That Good Old South African Coke Brisket Recipe

Brown Brisket with Carrots, Potatoes and Onions

I’m sure that the ubiquitous Coke brisket/chicken recipe that took the South African Jewish culinary community by storm in the 1980s is widely available in various forms all over the internet. Still, I felt that I had to publish my version on my blog because it’s just one of those trusty stand-by recipes that gets dusted off every now and again and proves why it is around all these decades later. From my earliest days of cooking, when I was a student at The Hebrew University and had just met my husband, I have been making this recipeץ Back then I used chicken and among my friends it was know as “Brown Chicken”. Here, we’ll call it Brown Brisket.

I have a few versions in my tattered pile of recipe cars and fading A4 pages, even one that uses Diet Coke (which I’ve never made and don’t intend to). I use the one with good old fashioned sweetened Coke, because it’s Rosh Hashana and food should be sweet, right? Those of you who prefer healthy cooking avert your eyes. I prefer to use natural ingredients in my cooking (I’m not talking about dessert here) but every now and again I am prepared to veer off the path of the righteous cook into iffy territory. It’s all about moderation, isn’t it?

The original recipe is for oven cooked brisket (instructions included), but as stated previously, our Israeli brisket demands to be slow cooked, so I used almost the same recipe and it came out great after 10 hours of cooking. Now my house smells just how a Jewish home a few days before Rosh Hashana should.

BROWN BRISKET COOKED WITH COKE

Ingredients

2-3 kg (4½-6½ lb)brisket

1-2 onions sliced about 1 cm wide

1 kg of peeled small potatoes (optional but highly recommended)

4-5 large carrots peeled and sliced into thick slices (also optional but highly recommended)

1 cup tomato paste (200g)

1 cup chutney or apricot jam

3 tablespoons onion soup powder

2 tablespoons chicken soup powder

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons ginger powder

About 2 cups of Coke (enough to make 4 cups of sauce with the rest of the ingredients above)

How to do it

1. Place the vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker. Put the bay leaves on top of the veggies and then the brisket on top.

Ready for cooking

2. In a mixing bowl or large measuring jug, mix the tomato paste, chutney/jam, soup powders, and ginger. Then add the coke to make up about 4 cups of sauce. Pour over the brisket.

3. Cook the brisket on low for 10-11 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. (To oven cook, preheat the oven to 200°C/375°F, place the brisket in a roasting pan, cover and cook for about 2½ hours. Make sure to cut they vegetables you use quite small to ensure they cook through.)

4. Allow the brisket to cool before slicing.

Note: This brisket freezes really well with the sauce.

Serves 10-12 people depending on the size of the brisket.

Updating the Rosh Hashana Honey Cake

I’m not a huge fan of the honey cake. I’ve rarely tasted one that isn’t dry and sticks in the throat. The recipe that I have been using for honey cake all these years is “OK”, but not more. So of course it’s not one I was ever going to share on my blog – only the best for you!

So I decided it was time to update my recipe and give it a twist. Why not cupcakes? They’re so in fashion that a honey cake version almost demands being made this Rosh Hashana. So after a few less than successful attempts at adjusting my recipe and making it cupcake-friendly, I think I’ve done it! My loyal testers (my husband and kids) gave them a hearty thumbs up, and that’s all I needed to proceed to the next step – sharing the recipe on my blog.

This recipe is still based on the cake we used to eat at home, which my mother called “Ginger Cake” and not honey cake. The reason was that she flavored it liberally with ginger powder, which gave the cake a really fragrant spicy taste, which I love. This recipe is still heavy on the ginger because it just tastes good!

I made two different frostings to go with them, another update to the traditionally dry cake – one is a honey glaze and the other is a tofu cream cheese frosting (which is my favorite).

I have made these parev, but you can use butter instead of margarine for a slightly creamier flavor, and you can use regular cream cheese instead of the tofu version.

HONEY CUPCAKES WITH TWO FROSTINGS

Ingredients

2 eggs

2/3 cups sugar

½ cup margarine/butter

½ cup honey

1½ cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

2 teaspoons ginger powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

How to do it

Honey Cupcakes with honey glaze and parev cream cheese frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F)

2. Line two muffin tins with #5 size cupcake liners

3. Whisk the sugar and margarine in a mixer on high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and whisk for a few minutes until the mixture has lightened and has a fluffy consistency.

4. Add the honey and mix on medium speed to combine.

5. Add all the dry ingredients and mix on slow speed until just combined – resist the urge to eat all the batter…

6. Using a tablespoon, fill the cupcakes liners no more than halfway up – the batter rises quite high in the oven, but does drop afterwards.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center of a cupcake clean.

Makes about 22 cupcakes

Frostings

Honey Glaze

Mix together 8 tablespoons honey, 8 tablespoons icing sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Slowly add hot water until you reach a runny consistency – the mixture will be slightly translucent.

Using a tablespoon, you can glaze the cupcakes when they are still warm, and they will absorb the glaze for a slightly sticky cupcake. You can also wait until they are cool to glaze.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Mix together 2/3 cup Tofutti cream cheese and 3 teaspoons of honey till smooth. Gradually add about 5-6 cups of icing sugar, until you reach a spreading consistency. Note: With the Tofutti cheese, you will always have a slightly runny consistency. If you use regular cream cheese, you will achieve a consistency that’s more stable and can easily be piped out of a bag if required. If you want to pipe the frosting, you will need a larger quantity of frosting.

Spread frosting on completely cooled cupcakes.

Getting Crazy with Rosh Hashana Tzimmes

Rosh Hashana Tzimmes Pie

When you grow up in an Ashkenazi home with strong Lithuanian roots, tzimmes is the bread and butter of “yontif” food. In my house, we had our traditional tzimmes, which consisted of lots of sweet carrots on the outside and a large lump of kneidel on the inside. My husband and his family love this dish, but personally, I started getting a little tired of it, especially when Rosh Hashana seems to come so quickly after Pesach. So I few years ago I decided to get crazy with tzimmes, and come up with my own version.

In this case, “getting crazy” stayed very firmly in the Ashkenazi Lithuanian ingredient wheelhouse, but everyone was happy with the result. I wanted to moderate the sweetness, so I added a potato base, and put the sweet carrots on top, which in effect turned this into a kind of tzimmes pie. This is what I serve every Rosh Hashana now.

As with so many of these traditional recipes, the amounts are approximate, and you can really adjust them to suit your tastes and quantities very easily.

ROSH HASHANA TZIMMES PIE

Ingredients

Potato Base

2-3 large potatoes peeled and grated (medium-size grater) – you will need about 3-4 cups grated potato.

1 small onion finely grated

1 large beaten egg (2 if they’re small)

¼ cup flour

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon oil

Carrot topping

About 750g (1.5 lbs) carrots peeled and evenly sliced

3 tablespoons flour

About ¼-½ cup honey or silan – date honey (I don’t measure this one. Add more if you prefer it sweeter and less if you don’t – it will taste good no matter what.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger powder

2 tablespoons oil

Salt and pepper

How to do it

1. Place the grated raw potatoes in a metal strainer, sprinkle with salt, and allow to sit for about half an hour so the liquid can drain out. Squeeze the potatoes well to get as much liquid out as possible. (You can also gather the potato up in a large piece of cheese cloth, and squeeze the water out that way.)

2. Pre-heat oven to 200°C (400°F)

3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the potatoes with the onion, egg, flour, salt and pepper.

4. Grease a medium-sized oven-proof or Pyrex dish, and flatten the potato mixture onto the bottom of the dish evenly (it should be at least 1cm thick).

5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the potato starts to brown. Then brush the surface of the crust with the oil and return to the oven for another 5 minutes (no not allow to get too dark but make sure the potato is cook through).

6. Meanwhile…cook the carrots in a large pot of water until soft.  Drain the carrots and return to the pot.

7. In a small dish, mix the flour with a little water to make a runny,smooth mixture, and add it to the carrots and mix. Add the honey/silan, cinnamon, ginger, oil, salt and pepper and mix together.

8. When the potato crust is baked, turn the oven down to 190°C (375°F). Spread the carrots onto the crust and return to the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the carrots start getting slightly dark.

Serves about 10 as a side dish

Rosh Hashana: A Time for Traditional Food

Perogen in chicken soup

As the high holy days approach, I must first make my apologies to all my followers for being absent from my blog. The combination of a long period of craziness at work and summer vacation kept me away. But with Rosh Hashana around the corner, it’s time to get back to the keyboard and the kitchen and cook up some dishes that will make your chag a sweet and tasty one.

When I was growing up in South Africa, the first course in my house every Rosh Hashana was always perogen and soup. When I tell my friends that I am making perogen, most of them have no idea what I am on about. I suspect the South Africans out there will be nodding in recognition. In fact, when you Google the word “perogen”, you will come up with a definition like this: “A preparation of sodium perborate that, when mixed with the accompanying catalyzer, liberates 10% of the oxygen in the salt.” But don’t worry, I will not be giving you a recipe for a preparation of sodium perborate – I don’t even know what that is.

The fact is that our Ashkenazi perogen are a variation on the Polish word pierogi, dumplings  stuffed with potato, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese or fruit, which are traditionally boiled, and then baked or fried in butter. The kosher variation, or at least the perogen that I grew up eating, is simpler to make, but still involves a little effort, as any pie-like food does. There’s no boiling and frying involved. Instead these mini pies are baked in the oven till golden brown. Then they are served in chicken soup for a hearty start to a very long meal.

Both my dough and meat filling are very simple to make. Feel free to add any of your favorite meat seasonings to the meat mixture, such as dill or thyme. I keep it plain as there’s lots of flavor in my chicken soup that complements the perogen. This is also a great pre-fast dish as it’s not spicy or salty, and is really filling in a good way.

ROSH HASHANA PEROGEN

Ingredients

Filling

300g (just over ½ lb) ground beef

1 small onion very finely chopped

1 tablespoon oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon flour

Salt and pepper to taste

(Optional) ½ teaspoon of any preferred meat spice (dill, thyme, paprika, etc.)

Dough

Cut rounds from the dough and re-use the leftovers

½ cup oil

1 egg

1 cup water

3-3½ cups flour (or as needed to make an elastic dough)

3½ teaspoons baking powder

How to do it

Filling

1. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil and fry the onions until soft (not brown)

Place one teaspoon of filling in the middle of the dough round

2. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and stir the meat to brown it evenly.

3. Once the beef is brown, drain off some of the liquid, then add the flour and any additional seasoning, and stir over low heat until all combined and the flour is absorbed. Set aside to cool. Tip: You can make the filling ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.

Dough

Push the meat to the back of the folded round before you seal it

4. In a large bowl, whisk the oil and egg together. Add the salt and water and beat well.

5. Stir the flour into the liquid one cup at a time, and mix slowly until you get a doughy consistency. Then use your hands to add all of the flour so you get a workable, elastic dough that you will be able to roll out. Do not overwork the dough – knead just until all combined and smooth.

6. On a clean, floured surface, take one handful of the dough, and roll it out into a 3mm thick circle, using a floured rolling pin. The dough will spring back, so you can roll it a little thinner than 3mm.

Seal with a fork

7. Using a round cookies cutter about 8½cm (3½ inches) in diameter, cut circles in the dough. Note: Put the leftover in-between bits of dough back in with the rest of the dough and re-use it.  It’s a forgiving dough that won’t come apart because it’s already been rolled out.

8.Take about 1 teaspoon of the filling and place it in the middle of the circle. With your finger tip, dab some water along one half of the circle and close the dough over the meat, using your right thumb to push the filling to the back of the perogen so you have a clean surface to deal. Making sure not to leave any air inside, seal the pie with your finger tips and then use a fork to seal the edges further. Tip:Turn the perogen over and make sure that the bottom is properly sealed. If not, then give it another kvetch with the fork.

Baked and golden, ready for the soup

9. Place the prepared perogen on a greased baking tray lined with baking paper, about 2cm (1 inch) apart.

10. Bake at 190°C (375°F) for 15 minutes or until the perogen are golden brown.

11. Serve warm in chicken soup. Kids will also happily eat these plain with a dollop of ketchup.

Recipe makes about 30 perogen.