Sunday, 28 April 2013

  And the Challenge is Crunch!

How is it possible to be thrilled and gutted all in one go? I was overjoyed to see my lovely invention – my Lemon Cloud Cake pictured in all its blueberry creamy Limoncelloness. But pipped at the post yet again. I feel like the bridesmaid.

But now I feel compelled to answer the challenge of Crunch – ha that is despite a fractured vertebra gained after fainting from a middle ear infection and summer-salting? Is that how you spell it? And landing on the Terrazzo floor! Agony!
At six am I was downstairs waiting for the papers; then sat in my dressing gown gazing at this week’s results. But I’m a positive person. So I have to try again and meet your challenge. And ‘crunch’ sweet or savoury. The mind whirrs doesn’t it?
So yesterday I made Home-made Potato Crisps with Salted, Sweet Smoked Pimenton and yes they were gorgeous but not crunchy enough! My grandchildren ate them, loved them and I went back to the drawing board.
Ahh now the sweet.
Firstly I looked at a crunchy Granola
Made it and yes it was crunchy but a subdued crunch. Not crunchy enough!
Back to the drawing board yet again.  I wanted to achieve that ultimate Crunch thing. And so I decided to devise a brand new biscuit for the competition and something to tempt . It had to be a totally original recipe. And perfect.
I made the mixture blending new and lovely spices and soft brown sugar into its softness. The gentle dough rolled into a walnut shape and I placed it on the paper. Placed the one test button into the oven and baked it - it smelt glorious and I loved the golden round shape. I waited as it cooled and it gradually became crisper and crisper. I called my husband and waited with baited breath as he bit into it.
‘Lovely flavour,’ he said, ‘very crunchy.’
I cracked it.
I believe, I hope I have created the best, absolute crunchiest biscuit with that extra spicy hit. I have always been fascinated by the Northern European use of cardamom and allspice and added a hint with a boost of my store of cinnamon and ginger from a Marrakech souk with a zest of orange rind to cut through the sweetness. A ginger nut with attitude!
Maybe, hopefully my luscious crunchy buttons will crack it for me at last?

                 Ruth’s Ginger, Spiced Buttons with Absolute Crunch
Makes 60 generous crunchy Buttons  
225g margarine or butter
320g fair trade soft brown sugar
20g vanilla sugar
440g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
3 green cardamom seeds de-husked and ground with a mortar and pestle
2 teaspoons ground ginger   
pinch salt
1 free range organic egg
zest of 1 orange

For grand occasions drizzle with a little melted chocolate and decorate with a pecan half as in the photograph. 

Either, sieve the flour together with the baking powder and the spices in a large bowl and leave to one side. Cream the margarine and the sugars together until light and fluffy then add the egg. Combine with the flour to make a very soft dough.

Or if you have a processor,

Wiz all the ingredients together, apart from the egg, to make sure the sugar is lump free. Add the egg and process until a smooth very soft mixture is obtained. Scoop out of the processor and leave to chill for one hour if possible.

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4 and line at least three tins with baking parchment. Roll mixture into walnut sized balls. Leave plenty of room for the biscuits to spread. Bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy the Crunch when cooked with masses of hot coffee and laughter.  

By the way folks

Ruth is speaking at the Jewish Museum on the 12th May
-         her subject is a very precious cake tin and its hundred year history
-         we will also be serving the cake that was traditionally cooked in that tin plus we are making special biscuits in aid of Jewish Care

-         Also The Gefiltefest festival is Sunday May 19th and all the details are on the website,
If you are in North London on either of those dates please support these events if possible

Thank you

Monday, 22 April 2013

  Netanya and Yossi’s Felafel in Pitta 

So we arrive in Israel to visit our lovely elderly relatives. It’s always a worry how they will look, after all they are both in their nineties – will the experience be traumatic? Will they be pleased to see us? Will they like our presents chosen in Wales and brought out of a land of leaden skies to the bright blue haze of an Israeli beach. And most of all how will we cope when it’s time to say goodbye – that absolute separation just days later? 
            Yes it was tough emotionally but we loved and laughed and enjoyed and hugged and made the connection of family with family and when we left yes, with tears it was good and we were glad we’d made the effort.
            But this year there was another huge bonus. We met Yossi who runs the tiny falafel bar in Shmuel Hanazif.

After a morning talking to my aunt we popped out for a falafel to the brightness of a sun-drenched bustling street. Shmuel Hanazif is a busy active hub of Netanya neighbourhood life. It houses a taxi service, one bookshop that specialises in Russian books and jigsaws even a cardboard Kremlin plus a couple of interesting fashion shops with large nightdresses swinging in the breeze. Just two doors away lies a tiny falafel bar surrounded by a few metal tables and chairs. Not elegant. No one would call Yossi’s falafel house glamorous. BUT it is always clean and busy with locals. They know what’s good. He makes you welcome with a crooked smile and gives one woman a falafel in her hand while she waits as she’s too starving to stand and just look. Yossi patiently listens to ‘hot sauce, no hot sauce but double salad – no onions –plenty of onions but no hummus,’ the varieties are endless and he smiles through it all.
And there’s more. Apart from the golden fragrant falafel balls, crisp and golden on the outside but tender and soft when tasted, it’s the magical envelope – the pitta that lovingly holds the ingredients. Yossi makes pitta bread pillow-soft and fluffy. We taste and taste again. We cannot believe the glorious texture. If that isn’t enough he shmears them with hummus and techina, a drop of hot sauce, then chopped onions, cabbage salad, grated pickled cucumber, tomato and cucumber salad. More and more flavours are jammed into these fluffy parcels. And to add to the already generous packed pittas laid out on an immaculate stand, are pickles of all types to add as you please and often purloined by hungry customers standing in queues.

Everything is washed down with ice cold drinks from a tiny fridge and well; it works.  
We watch as he scoops a bowl of mixture with a miniature ice cream type scoop plucking golf-ball sized golden balls which he plunges into hot oil. They drop and rise bubbling and golden and then he briskly shakes them into a metal bowl. They are then lovingly added to Yossi’s wonderful pitta with absolute pride.   

We are desperate to know and at last we ask,
‘How do you make them soo fluffy? How do you manage to get that soft texture?
  And joy of joys – he offers to give us the recipe for you to try!!!!!!!!!
What a thrill!

Yossi’s Magical Pitta

1 Kilo plain Flour
700ml warm water – the temperature of your hand
2 tablespoons of fast dried yeast
½ cup oil
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar

The process is more or less the same as any bread. The dough is all combined together in a mixer and it is quite wet. It is worked well and then left to prove until it really rises. Then beaten down and made into balls which have to rise again. These are then patted down and baked as hot as possible with heart from above and below – we are trying to crack that part of the process.

We can’t wait to have a go. Why not try it and let us know how you manage. Remember a wet dough makes a light bread. Good luck and thank you to Yossi. We love you x 

And when you are in Netanya visit Yossi’s falafel bar and taste that glorious blend of soft and crunchy spice and creamy – the perfect vegetarian Israeli meal created by Yossi with love and pride. 


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Latest Schmooze

As mentioned in an earlier blog The Guardian published Ruth’s recipe for Limoncello, Lemon and Blueberry Cloud Cake – in the under 500 calories, a definite low-cal original was in the running for the first prize but pipped to the post why?
Felicity Cloak says ‘Ruth Joseph’s light as air cake lost out on the winning spot this week as I ate a quarter in one sitting completely defeating the purpose so I’ve gone for another person’s entry.'
Here's the recipe

Limoncello, lemon and blueberry cloud-cake 

Limoncello, lemon and blueberry cloud-cake
Limoncello, lemon and blueberry cloud-cake. Photograph: Tricia De Courcy Ling for the Guardian
I have always had a passion for creating cakes that taste naughty without the guilt factor. This one is based on a plava recipe from my late mother. It's still deliciously moist and lemony, with a creamy luscious filling, laden with summer fruit, but not as naughty as its rich cousins – just really, really nice! Serves 10 at 330kcal per generous slice
For the cake
6 eggs
150g caster sugar
A dessertspoon of vanilla sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Grated zest of ½ orange
75g plain flour
70g ground almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp limoncello (optional) 
For the icing
500g low-fat Greek yoghurt
450g low-fat custard
3 tbsp icing sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1 punnet of blueberries/summer fruit

1 Line 2 x 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.
2 Separate the eggs. Put yolks in a large mixing bowl with the sugars and zests and beat until thick and creamy.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Sift the flour and almonds twice, then fold into the egg-yolk mixture, along with the lemon juice. Carefully fold in the egg whites, pour into tins and bake for 30‑40 minutes. Allow to cool.
4 Meanwhile, use a peeler to cut strips of zest from the lemon, and slice into fine shreds. Put in a small pan with the sugar and 6 tbsp water and simmer until shreds are tender and the liquid syrupy. Add limoncello if using and simmer for a few more minutes. Cool, then use a tea strainer or similar to separate the shreds.
5 Combine the yoghurt and custard in a bowl. Add icing sugar and lemon juice to taste.
6 Pour half the syrup on to one of the cakes, then top with a third of the icing. Put the other cake on top and pour the remaining syrup over it. When it has been absorbed, spread the icing over the entire cake, and then decorate with blueberries and zest.

As promised the Buzz Feed Bagel feature and recipe.

"The essential part is not to rush it," says Ruth Joseph about making bagels. "Enjoy the feel of the dough and watching as they rise in the boiling water." The sixtysomething novelist, cookbook writer, and former pastry chef lives with her family in Cardiff, Wales, where, unsurprisingly, the bagel offerings are not excellent. "They are, shall I say, plastic," she says, describing a tragedy that many middle-American bagel lovers can relate to. Joseph, a trained nutritionist, wasn't thrilled with the additives of store-bought bagels, either. So she and her daughter set out to develop their own recipe.
It took some practice: "The first lot had virtually no holes as they rose into giant circular lumps." Now she's got it down, and bagels are one of 150 recipes in her new cookbook, Jewish Traditional Cooking. "The bagels also make lovely presents — especially with a pot of homemade cream cheese."

 Homemade Bagels

These are better when made over two days.
Makes 40
7 cups organic bread flour
2 cups organic self-rising whole-wheat flour
4 tsp. active dry yeast
1½ Tbsp. light brown sugar
2½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. light olive oil
For the cooking liquid:
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 organic free-range egg, beaten, to glaze
Poppy, onion, or sesame seeds, for the topping
Variation with rye and caraway:
Substitute 7 cups organic bread flour and 2 cups rye flour for the other flours. For the topping, use 4 Tbsp. caraway seeds.

1. In a medium bowl, combine 1½ cups of the flour with 3 cups lukewarm water, yeast, and sugar, and whisk until smooth. Make sure all the active dry yeast has dissolved.

2. Set aside in a warm place for about 10–15 minutes to ferment.
3. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 5½ cups flour with the salt in the bowl of your mixer.

4. Pour the oil into the fermented yeast mixture and beat with a fork until smooth.

5. With the mixer running, add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix to a soft, pliable dough.

6. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside.

7. Cover the top with oiled plastic wrap or a cloth, and set aside to rise in the fridge overnight.

8. The following day, divide the dough into 40 pieces and shape into balls.

9. Roll each ball of dough into a sausage shape and form into bagels by overlapping the ends to form a ring.

10. Allow a disproportionately large hole in the center so there is space for the bagels to rise (otherwise the holes will close).

11. Transfer the bagels to two or three baking sheets, lined with parchment paper and dusted with flour.

12. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes until doubled in size.

13. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bring a large, wide pan of water to a boil. Add the molasses, and whisk in the baking powder.

14. You will need to cook the bagels in batches. Carefully drop the bagels — three at a time — into the boiling water.

15. Simmer for 2–3 minutes then quickly flip them over and cook them for another 2–3 minutes on the other side.

16. Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them back on the parchment paper while you cook the rest.

17. Once the bagels are cooked, glaze them with the beaten egg and sprinkle them with seeds.

18. Bake in the preheated oven for 10–15 minutes until golden brown— and be proud!
Recipe courtesy of Ruth Joseph and Simon Round's new cookbook, Jewish Traditional Cooking (Kyle Books, 2013).

Buzz Feed also published

A Meatless Main Course For Your Passover Seder

This leek and pea pie is filling and fresh, and can be made dairy-free if you miss the cheesy topping
Emily Fleischaker
Image by Isobel Wield

 Leek and Pea Pie

From Jewish Traditional Cooking by Ruth Joseph & Simon Round
This delicious quiche-style "pie" (which is made without pastry) has evolved in the Middle East as a wonderful meatless meal.
4–5 leeks, sliced and washed really well
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or coriander, finely chopped
1 vegetable bouillon cube
6 organic free-range eggs, plus 6 organic free-range egg yolks
½ cup milk
½ cup frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated cheese of your choice
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large frying pan, gently sweat the leeks and onions in the olive oil until soft but not colored. When they are tender and sweet, add the herbs and crumble in the bouillon cube. (If you wish, you can put the mixture in a food processor at this stage for a smooth texture.) Mix the eggs, egg yolks, milk, and peas together in a mixing bowl. Pour over the vegetable mixture and season to taste.
Pour into a deep 2-quart decorative baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until golden and set.
Add 4–5 sliced, cooked portabello mushrooms to the mixture, or substitute 8 oz. blanched asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces, for the peas.
Non-dairy alternative
Substitute coconut milk for the cows' milk and omit the cheese topping.

Leite's Culinaria featured the bagels too.
Have a look at what their testers said.
This weekend the The Jewish Chronicle featured Everything you could wish to know about the knish
By Ruth Joseph, April 11, 2013
Potato and Spinach Knishes. Photo: Isobel Wield
Potato and Spinach Knishes. Photo: Isobel Wield
Now that chametz is back on the menu my thoughts return to one of my favourite treats — the knish.
Every nation has its knish or equivalent — the Brits or Cornish love a pasty, the Spanish, empanadas while the Chinese go wild for a wonton. Sephardi Jews plump for a bureka but for Ashkenazi folk, it’s the knish.
While the knish — which also means “a small person” in Ukrainian — is definitely not common here, those who have spent time in the US will be more than familiar with this dumpling/pasty hybrid.
The snack started its life in the 14th century around the time the Jews were making their way from France — from where they had been expelled — to the Ukraine. At that stage it was a cabbage and meat dumpling wrapped in floury dough.
When potatoes became a common food as a result of a law by Catherine 1st who decreed that Jews plant potatoes alongside their grains, potatoes became both pastry and filling combined with fried onions, liver, buckwheat kasha, leeks, mushrooms and the ubiquitous cabbage.
In common with many dishes, the exact recipe differed across Eastern Europe. In Poland piroshki (as they were known) were offered as boiled, baked or fried dainties with similar fillings while the knishes’ cousin, kreplach, originated through the needs of superstitious European Jews.
At Rosh Hashanah they filled baked dough amulets with their New Year wishes suspended around their necks to wear during Yom Kippur, and eventually these amulets found their way into our soup.
When the Jews arrived in America in the late 19th century, Romanian immigrant Yonah Shimmel began selling golden, flaky knishes from a small pushcart, before opening a bakery in 1910.
The Knishery, as he called it, remains today on Houston Street in the Lower East side of New York. Shimmel’s renowned knish’s size has inflated to a large cricket ball-sized squashed bun, in contrast to its previous dainty Romanian equivalent
Yonah Schimmel's Bakery in New York Yonah Schimmel's Bakery in New York
And why am I so obsessed with the knish? Is it that melting flaky dough or the childhood wonderment of the secret inside: the hidden filling, which still thrills me? I was born from careful parents who considered every leftover as an ingredient for another meal — like the Jewish joke we never saw the original food. And in the beginning, when my mother made dishes from her past, we had knishes — made either of a flaky type of pastry almost a strudel dough, or if she was feeling energetic, puffy pillows of melting yeasty pastry but always delicate in our home.
And as for the fillings — my mother would always start with fried onions, sometimes fried in schmaltz, then added mashed potatoes and often the meat from the soup mixed with minced wurst. Or she would make a veggie option using soft cream cheese with chopped bright green spinach blended with fried onions and a spring onion finely chopped — the perfect any-time snack.
It is well worth taking the time to make these tempting Jewish heirlooms. Do give yourself a day to do it. Make the dough and filling in the morning, leaving the filling to cool. Then fill and bake it in the afternoon or even better, the next day when the flavour will have improved.
Purists demand a specific shape made by forming the dough into a rectangle, loosely filling it with the mixture and rolling it into a Swiss-roll shape. Then, like a sausage maker, the dough is given a twist every couple of centimetres or so. By cutting the twists, the little knishes are then set onto those cuts and the upper most twist is then poked in to form a pleated top.
Or for an easier method, cut small circles of dough and half fill them with your chosen filling before folding over one side and pressing down the edges to form a half moon. It does not matter as the flavour will sing whatever the shape.
True nostalgic Jewish food has never been elegant. It will never be nouvelle cuisine-style morsels tweezer-decorated with flowers and micro-herbs. It is generous food created by matriarchs — balabostas needing to fill hungry bellies with restricted resources.
My knishes pay homage to their genius in making the mundane taste fabulous.
Ruth Joseph is the co-author with Simon Round of Warm Bagels and Apple Strudel, Kyle Books, £25

For the final schmooze and more culinary adventures look at Ruth Joseph in The Foodie Bugle.