Monday, August 29, 2011

Arabic Breakfast

This is how I serve the cheese. Since it is tighly twisted and pretty salty I cut about a quarter or half (the rest goes back in the fridge wrapped up)

Now with a quick twist of the twist it unwinds of comes apart then I soak it in warm-hottish water for a little bit to soften it and remove the excess saltiness.

Once it is stretchy and soft I drain the water and place it in a bowl and serve it along side sliced vegetables, fresh flat breads and tea!

A perfect breakfast.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kleacha (Eid Celebration Date Filled Pastry)

As the Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting comes to an end the Eid celebrations begin.

Usually the last week of the month is filled with holiday baking, but many people begin serious Eid preps around the last ten days, organizing their houses, decorating, buying gifts and lots of baking and menu planning!

Kleacha is a traditional cookie, it has a date filling (and some filled with nuts and such) and it's very popular in Iraq, Kurdistan and other parts of the Arab world. Ma'moul or Ka'k is a similar but more flakey pastry that also has a filling and then formed in an intricate mould and dusted with powder sugar, recipes vary by country and region.

What I remember about Kleacha is that it's a Eid staple. Around Eid time people bake big batches of them and store them away. Most of the time there is too much to bake for a conventional home oven so us kids would borrow some trays and take them to the bread baker down the street or in the local neighbourhood market and ask him to bake them for us in his big oven.
Mother would give us a small dish of beaten egg and we'd egg wash the cookies at the baker's before he bakes large batches at a time.

My sister and I would hang out there supervising until they were done.

On Eid when guests pop in for greetings and short visits to exchange gifts you serve them some kleacha along with tea or coffee, candies and roasted nuts.

The cookies also keep well and can be frozen and defrosted when needed.

Everyone has their own recipe, but this is my mother's recipe, some people like the hint of spices and some omit it as well as the sesame seeds in the dough.

It's not a complex recipe at all, and it's just a matter of prepping the fillings and dough beforehand.

Date Cookies (kleacha)

Dough ingredients:

6 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Optional ingredients:

1/3 cup sesame seeds (roasted/toasted)
1 tsp cinnamon ground
1/2 tsp all spice

Mix the above in a big bowl. Add in and mix until it is resembling crumbs:

1 1/4 cups oil (or instead 3/4 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup oil)

In a small bowl proof the yeast:

1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water

When foamy in 5 mins or so mix a little warm milk (below ingredient) into it and dump the yeasty mixture it into the dough.

Begin adding the warm milk below little by little until it looks like a good dough.

1 1/2 - 2 cups warm milk

Allow the dough to rise for two hours.

Filling ingredients:

Date paste or pitted whole dates from the bulk store (a large bag)
Walnuts, chopped up, mixed with some sugar to sweeten
Shredded coconut, mixed with sugar to sweeten

Prepare date filling by putting 4 cups pitted dates into a pot add 1/8 cup oil, 1 cup water and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional) then bring to a boil until it turns into a soft sticky paste. Set aside to cool flattened out on a plate.

Roll dough into a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) into a big square.
Spread the date mixture all over.
Roll it up like a cinnamon roll, but tightly and slice 1 inch pieces.

Lay them on the tray, the same way they were sliced (unlike cinnamon rolls which are laying on their sides).

Wipe the tops with beated egg then bake until browned on preheated 375 Oven until dough is cooked and they are golden brown.

Macarona Bachamel

Here's a famous Egyptian dish, it's super delicious and easy to do!!

You could make it with leftover boiled pasta as well if you've got some around.

Give it a try, I'm sure you'll love it!

While it's not a one pot dish it can be easily made in one pot, just using it 3 different times for the 3 components of the dish, then it is baked off to get all bubbly and yummy.

There is no cheese in it, the white layer is a rich creamy sauce.
The sauce has a hint of spice (cinnamon) not to sweeten it, but it lends a beautiful touch to the beef.

The bechamel white sauce has a hint of nutmeg in it, all in all it's a lovely dish, it's fast to whip up and kids love it too, it's a great pot luck recipe or a nice pasta dish for those large family gatherings along side other foods.

Macarona Bachamel


Part 1 - Sauce:

2 tbsp oil

1 lb ground beef

4 tbsp tomato paste (or 3/4 small can)

Salt & black pepper

1/4 tsp cinnamon


In a pot heat the oil and brown the meat, season it with salt & pepper. Add the cinnamon. Stir in the tomato paste and brown it a bit to remove the raw taste. Add enough boiled water to make a sauce like consistency.

Cover and simmer on low for 15-20 mins.

Set aside.

Part 2 - Boiling pasta:

In another pot or the same pot, remove the meat sauce and bring water to a boil.
Add salt.

Boil 3/4 standard package of large pasta (penne or tubes, something big)

Once they are cooked, strain and rinse with cold water to cool them down a bit.

In the meantime prepare a casserole or deep baking dish.
Layer a teeny bit of sauce on the bottom just so the pasta doesn't stick (I removed a bit of the oily off the top of the sauce for this)

Divide the boiled pasta in half, the first half goes into the pan nice and evenly.
Now top with all the sauce you made, nice and evenly.

The last batch of pasta goes over the sauce in an even layer.

Set the casserole aside for now.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375-400 F.

Part 3 - Bechamel Sauce:

- Approximately 4 tbsp butter
- Approximately 1/3 cup flour
- Approximately 4 cups milk
- 1 egg
- half a tsp salt
-1/8 tsp nutmeg

In the same pot (cleaned or wiped up) or another pot melt the butter on medium high heat, add the flour and blend it to make a roux. Cook it until it bubbles stirring well so it doesn't burn and immediately add milk (it could be warmed or cold, it works either way)

Stir and stir until it thickens, once it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon or kinda like warm pudding or custard consistency then remove off the heat.

Add the nutmeg, a dash of salt and while whisking quickly drop the egg you had previously cracked into a bowl and whisk it up really well to incorporate into the sauce. You must do this quickly as the sauce is hot and you don't want the egg to cook in large pieces once it hits the cream sauce so whisk it well.

Pour the cream sauce all over the top of the pasta in the baking dish.

Part 4 - Baking:

Now bake in the preheated oven for 30 mins or until top is browned. After 30 mins if the top isn't browned set it on broil and watch it, it will develop dark brown blisters and then remove it immediately.

Wait for it to cool down before serving as it tastes better that way, also makes GREAT leftovers!! Tastes even better the next day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Turkish Manti Dumplings

Last autumn I made an Armenian Manti recipe, with a wonton wrapper shortcut, but this Ramadan I wanted to do the Turkish kind, dough and all from scratch. Also using my homemade yogurt to make the sauce (not that it makes any difference in taste but if you got a big pot laying around you gotta use it ; ) )

It's very simple and the most time consuming part is making the dough and stuffing the little dumplings, the rest just comes together in no time.

So here it goes.

Serves about 6, it's everything in the blue casserole dish (in the last photo, and what is on the serving plate above)


3 cups flour
1 egg
Pinch of salt
2/3 cups water

Prepare the flour and salt, make a big heap (think pasta making!)
Crack the egg in the centre and drizzle the water... now with your hand mix the liquid mixture in the middle incorporating flour from the sides of the well of flour as you mix until all is incorporated.

Now it's a dough, keep kneading it for 10 minutes or so until it's soft and pliable.

Cover in cling wrap after forming into a disk and set aside for 30 mins.

Prepare your filling:

-Ground beef or lamb (I used about 1 lb and has a tiny baggie leftover)

- Salt & Pepper

- 1 small onion (finely chopped or grated) optional.
- A bunch of parsley finely chopped. Optional.

Mix it all up and knead, then to make the process easier I made little meatballs, those balls in the photo on the plate were actually too big later so I divided each one into two but still having them laid out like that makes it easier than having to stick your hands in the meat bowl and pull some out every time.

When you're ready to make them divide the dough into 3 portions.
Begin rolling one portion (keeping the others covered well with cling wrap as not to dry out)
Try to roll in a rectangle or square to the best of your ability and roll it very thin, the original recipe says knife thin, the thinner the better I think (think wonton wrappers)

Once your sheet of dough is rolled out cut into squares about 1 inch (that's pretty small) to 1 1/2 (this is what I tried to stick with)
Get a little glob of meat and plop it in the middle then fold the corners up to join in the middle, now seal the sides so you have this cute little shape (like in the photo)

Repeat, repeat, repeat, and then repeat with the other 2 portions of dough.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add salt and boil the dumplings until the meat is cooked (if the dough is thin enough you'll see the meat through the sides which makes for a more tender dumpling I think) and once the meat is cooled drain.

To make the yogurt sauce you'll need:

- 2 cups Yogurt
-Salt to taste
-3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

Peel and crush the garlic, add the salt to it on the cutting board and mash it into a paste (the salt helps to soften it) or use a mortar and pestle if you like.

Mix the garlic with the yogurt and set aside.

Red sauce:
3-4 tbsp butter/oil
1 tbsp tomato paste/2/3 tsp paprika
2-3 tbsp water
Dried mint

In a pan add some butter, tomato paste and water, let it simmer for a few mins, then add the paprika (at the end!)

Ladle some yogurt sauce over the manti in a platter, then spoon the red sauce over and sprinkle with dried mint. Garnish with fresh mint.

You could sprinkle red turkish chilli pepper or sumac over if you like.

Luqmat al Qadi - Arabic Yeast Donuts

Simple Syrup:

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Mix all in a small pot and bring to a boil, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Luqmat Al Qadi

-4 cups flour
-3 cups water
-1 tsp yeast (active dry) dissolved in 1 tbsp warm water
-Pinch of salt

-Oil for frying.

Mix all really well.

Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours.

When ready to fry heat oil.

Mix batter fast to release the gas bubbles.

Drop spoon fulls into the the hot oil and turn them to brown evenly on all sides.

Immediately use slotted spoon to remove and drain on paper towel.

Drop them straight into the syrup and let them get coated well and then remove and present on platter.

Recipe will make twice what is seen in the photos, meaning 4 plates. I suggest halving it like I did.

If you find it difficult to drop the gooey dough into the oil fill a piping bag and push some through then cut it off with a scissors close to the oil to let the little balls fall into the oil.

I've attached an arabic video to show an interesting technique.