senses like no others. Well, at least in my perception.

I will post a number of wonderful Moroccan recipes for you to enjoy, however some will be somewhat simplified while maintaining their authenticity. This recipe is wonderful with any vegetables of your choice. You don't have to adhere to the list exactly except for the spices but even these can be skipped. You know that you will loose the true character and flavor but if you have not eaten in Morocco you may not know the difference. There are Moroccan restaurants around but none that I have visited serve the true Berber dishes; in our western world ethnic food often tends to be made to suit local tastes and sometimes to the extend that it is no longer the real thing.

Moroccan Vegetables with Roasted Almonds
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved
  • 1 red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 C (340g) fine-grain couscous
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1/4 pound cauliflower florets cut into quarters
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 (16 oz or 420 g) can diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 1 (16 oz or 420 g) can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed well
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

8/01/2014

Moroccan preserved lemons...short and long method

Preserved lemons are one of the indispensable ingredients of Moroccan cuisine. Fragrant meat tagines, chicken dishes and salads are nicely infused by their unique taste. The silky texture cannot match that of its fresh counterpart. Therefor there is no substitute. If you  do not have preserved lemons that your recipe calls for, wait patiently and 5 days later you will have a very similar silky fruit with its unique seductive flavor and texture.

Moroccan preserved lemons (5-day method)


It takes approximately 3-4 weeks to make the true Moroccan preserved lemons that will keep refrigerated for 6-12 months. The recipe below yields almost identical results and is much faster but the fruit dos not keep that long. If you want to make the "real" thing, scroll down for another recipe, please.

With a razor blade, make 8 fine 2" (5cm)- long incisions around the peel of each lemon to be used. Do not cut deeper than the membrane that protects the pulp. Place the incised lemons in a stainless-steel saucepan with plenty of water and 1TBSP salt per lemon to cover and boil until the peels become very soft. Place in a clean jar, cover with cooled cooking liquor, and leave to pickle for approximately 5 days.

Moroccan Preserved Lemons (1-month method...the best)


5 organic lemons                                                              bowl
1/4 C salt or more                                                             sterile jar

Optional but highly recommended
1 cinnamon stick

3-5 cloves
3-5 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

Additional freshly squeezed lemon juice


Moroccan Yogurt Dip with Preserved Lemons

Moroccan Yogurt Dip with Preserved Lemons

1 C Greek Yogurt
1 small Persian cucumber chopped or sliced
1/4 preserved lemon peel, rinsed and flesh removed
1 sprig cilantro/ coriander green
sal and pepper to tast

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for a few hours before serving