Tag Archives: Algerian

Breaking the Bread “Fast” with Something Sweet: Mimounah arrives just in time

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Tomorrow night, Saturday, April 7th, 2018 is the last night of Passover when many of us will be breaking our week-long bread “fast” with something special. For North African Jews in particular it is time to prepare for the Mimounah celebration with a variety of pastries, sweets and confections. (For further explanation on this festival please go to my blog page.)

The following recipe was taught to me by Colette Nahon who grew up in Orán (the Spanish pronunciation, or Wahran — in Arabic), a city along the northwestern coast of Algeria where many Spanish people once settled. While the name mantecaos derives from the Spanish word mantequilla, meaning “butter,” or even more closely to the word manteca for “shortening” (which in Spain was usually pork fat), this Jewish/kosher version uses vegetable oil instead, making it something easy to serve following a meat meal. Because it contains flour, Colette usually prepares this specialty for the Mimounah holiday when flour products such as cakes, cookies, and breads are served to mark the end of Passover. Mantecados are a cookie commonly prepared for Christmas in the Iberian Peninsula (a region including Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar, and a small part of France) and made with lard or butter. What is most interesting is that through this cookie one can trace the Sephardic lineage of the Jews who fled the Inquisitions during the very end of the 1400s and settled in Algeria, bringing this cookie along with them.

Recipe from “Too Good To Passover,” Section 1: Africa, Chapter 1: Algeria

Mantecaos (No-Butter Butter Cookies with Cinnamon)
(Parve)
Yield: Serves 15 / Makes almost 4 dozen 1-inch cookies

Ingredients:
1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 level cups, but more accurate if weighed)
¾ cup sugar
1 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Combine flour with sugar in a medium size mixing bowl.

3. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the oil. Mix well until all of the oil is absorbed and the mixture can easily be formed into a soft dough.

4. Scoop out one level tablespoon of dough using a measuring spoon or melon ball scoop, and gently roll it into a ball. (Note: It is important that the ball of dough not be larger than 1 level tablespoon, otherwise the baking time, texture, and final size will be affected.) Use your thumb to slide the dough out of the spoon and onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Leaving about 1 inch between each ball, continue to scoop out and roll dough until is finished.

5. Make a shallow indent in the center of each ball with your thumb and flatten them down ever so slightly. (If this makes the ball of dough crack a little around the edges, leave it! This — according to Colette — is what makes the cookie look homemade.)

6. Sprinkle the center of the dough (where the thumb print is) with about
1/16 teaspoon of cinnamon and bake on the top and middle rack of the oven until they begin to crack slightly along the bottom edges, and only the very bottoms are golden brown, 27 to 28 minutes on the middle rack and 25 to 26 minutes on the top rack.*

*(Note: These cookies should become a “sandy,” white color on the outside, and retain a pale, “snowy” color on the inside, with only the very bottoms slightly browned. Once fully cooled, the resulting texture should be a tiny bit crunchy on the outside and crumbly on the inside, which Colette says should “melt in your mouth.”)

7. Allow the cookies to fully cool and harden before serving, about 30 minutes. Store cookies between layers of parchment paper in an air-tight container at room temperature up to one week, or in the freezer up to one month. Bring to room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

For another Mimounah recipe, see Moroccan Cigares aux Amandes

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Four Generations Come Together for Algerian Boulettes with Green Peas

David Rak's grandmother Ginette (seated left), clockwise: David' mom X, David's Dad X, David's wife Jennifer, David (center), and his youngest daughter Léa

David Rak’s grandmother Ginette (seated left), David’s parents Nicole and Robert Rak (standing in back),                 David and Jennifer Rak (center and right), and their youngest daughter Léa (on David’s lap 🙂 )

Each spring, Ginette Cohen would pack her suitcase with quatre épices and a box of Spigol spice packets, and fly from France to New York City to visit her grandson David Rak for his birthday. In his tiny Harlem kitchen, she would prepare the dish that he most longed for: Les Boulettes, and a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to catch her on a visit and learn her secrets. Ginette explained to me that for other occasions, these meat patties would be coated in semolina and served over couscous, but during Passover they were instead dusted with matzah meal and served over steamed crushed matzah. Proudly served on all occasions, Boulettes gives delicious new meaning to Algerian-Jewish comfort food.

The following is a visual recipe for Boulettes:

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Step 1: Combine ground lamb and beef, eggs, broken up matzah, almond flour, onions, garlic salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, saffron, mint, coriander, and parsley in a large bowl.

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Step 2: Roll meat into large balls and roll lightly in the semolina or matzah meal.

Step 3: Place all coated meatballs onto a cutting board or tray and flatten slightly into patties.

Step 3: Place all coated meatballs onto a cutting board or tray and flatten slightly into patties.

Step 4: Dip patties into beaten eggs.

Step 4: Coat patties into beaten eggs.

Step 5: Gently place patties into a pan with very hot oil to fry until dark golden-brown on both sides.

Step 5: Gently place into a pan with very hot oil and fry until dark golden-brown on both sides.

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Step 6: Simmer boulettes with peas in a broth made of water, onions, salt, turmeric, and saffron for 1 hour.

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Step 7: Serve!

 

Passover Cooking in December: Finding time to write and test the recipes.

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As I complete the interview portion of my cookbook (with a total of nearly 85 interviews of individuals from 18 different countries!), I look forward to the next phase of finalizing the menu for each chapter/community, and then completing the recipes. Recently I had a small dinner party, and I took advantage of testing several recipes on my guests. Here was the menu with my comments for each:

Gibraltarian Fried Chickpeas with Salt and Pepper
(Notes: Sounded easy to do, but it was a total disaster! Chickpeas were popping and oil was flying all over the kitchen. A total mess to clean and I burned my fingers and even shoulder in the process.
Will have to redo this and hopefully obtain the crispiness in the chickpeas without doing too much damage!)

Algerian Broiled Pepper Salad with Garlic, Tomatoes, Paprika, and Coriander Leaves
(Comments: This one came out quite well, and the trick was in cooking the stew for a long time over a low heat so that it got thick and obtained a rich tomato flavor. Final result was a cooked salad with a bright red color and thick texture.)

Moldovan Eggplant “Caviar” with Onions, Garlic, Tomato Paste, and Lemon
(Comments: Also very successful. I baked the eggplants in a 350 degree F. oven for 45 minutes, but I think I prefer to broil them since it’s much quicker and the eggplants obtain a more charred, smokey flavor. Trick is to cook the onions and tomatoes before mixing in the eggplant and cooking off any extra liquid. Make sure that the eggplants are mashed well with fork.

Portuguese Veal, Beef, and Chicken Sausages with Garlic and Smoked Paprika
(Comments: These are more like long kufta kebabs as they use all ground meat and are not stuffed into a proper casing like sausages usually are. They are pan fried, and have a very nice smokey/spicy flavor to them. The trick is to make the meat mixture one day in advance so that the flavors have time to meld.)

Moroccan Prune Tagine with Onions, Cinnamon, Sugar, and Toasted Whole Almonds
(Comments: Delicious savory flavor balanced with the sweetness of the prunes. Looks nice too when served with the toasted blanched almonds, and reminds me of the Ashkenazi Tsimmes recipes (also good for Rosh Hashanna?). Goes well served over rice, or served alongside a lamb dish.)

Sautéed Algerian Carrots with Garlic, Vinegar, Cumin, and Paprika
(Comments: These carrots have to be cooked until very soft and there has to be a balance of garlic, salt, and vinegar to work with the natural sweetness of the carrots. Good with the rice.)

Syrian Long Grain White Rice with Fried Onions, and Toasted Almonds
(Comments: The toasted almonds added a nice crunchiness to the texture of the rice, and the onions gave it a nice but mild flavor. Best served with any type of stew or saucy dish.)

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