Updating my Crunchie Recipe

Crunchies, aka Flapjacks

Crunchies, aka Flapjacks

I love it when I find a new recipe for something I’ve successfully made before, and it’s even better than the original.

A few months ago I posted a recipe for South African Crunchie bars – a hearty sweet oatmeal and syrup bar that is very more-ish and should definitely no be made when you’re trying to watch those calories. I stumbled on a cooking show on TV, on which the presenter was baking what the British call flapjacks (in the US and South Africa that’s what we call small pancakes, but I’m willing to forgive the strange choice of name because the recipe is wonderful.) I made some adjustments for ingredients that aren’t readily available in Israel and had a go. They came out perfectly with a really caramel-like taste. So I had to update my original recipe.  They are quick and extremely easy to make so give them a go – you won’t regret it.

CRUNCHIES / FLAPJACKS

Ingredients

175 g butter (6 oz) butter (you can also use margarine to make it parev, but the butter gives it a most delicious taste)

¾ cup Golden Syrup (there really is no substitute…in Israel it can be found in specialty food stores)

¾ cup brown sugar

350 g (12 oz) rolled oats (about 3½ cups)

1 teaspoon baking powder

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Line a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 9 inch) baking pan with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray.

2. In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter over low heat. When melted, add the syrup and sugar and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar is all dissolved.

3. Remove the pot from the heat and mix in the oats and baking powder until all the oats are coated with the syrup mixture.

4. Press down evenly into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes. The top will look golden brown when it’s done.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down for about 10-15 minutes. Remove the whole thing with the baking paper and place it on a cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, cut the crunchies into squares before they are completely cooled.

Makes about 36 squares.

Get Adventurous with Gnocchi

Home made gnocchi with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese

Home made gnocchi with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese

Having read the headline, some of you are probably mentally throwing schnitzel hammers at me. But just hold onto them for a moment…

The thought of making your own gnocchi may be daunting, but don’t let it daunt you. It’s actually not very difficult to make, but needs a little patience and self-belief. The fact is, there is nothing that taste quite as delicious as home made gnocchi fresh out of the pot. This first time I made these was years ago, after seeing them being made on a TV cooking show. I was amazed by how well they worked. I made these again a few weeks ago, thinking I’d get two batches out of them and freeze one batch for another meal. My family raged against the thought after I served the first round, and insisted that I take the second batch out of the freezer and cook them as well. Fortunately, like all fresh pasta, they cook really quickly.

There are some points to note before embarking on your gnocchi journey. First, the drier the baked potatoes, the better. To this end, in Israel, where potatoes are notoriously watery, the best course of action is to bake the potatoes the day before and leave them in the fridge overnight. This will dry them out.

Secondly, because the water content of potatoes varies from potato to potato, the flour measurements I have here are very approximate. The trick is to slowly add flour, first stirring with a spoon and then using your hands, until your dough just reaches the consistency that will allow you to roll it into a sausage for cutting. But don’t allow it to become too tough – the softer the better.

Thirdly, and this is based on trial and error, popping the gnocchi into the freezer for about an hour before you boil them will make it a lot easier to throw into the pot and will ensure that they don’t fall apart when boiling. They freeze really well, so you can cook them ahead of time and throw them straight into the pot from the freezer. The cooking process is very short, so it will really save you time.

I serve this with a simple tomato sauce and some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. But you can serve it with any sauce you like.

HOME MADE GNOCCHI

Ingredients

3 large baking potatoes

3 egg yolks

1½-2 cups flour (or as much as you need to get to a soft rolling consistency) – use “00” flour, which is available in supermarkets in Israel now.

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (as much as you want!)

How to do it

Very soft dough

Very soft dough

1. Take a deep breath and believe that this isn’t as difficult as you think.

2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and place the unpeeled, washed and dried potatoes on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 hour or until completely soft – a fork should very easily slide into a potato. If you have time, allow the potatoes to cool and refrigerate overnight (recommended).

Cut the gnocchi into small pillow shaped pieces

Cut the gnocchi into small pillow shaped pieces

3.  Cut the potatoes in half and scoop the potato out of the skin. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. Add the yolks and salt and mix, and then add the flour, slowly mixing with a spoon until the dough reaches a soft but pliable consistency, and then use your hands to mix (the dough may be a little uneven, and not necessarily completely smooth like bread dough – this is fine.)

On a baking tray and ready for cooking

On a baking tray and ready for cooking

4. Divide the dough into four pieces. Dust a rolling surface and a wooden rolling pin with flour, and dust your hands with flour as well. Roll each piece into a long sausage of about a 2 cm (just under 1 inch) diameter. The dough should be quite soft, so be gentle. With a small, sharp knife cut pieces that are about 1 cm long (half an inch). Don’t stress about exact sizes – this is a rustic dish and doesn’t have to look magnificent. Repeat the process for all the dough.

5. Place the gnocchi pieces on trays lines with baking paper and place in the freezer for about an hour (or longer as needed – they freeze well for a few days).

6. In a large pot, bring about 2 liters of salted water to the boil. Drop about half the gnocchi in the water. When they all rise to the surface of the water, remove them carefully with a slotted spoon allowing all the water to drain, and place in a dish. This will take only a few minutes. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi.

7. Serve with a simple tomato sauce.

Serves about 4.

Hanukkah’s coming…anyone for quick doughnut muffins?

It’s amazing how quickly the year goes by. It didn’t feel like that long ago that I was experimenting with oven-baked latkes for Hanukkah 2011, and here it is again.

Last year’s oven-baked recipes went down like, well, hot cakes! So if you’re looking for them, click here for the Oven Baked Potato Latkes and the Oven Baked Cauliflower, Zucchini and Leek Latkes. I’ve also been glad to see that you’re all looking for great ideas for your Hanukkah tables and have been checking out The Jewish Hostess’ wonderful ideas for beautiful Hanukkah tables.

Last year’s successful recipes clearly showed me that not everyone wants to eat traditional Hanukkah food dripping with oil. Personally, I’m not a fan, and my family and I loved the shift to oven-baked goodies. So this year, I decided it was time to take on the doughnut. While this recipe for doughnut muffins doesn’t create a muffin that tastes exactly like a doughnut (or so my husband says), it’s really quick to prepare and the result is delicious and a clear nod to the Hanukkah favorite. My kids were very happy to eat these and voted in favor.

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah doughnut muffins

Hanukkah doughnut muffins

HANUKKAH DOUGHNUT MUFFINS

Ingredients

1 1/3 cup flour

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

100 ml (3.3 fl oz)  buttermilk

2 beaten eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup butter melted

12 teaspoons seedless jam (preferably raspberry or cherry, but apricot is also good)

2 tablespoon powdered sugar

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking soda.

3. Mix the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and add to the flour mix. Add the melted butter and mix until just combined.

4. Fill the muffin cups to just halfway up (about one heaped tablespoon). This should leave you with about one third of the mixture to use for the top.

5. Make a little well in the center of each muffin using a teaspoon, and fill each well with a teaspoon of jam. Cover each muffin with batter (about a half a tablespoon each).

6. Bake for about 18 minutes or until the muffins are springy when touched.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Using a small hand sifter, dust each muffin generously with powdered sugar.

These are delicious when served warm, but are yummy cold as well.

Makes 12.

Back to my roots – beetroots

Smooth beetroot soup served with a dollop of sour cream or Tofutti sour cream

Smooth beetroot soup served with a dollop of sour cream or Tofutti sour cream

Before you all send me English grammar corrections, I know the plural of beetroot is beetroot, but it just worked in the headline, so why not!

So back to those beetroot roots. I grew up in home of Lithuanian Jewish origin where beetroot was a revered vegetable. In the summer it was cold beetroot soup, or borscht, and in the winter there was delicious hot beetroot and cabbage soup served with little meatballs, and of course in between there were various forms of beet salad. I love the nostaligiv taste of beetroot – that earthy sweet taste takes me back to my roots.

One benefit is that beets are really good for you. They are very low in calories; have no cholesterol and small amount of fat; and are filled with a whole bunch of nutrients, vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid and others. So this is one of the few Jewish foods that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating. Tuck in!

Here’s a recipe that’s an update on the traditional Litvak beet soups of my youth. It’s pureed for that modern twist. The result is a gorgeous, dark pink soup that looks fantastic in the bowl with a dollop of sour cream or Tofutti sour cream if you’re keeping it parev.

SMOOTH BEETROOT SOUP

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion chopped

5 medium-large beets peeled and diced

1½ liters vegetable or parev chicken stock

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1 sprig of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

Sour cream or Tofutti sour cream for serving (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion. Saute over a medium flame until soft and translucent.

2. Add the diced beets and cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

3. Add the stock, vinegar, sugar and seasoning, turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the beets are completely soft.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. If you’re using fresh thyme, remove the sprig. Liquidize using a stick blender or blend in a liquidizer in batches (making sure you close the lid – you don’t want beetroot soup all over your walls!)

5. Serve each bowl with a scant tablespoon of sour cream on top.

Makes a gesunte pot of soup (serving about 12).