Winter’s here: Time for warm apple galette

Vanilla Apple Galette

I know it’s Hanukkah and I should be posting recipes for home-made donuts, but I’ve accepted the fact that there’s nothing I hate more than filling my house with the smell of deep frying in order to create a donut that can easily be bought. Instead, here’s a dessert from one of my favorite dessert “genres”.

To me, there is no better dessert than a warm apple “something” with vanilla ice cream on the side. Oh yum!! And when you’ve made your own pastry it tastes even better. And I promise, making pastry is extremely simple, especially in this case. Don’t be put off. Tip: only use margarine if you must have a parev dessert. The butter pastry is that bit tastier.

This recipe was passed to my by my 0% (or close to it) body fat personal trainer, who along with being super fit and in amazing shape, makes and eats desserts, and passes on the good recipes to me. So often, while sweating over squats or bench press, I am thinking about tempting desserts, and it’s all her fault.

If you’re wondering about the terminology, a galette is a rounded pastry that wraps around a fruit filling. What’s nice about galettes is that they’re meant to look a little messy, so no pressure to crimp edges or make a perfect looking pie. Make sure you give yourself time for the apple mixture to stand and drain. DO try to serve this one warm. If you can’t take it straight out of the oven and onto the table, then warm it up in a low oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

VANILLA APPLE GALETTE

Ingredients

Pastry

1 1/3 cup flour

120 g (4.5 oz) cold butter/margarine cut into small pieces (about 8)

3 tablespoons cold water

3 tablespoons icing sugar or caster sugar

½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Filling

10 Granny Smith (green) apples, peeled and sliced

30 g (1 oz) butter/margarine

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder

Optional: ¾ cup raisins or dried cranberries

For brushing – 1 beaten egg

How to do it

Pastry

1. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter or margarine and mix together either with a pastry blender or with 2 knives, cutting in a crossing motion so you slice through the piece of butter and combine them with the flour.

2. When the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the water and bring the dough together with your hands until you have a ball of dough. Work the dough as little as possible, just till it comes together.

3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half an hour.

Filling

1. In a large skillet or wok, melt the butter/ margarine, and add the apple slices. Lightly saute the apples on medium-high heat. (If using, add the raisins or cranberries and stir)

2. Add the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring now and again.

3. Remove from the  heat and stir in the vanilla powder, making sure it’s well mixed through.

4. Transfer the filling into a strainer placed over a plate or bowl, and allow to stand for about an hour to remove excess liquids.

Assembly

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 26 cm (10 inch) spring form pan with baking paper. (You can also use a Pyrex dish, and then you don’t need the baking paper)

2. Sprinkle flour over a clean counter top area and over a rolling pin. Flatten the ball of dough a little with your hands and then roll the dough out until it’s about 35 cm (14 inches) in diameter – it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, and the edges can and should be ragged. As you are rolling, turn the dough over a few times, rolling the other side, making sure your surface stays floured.

3. Transfer the dough onto the pan with the sides hanging over the edges of your pan.  (I flip the dough over the rolling pin, and place the rolling pin across the middle of the pan and unfold the dough)

4. Pour the filling into the dough, and flip the dough from the sides of the pan over the filling, as far as it reaches – it will not cover all the filling. Brush the dough with the beaten egg.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serves about 8.

A Winter Warm-up with Indian Spiced Chicken and Spinach

Chicken Curry with Spinach

Haul out your large wok, and get ready for a simple and delicious chicken curry made with boneless thighs (pargiot) and all those perfect Indian spices. What I love about this dish is that it’s relatively quick to prepare. To me, there’s nothing like the great, moist texture of boneless chicken thighs – they just don’t dry out like breasts tend to, so leftovers taste just as good as the freshly-made dish (that’s why I double this recipe). The down side is that they are a little fatty, so I do take the extra time to trim as much fat off as I can. Served with white or brown rice, this is a very happy comfort food for the winter.

INDIAN SPICED CHICKEN WITH SPINACH

Ingredients

1 kg (2.5 lb) boned chicken thighs (pargiot), cut into 3 or 4 pieces each

About 2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion roughly diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 cloves garlic crushed

1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

400g (14oz) crushed tomatoes

¾ cup coconut cream

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Half a lemon or lime squeezed

150g (5oz) fresh spinach roughly chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

How to do it

1. Heat the oil in a large wok or heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (translucent, not brown). Then add the spices and ginger, and cook while stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir around for about a minute – don’t let the garlic burn.

2. Add some of the chicken – just enough pieces so they do not overlap (slide the chicken pieces inside the onions so they make full contact with the surface of the pan). Cook each side of each piece until they are just browned. Remove the chicken pieces and repeat the process until all the chicken is browned.

3. Add the tomato and coconut cream to the pan, stir and bring to a boil. Add all the chicken pieces, cover the wok/pan, and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the thickest piece is cooked through.

4. Add the sugar, lime/lemon juice and spinach, and stir together until the spinach has wilted – 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the fresh coriander.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Serves about 6.

For chocaholics only

choctrufflecake

I made this chocolate truffle cake a few weeks ago when one of my good friends, who is a chocolate fiend, came over. She loved it so much she wanted the recipe, and I discovered that I had not shared it on my blog yet. My bad! This is the perfect dessert cake for when you have a lot of people over and want a cake that goes a long way. It is so rich and decadent that you need only serve small slices. While it’s a guaranteed crown pleaser, only the most die-hard chocolate lovers will come back for seconds because its such an intense hit of chocolate. On top of everything, it’s extremely easy to make this parev – you just don’t taste the non-dairy cream because the overwhelming taste is lots and lots of chocolate.

Brace yourself for a direct hit!

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CAKE

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup coarsely ground walnuts or pecans

1 cup Petit Beurre cookies finely ground

2 tablespoons of sugar

½ cup melted butter or magarine

Filling

450g (16 oz) semi sweet chocolate cut into squares

1 cup sweet cream or non-dairy cream

6 beaten eggs

¾ cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

How to do it

1. Line a 28 cm (8 inch) springform pan with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray.

2. Combine the nuts, cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter/margarine in a medium sized bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, and press it a little up the sides as well so you have formed a shallow “bowl” of crust. Place in the freezer to set until your filling is ready.

3. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F).

4. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt chocolate and cream together over a low heat, until all the chocolate has melted completely. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beaten eggs, sugar and flour and beat for up to 10 minutes or until the mixture is think and lemon colored.

6. Fold a few large spoons of the egg mixture into the chocolate, and then pour the chocolate mixture back into the egg mix, gently folding the two mixture together until there are no more streaks.2014-11-20 11.23.37-1

7. Pour the chocolate filling into the pan and make for 40-45 minutes or until the cake has puffed up almost to the center. Remove and cool before serving.

Tip: Cut this cake by dipping a long knife into boiling water. Clean and dip after each slice for smooth slices.

Serves 16.

More fun with eggplant

Eggplant and Roasted Garlic Salad

Israel doesn’t have a national vegetable. If it did, I am positive it would be the eggplant. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and is prepared in so many different ways, depending on the ethnicity of the cook. In my case, my ethnicity meant that my first proper encounter with eggplant (known in my native South Africa as a bringal), was when I made aliyah. I had to first learn how to enjoy the taste. Once I had achieved that goal, I then moved on to figuring out how to prepare this jolly purple veg. Now it’s a favorite go-to veg on a regular basis.

One of my favorite ways to handle eggplant is to slice it down the middle and roast it in the oven. Then there is so much you can do with the soft, smoky flesh. I’ve already posted a recipe for the classic Baba Ganoush, which is the queen of eggplant salads. Last week, I was about to make it, but I had already prepared my Roasted Pumpkin and Tehina Salad, and I wanted a different taste. So I took a whole head of garlic, roasted it and mixed it with the roasted eggplant. It’s so simple. The rich and distinct taste of the roasted garlic makes this salad taste so good that you will just want to eat it with a spoon. But pita or challah work well too.

EGGPLANT AND ROASTED GARLIC SALAD

Ingredients

1 medium sized eggplant

A little olive oil

1 head of garlic

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use low fat)

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Slice the eggplant lengthways in two. Rub a little olive oil over the flesh side of each half and sprinkle with a little salt. Place on a baking tray, flesh side up. Place a whole head of garlic on the tray as well. Roast for about 25 minutes and remove the garlic. Continue to roast the eggplant until a fork slides into the narrow part of the eggplant very smoothly (about another 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the eggplant). Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

3. Peel the eggplant or scoop the soft flesh out with a large spoon. Chop the eggplant with a large knife and place in a medium sized bowl.

4. Squeeze each garlic clove out of the peel into the bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Serve with fresh pita or good fresh bread.

Serves about 6-8.

Easy and delicious Rosh Hashana Green Beans

Honey ginger green beans

Lots of symbolic foods compete for table space at Rosh Hashana meals. It’s hard to cover all of them, but here’s one that’s so easy and delicious, you’re going to want to make sure you add it to your menu.

On Rosh Hashana, green beans symbolize prosperity and increased blessings for the New Year. The Talmudic instructs us to eat “rubiya” (actually fenugreek, a small seed-filled pod), pointing to the Hebrew word for increase or multiply. Some people substitute green beans for fenugreek;  others use black-eyed peas.

This recipe throws in some honey for good measure, but also a lot of good Asian flavors that balance the sweetness.

Make sure you buy fresh, thin green beans. The thicker ones tend to get dry and stalky, and don’t taste good.

HONEY GINGER GREEN BEANS

500g (1 lb) green beans topped and tailed

About 1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons honey or silan (date honey)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 cloves of crushed garlic

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

½ teaspoon sesame oil

HOW TO DO IT

1. Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F)

2. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the olive oil evenly. Spread beans out and roll them around in the oil so they are evenly coated.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.

3. While the beans are roasting, mix together the remaining ingredients – honey/silan, soy sauce, garlic, orange juice, ginger and sesame oil in a small bowl.

4. Remove beans from oven and coat them evenly with the sauce. Return the tray to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes. For firmer, juicier beans, only bake for 5 minutes. If you prefer the beans a lot softer then bake for 10 minutes. I recommend 5 minutes.

Serves about 6 as a side dish.

This can be served hot or room temperature.

 

Pre-Rosh Hashana Confessions – Time for a Different Cake

Festive Rosh Hashana Loaf Cake

This is the time of year where we do some soul searching. Leaving aside the purely spiritual, I am looking to the kitchen now, and I have a confession to make: I really don’t like honey cake. Every year, I churn out honey cakes because that’s what we’re expected to do, and every year I promise myself – this is the last time. The fact is that I don’t know anyone who likes honey cake either. So enough of the forced bakery. Rosh Hashana is a joyful festival, so it’s time to recreate the Rosh Hashana cake.

After a little recipe research and some of my own inspiration, here’s a recipe I’ve cobbled together for a Rosh Hashana cake that I think is a fitting and symbolic end to any festive meal.  The ingredients work for this festival: I’ve used apples, which I think are a lot tastier in a cake than honey; there are dates, one of the seven species, and one of the five foods that the Gemarah points to as good edible omens for Rosh Hashana (along with gourds, fenugreek, leeks and beets); and pomegranates, which we traditionally eat on the second night of Rosh Hashana as the new fruit, and which  supposedly contain 613 seeds representing the mitzvot. There is a custom to avoid eating nuts on Rosh Hashana due to the numerical value of the Hebrew word ‘egoz’ (nut) equalling ‘chet’ (sin). If you don’t follow this custom, do add the walnuts, but the cake can be baked without them (but make it again after Rosh Hashana so you don’t miss out on this extra level of taste and texture.”

Packed full of Rosh Hashana symbolism, with enough sweetness to compensate for the honey, this moist, tasty, good looking cake is a fitting substitute for the honey cake.

Wishing you all a sweet New Year!

FESTIVE ROSH HASHANA FRUIT LOAF CAKE

Ingredients

Cake

150g butter/margarine, softened

¾ cup castor sugar plus 2 tablespoons

3 eggs

½ cup self-raising flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 apples peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced

6-8 dried dates roughly chopped

½ cup roughly chopped walnuts (Don’t use an electric blender)

Ground cinnamon

Glaze

½ cup pomegranate juice (the juice of approximately 1 pomegranate). Tip: Use a simple hand juicer so you can save the pomegranate seeds as well. Wear an apron – it’s a little messy.

¼ cup of pomegranate seeds (set aside from the juicing)

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

How to do it

Cake

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (330°F)

2. Beat the butter/margarine and the 150 g sugar in mixer until pale and creamy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

4. Add the flours, baking powder and ginger, mix on a slow speed until just combined.

Unglazed loaf

Unglazed loaf – tastes good too…

5. Fold in the dates, 2 thirds of the apples and nuts.

6. Line a 25 x 12-centimetre loaf tin with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray. Pour the mixture in and arrange the leftover apple slices in a criss-cross pattern on top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar and dust with ground cinnamon.

7. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the centre.

8. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and put on a plate before glazing

Glaze

1. In a small saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and the sugar to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 15 minutes to allow the mixture to reduce, stirring frequently.

2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

3. Beat in the powdered sugar until completely smooth, and add the pomegranate seeds.

4. Drizzle over the cake, allowing some of the glaze to run down the sides.

Serves 8.

Finding the Brownie Holy Grail

Lush chocolate brownies
Lush chocolate brownies

Lush chocolate brownies. The baseball field grass is not a recommended garnish…

We’ve been having a tough time in Israel these past weeks. Sirens have had us rushing to shelters, and the country is in turmoil. Without making light of this difficult situation, I do feel the need to post a recipe, after a rather long absence. Let’s face it, when were stressed out, food is a great comfort. And when we’re talking comfort food, how can chocolate not immediately come to mind?

Chocolate brownies are a great way to deliver the king of all sweets. I have been through many brownie recipes – some I like because they are very quick to make, others, because they are just decadent over the top.  Recently, I found a recipe that I think has to be the Holy Grail of brownie recipes and and everything a real classic brownie should be. It uses lots of chocolate and then a little more, and the result is one of the most chocolaty, lush, rich brownies you will ever eat.

I’ve made these a few times for my son’s baseball team – I doubled the recipe of course. Served immediately after a 2+- hour game, they are wolfed down with great appreciation. The picture here is of a batch I made for one of the games. I had to rush in with my camera so that there would be some left to photograph!

So for times like these, as well as for times that are less stressful but just call for a good brownie, here’s my recipe for Lush Chocolate Brownies.

LUSH CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

Ingredients

275 g (10 oz) dark chocolate

225g (8 oz) butter or margarine

3 large eggs

1 cup (225 g/8 oz) brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

115 g (4 oz) or just under 1 cup self raising flour

115 g (4 oz) chocolate chips (dark or white)

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat till smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and then stir in the melted chocolate.

4, Fold in the flour, chocolate chips and pecans.

5. Line a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 in) baking tin with baking paper, and spray with cooking spray. Pour the mixture in and bake for 35-40 minutes. Don’t over-bake if you want a gooey brownie.

6. Leave to cool and then cut into squares.

Makes 12 large brownies.