Tag Archives: Iraqi

Recipe Testing Continues with an Eclectic Menu and an Intimate Crowd.

RecipeTestingParty_2_2-20_16_blog

On a cold February evening, during the last few days of school’s winter break, I organized a small recipe testing dinner for those few recipes I had left to test and taste. The menu was the following, and although a mix of cuisines and cultures, came together very well at the dinner itself:

Drink_Ethiopian_Tej_blog

Ethiopian T’ej: Quick Chilled Honey Ginger Wine. (Notes: I added a small amount of a light bodied beer to this version of T’ej to impart a slight yeasty flavor to the wine, and served it very cold at the beginning of the meal.)

Bread_Ethiopian_Injera_blog

Ethiopian Injera: Quick Yeast “Pancake” Bread with Teff Flour. (Notes: I mixed the traditional Ethiopian teff flour, which is naturally gluten-free, with regular white flour so that the flavor would not be too strong and the final texture would be soft and pliable. Traditionally Injera is supposed to sit for several days to allow the batter to ferment, but because my version is meant to be made quickly at the end of Passover as a way to break the fast of leaven for the holiday, I allowed to sit only an hour before baking in the skillet. The result was a bread that was less yeasty in flavor than the traditional bread, but one that still had a spongy texture and tasted delicious with either savory dishes or spread with honey like a crêpe.

Stew_Chickpeas_Ethiopian_blog

Ethiopian Chickpea Wat: Spicy Chickpea Stew with Carrots, Potatoes, Ginger, and Berbere Spice Mix. (Notes: Chickpeas are not necessarily prepared during Passover, but I wanted to test another vegetarian Ethiopian recipe that could be served with my Injera bread, and possibly as a savory Passover break-fast option. What I liked about this dish is that it was slightly hot, but not so much so that you could not taste the flavor. I used my own homemade Ethiopian spice mix known as Berbere, made up of black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, red pepper flakes, hot chili pepper, and hot paprika.)

Rice_Iraqi_blog

Iraqi Plau: Basmati Rice with Tomatoes, Turmeric, Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon Stick. (Notes: Jim felt that this was a simple recipe to follow, and was surprised in the technique of steaming the rice over a very low heat with the tomatoes and spices instead of boiling it more like pasta. The guests also commented on the pretty yellow color acquired from the turmeric, and liked that it was served in a long platter as opposed to the more western style in a bowl. The overall flavor was reminiscent of Indian cooking, with the addition of whole cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, which are ingredients that are used in some parts of Iraqi cooking as well as by the Baghdadi Jews that once migrated and settled in India.)

Stew_IraqiBeet_blog

Iraqi Kubbah Shooendar Hamuth: Sweet & Sour Beet Stew with Stuffed Meatballs. (Notes: Brian said that the recipe was very different from what he was used to preparing, and he was struck by the very bright red color from the beets and its unusual tangy-sweet flavor. He felt that it was a little tricky to stuff the meatballs into the rice dough and then form it into a torpedo shape, and that if he ever did it again, would work on making the outer shell even thinner.)

Cake_Spanish_Orange_OliveOil_Almondl_Farina5_blog

Spanish Bolo de Laranxa: Orange-Olive Oil Cake with Ground Almonds, Farina, and Orange Blossom Water. (Notes: Kasaya noted that the recipe was very easy to follow and that she didn’t feel that anything needed to be noted or changed. She was concerned about whether it had been baked properly, but when I tasted it I was very pleased and thought that it was prepared perfectly!)

 

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Silan Date Honey: A charoset for all year-round?

Charoset_Silan3_blogYesterday I was reviewing my Passover food interviews from Iraqi Jews, and found it interesting that in all of them the individuals described their charoset as not so much of a date purée, but of one resembling molasses. This thick syrup (called silan) was sometimes mixed with chopped walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. At their Seder, they would either drizzle it on the matzah or dip the matzah (as well as bitter herbs) directly into it. In my interviews with Iraqi Jews that had at some point moved on to other countries in Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia (such as India, Bornea, Singapore, or Iran), the description was the same, but instead of silan they called it halék/halech. I have been trying to find out the origin of both of these words and see if there is any specific meaning (such as “honey,” “syrup,” “molasses,” or “jam”), but I have not been so far successful. It sounds very much like an Arabic word but perhaps from an ancient dialect?

What is also interesting is how timely my research is on this particular subject. While speaking with a Yemenite Israeli yesterday (the same day I had been researching silan), the first thing that she asked me was, “Jennifer, have you ever heard of something called ‘silan’? I just returned from Israel and it is such a craze over there now. They are doing everything with it!” She went on to tell me how one friend mixed it in with tahini to make some kind of nutty sweet, and how chefs in restaurants were putting it in and on everything. I too had found that the trend was hitting over here in the U.S. In my searches online for “silan”, all kinds of recipes were popping up, including a cauliflower dish that called for it drizzled on top. In fact during this recent Passover I was able to find a jar of it in my local kosher market, which I bought right away and still have.

So my questions still remain:
What is SILAN and how is it different from and/or related to HALEK?
Does anyone out there (who is NOT from the Iraqi community) also call their charoset
by one of these names, and if so, where are you from?

Iraqi Meatballs with Apricots and Tomatoes: Not Just For Passover

Stew_Meatballs_Apricots_Iraqi_BlogEven though this may be a dish served for an Iraqi Passover Seder meal, it is not something that is reserved solely for this holiday alone. Iraqis may prepare this for most any special occasion, including Rosh Hashanah as well as Shabbat. The sweet and savory combination of beef and/or lamb cooked with dried apricots is distinctly Middle Eastern, and has carried over into the Sephardic palate.

Iraqi Meatballs with Apricots & Tomatoes
(Yield: Serves 4 to 6 (Makes About 5 Cups / About 1½ Dozen Meatballs Plus Sauce)

For the Sauce:
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted prunes
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tablespoon canola, vegetable, or olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onions (about 1 medium)
One 6-ounce can (about ½ cup) tomato paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/8 to ½ teaspoon kosher salt (depending upon how salty your tomato paste is)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground coriander

For the Meatballs:
½ pound ground lamb
½ pound ground beef
¼ cup cold water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 to 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for greasing your hands and browning meatballs)

PREPARE THE SAUCE:
1. Soak the dried apricots, prunes, and raisins in a small bowl with 3 cups hot water. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring, until soft and golden but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl, keeping the saucepan for frying the meatballs (do not wash!).

3. Add the tomato paste and lemon juice and mix until the tomato paste is smooth and blended into the onions.

4. Add the salt, ginger, and ground coriander and mix well.

5. Add the dried fruit with all of its soaking water and mix well to combine. Set aside to prepare the meatballs.

PREPARE THE MEATBALLS:
6. Combine all the meatball ingredients (except for the oil) in a medium-size bowl squeezing it together with your hands until well blended and the meat is very soft.

7. Wash and dry your hands, then coat them lightly with extra canola or vegetable oil. Taking 1½  tablespoons of meat, roll it into a smooth meatball. Place the meatball onto a large platter or plate and continue to roll until all of the meat is used, oiling your hands if necessary.

8. Pour 1 tablespoon of canola oil into the same large saucepan that cooked the onions and reheat over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Place the meatballs into the saucepan and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

FINISH THE STEW & SERVE:
9. Pour the sauce mixture over the browned meatballs and mix gently, taking care not to break the meatballs. Bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered, then lower to a medium heat and slow boil until sauce has thickened and reduced slightly and fruit is very soft or almost mushy in texture, about 1 hour.

10. Serve hot over white rice or as is alongside cooked vegetables or potatoes.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

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