Cold Borscht without the Patchkie

Bosrcht

If there’s anything that conjurs up memories of growing up in a Lithuanian Jewish home in South Africa, it’s cold borscht (or what we simply called beetroot soup) in the summer. There were always large mason jars filled with soup in the fridge in the summer, and it was a great snack or first course for any dairy meal. We would always eat it with a dollop of sour or regular cream, with finely chopped cucumber. If someone was feeling energetic, maybe a boiled baby potato would find its way into the bowl, but if not, that was also fine.

Oddly enough, until not bvery long ago, I had never made beetroot soup myself, for a couple of reasons: Firstly, the gentlemen in my family do not like beets, and secondly, in Israel, beets are very sadly sold devoid of their stems and leaves. My late mother always made her soup with the whole beet, including the stalks and leaves, which were my favorite part. Without them, I don’t believe the soup would taste as good. I’m very likely wrong, but it’s my schtick.

A few weeks ago, to my joy, my greengrocer was selling whole bunches of beets. I grabbed a bunch and finally made my first pot of cold borscht. There are so many recipes out there that over complicate this very simple dish. This recipe is simple, and you can add whatever accompaniments you like. But the basic recipe keeps ingredients, and patchkie, to a minumum and it works well. At the very least, it tastes just like my mother’s!

COLD BORSCHT

Ingredients

1 bunch of beets (about 6 small beets) with stems and leaves

Cold water (about 2 liters/quarts) to more than cover the beets

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of vinegar

Sugar to taste

Salt and pepper

Accompaniments: Finely chopped cucumber, sour cream or sweet cream, small boiled baby potatoes

How to do it

  1. Very thouroughly wash the beets so there is no grit left. Cut the beet bulbs off the stems, and peel and cut in half. Grate them in a food processor on the coarse blade. Chop the stems into half inch/1.5 cm pieces. Shred the leaves.
  2. Put all the beet parts into a large pot and cover with the water – water should be about 4cm (2 inches) above the level of the beets. Being to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about half an hour (or until the beets are cooked through). Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can boild the beet halves for about half an hour or until a fork can slide into the beets, and then hand grate them. Don’t over cook them because they will coninue cooking with the stems and leaves for about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and add sugar (about 1-2 tablespoons).
  4. Allow to cool completely, and then add the lemon juice vinegar and salt and pepper. Keep tasting till you get the right level of acidity.
  5. Serve cold with whatever accompaniments you like.

Serves about 8.

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Jewish Soul Food – Stuffed Matza Balls

Stuffed matza balls in chicken soup

Stuffed matza balls in chicken soup

Back in the days of the shtetl, Lithuanian cooks would make their kneidlach (matza balls) stuffed with pieces of fried chicken fat in the center – oy vey! The name they gave this dish was kneidlach with “neshoma,” or matza balls with soul. There’s something touching about this name, which symbolizes that even in the simplest things in life we can add a spark of spirituality. The seder meal is so filled with meaning and symbolism that it’s nice to be able to add another layer of meaning to the food we eat on that night.

There are many ways to make these kneidlach. I have amalgamated a few recipes and methods to come up with what I think works well. And mine have no fried chicken fat in them!

I kept the filling flavors relatively simple in keeping with the Ashkenazi kitchen. You can, of course, add whatever spices you enjoy, and even add a little chili powder or cayenne pepper for a little zing. Some recipes call for baking the kneidlach in the oven after you’ve boiled them. I am not sure what the logic is if you’re going to be serving them in the soup, as they will get wet again. This is also an unnecessary step that adds time to your already packed pre-seder cooking schedule.

For me, the most important part of making these is getting the filling in the freezer before you stuff the kneidlach. I give credit to Israeli chef Haim Cohen for this excellent technique, which he uses in his kube soup recipe (not Kosher for Pesach). By making small balls of filling and freezing them, you make the stuffing process so much easier, and you won’t have to fiddle with bits of filling that fall all over the place and make it hard to seal the balls properly. It’s an extra step, but pays off in the end. You can also make the stuffing a few days in advance.

STUFFED MATZA BALLS (KNEIDLACH WITH NESHOMA)

Ingredients 

Filling

1-2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 small onion very finely chopped

1 small stalk of celery very finely chopped

1 clove of garlic crushed

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

90-100 g (3 oz) ground beef (for vegetarian, you can use finely chopped mushrooms – saute them separately and drain well before adding to the rest of the ingredients)

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons potato flour

¼ cup water

Matza Balls 

4 large eggs

4 tablespoons margarine

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon baking powder (if you can find kosher for Pesach baking powder you can make it without)

Salt and pepper

2/3 cups boiling water

About 1 cup of matza meal

How to do it

1. In a small pan, heat the oil. Add the chopped celery and onion and saute until very soft. Add the garlic and parsley and stir until the garlic has just cooked (about 30 seconds).

2. Add the ground beef and saute until it’s all cooked (no pink), making sure to separate the bits of beef so no large chunks form. (Or add the sauteed, well-drained mushrooms for vegetarian)

3. Add the seasoning and stir till combined.

4. Add the tomato paste,  potato flour and the water and mix. Simmer until the mixture is no longer watery (this won’t take very long – about 2 minutes). Allow to cool completely.

5. On a small baking tray or any pan that can go into the freezer, lay out some baking paper. Form small balls of the filling that are just under one teaspoon each. Place them on the tray and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or overnight. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a sealed container and keep them in the freezer for a few days.

Making the Kneidlach

1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg well with a whisk. Add the margarine and beat it in as well as you can (it will stay lumpy but try to separate it as much as possible at this stage)

Flatten some kneidle mixture into your hand using wet fingers

Flatten some kneidle mixture into your hand using wet fingers

2. Add the boiling water and whisk till the margarine has melted. Add the seasoning and baking powder.

3. Slowly add the matza meal, stirring the mixture with a spoon. You need to do this slowly and in stages, as the matza meal hardens the egg mixture quite quickly and you don’t want your mixture to get hard. Once the mixture starts to be less runny, start testing the consistency by dropping spoonfuls into the bowl. As soon as it stops being runny and falls from the spoon in a blob, then you are done. You will always use a slightly different quantity of matza meal because the sizes of the eggs vary.

Place one ball of filling in the middle of the kneidle mixture

Place one ball of filling in the middle of the kneidle mixture

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or until the mixture is well set. You can leave this overnight as well.

Stuffing the kneidlach

1. In a medium-large pot, bring about 4-5 liters of water and add a tablespoon of chicken soup powder to a rolling boil.

2. Remove the filling balls from the freezer; take the kneidle mixture out of the fridge and prepare a bowl of water for dipping your hands.

Pinch the kneidle mixture around the filling with wet hands, sealing the seams well

Pinch the kneidle mixture around the filling with wet hands, sealing the seams well

3. Take about 1½ tablespoons of kneidle mixture in your wet hands (about the size of a small golf ball) and flatten it a little until it’s about 1 cm (½ inch). Take a filling ball and place it in the middle, then work the kneidle mixture up around the filling, making sure not to make the kneidle too thin. If you can’t get it all around the filling, then add a little bit of extra kneidle mixture to close the ball. With wet hands, smooth the kneidle so that you make a ball shape. Carefully place into the boiling water. Keep going until you’ve used up all your kneidle mixture.

Ready for the pot

Ready for the pot

4. Once all the balls are in the pot, cover, make sure the water comes to the boil. Then reduce the flame and simmer, cooking for 25-minutes.

5. Serve the kneidlach in bowls of chicken soup.

Makes about 18 balls.

The throw-it-all-in-a-pot minestrone

Back to the weather! I’ve been asked to post a soup recipe. Makes sense, doesn’t it? For this kind of super-cold winter weather, there really is nothing like soup. If you are feeling really energetic, do try making ribollita, one of the heartiest, insides-warming soups you will every make.

But not everyone has the time or ingredients to whip up ribollita, so I am going to share with you my “whatever’s in the fridge” minestrone soup. The basic recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens recipe book, but I have taken it in all sorts of directions and I very rarely make it the same way twice. The basic broth with the onions, tomato, zucchini and cabbage, and the additional spaghetti bits get built on top of with whatever veggies you have in your fridge. Have fun with it and add whatever you love.

Stay warm!

BASIC MINESTRONE

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves crushed garlic

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium carrots diced

3 sticks of celery diced

1 large red or sweet pepper diced – optional

½ teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

2 liters broth (chicken or vegetarian)

1 medium zucchini diced

4-5 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or one can 400 g  (14 oz) of crushed tomatoes

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

About a cup of spaghetti broken into small pieces

1 400 g (14 oz) can red beans, rinsed and drained (not baked beans) – optional

1 cup green beans cut into small pieces (frozen is good)

How to do it

1. In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic until just soft.

2. Add the tomatoes, herbs, sugar, broth and green beans and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add the zucchini, cabbage, red beans and spaghetti and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the spaghetti is tender.

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).

So excited about kube

I spent 10 years living in Jerusalem. One of the joys of living in Israel’s capital is the abundance of small “workers’ restaurants” (misadot poalim) where you can get an inexpensive, filling meal of a range of very local dishes at midday. One of these dishes, available in most of these eateries, was kube soup. Kube (pronounced koo-beh), with its origins in Iraq,is a dough ball made of semolina or ground bulgar wheat, filled with mince meat and either fried or cooked in soup.  There are two versions of the soup – one is a red or beet soup and the other is called “chamousta” or a sour lemon soup. The red kube soup is my favorite. Not only is it delicious, but one bowl with three kube balls fills you up for the day. It’s a dough that has staying power.

Kube Soup

When we moved from Jerusalem to the Sharon region 13 years ago, I was disappointed to discover that kube soup didn’t appear on any local menus. I really missed this wonderful food and several years ago, I had a go at making it myself, with a recipe I had begged off a co-worker. It wasn’t great – the kube were too hard and heavy and this spoiled the dish. I ditched all further efforts, as making kube is quite a labor intensive process and I didn’t feel like another failure. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to take up the challenge again. I found a recipe by local celebrity chef Haim Cohen that cuts out one of the stages of cooking and made the complicated ball stuffing stage a lot easier. The secret is in making small balls out of the minced meat and freezing them, and then wrapping the frozen balls with the dough. This not only eliminates the stage of cooking the meat, but also means you don’t have to stuff the crumbly mince into the kube dough, which isn’t simple.

I tested this soup on my Shabbat guests, and overall, it was a success, which is why I’m so excited about it and delighted to be sharing it with you. The recipe I used needed some tweaking as by the time I served the soup, the kube had absorbed a lot of the broth, and I wasn’t left with much to serve. So my recipe takes this into account, and adds a few of my own extras. By making a very large pot of soup and setting one liter of broth aside, you will ensure that there’s enough soup to go around.

While this dish does require some effort, the results speak for themselves – it’s a filling, tasty dish that’s perfect for any occasion and is a real taste of Israel.

RED (BEET)  KUBE SOUP

Ingredients

Mince Meat Filling

600g (1.3 lb) minced meat

1 medium onion finely grated

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4 fresh mint leaves finely chopped

4 celery leaves finely chopped

1 clove of garlic crushed

1 teaspoon baharat spice*

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup olive oil

Soup

¼ cup olive oil

2 medium chopped red onions

6 cloves of garlic chopped or crushed

3 large beets peeled and cut into small chunks

½ kg (1 lb) pumpkin peeling and chopped into cubes

4 carrots peeled and sliced

2 zucchinis quartered and sliced

3 celery stalks sliced

Leaves of the celery washed and tied with string

Juice of two lemons

200 g tomato paste

1 teaspoon baharat spice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

4 liters water

Dough

500g (1 lb) semolina flour

300g (10 oz) ground bulgar wheat (in Israel, ask for J’rish at a spice store)

Note: If you can’t get j’rish, you can also make this with only semolina flour using 800 g.

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baharat spice

1 cup of the soup broth (no vegetables)

How to do it

Mix all filling ingredients together

Firstly, don’t be intimidated! Secondly, plan ahead.

The meat filling

1.Place all meat filling ingredients in a bowl and mix together thoroughly.

2. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Make small balls out of the meat mixture of about one heaped teaspoon each and place them on the tray. Cover and freeze until solid (at least 2 hours).

Make small balls of meat and freeze

The soup

1. In a very large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the red onions until just soft. Add the garlic and stir for a minute

2.Add the beets and carrots and saute for another few minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and the water and cook for 5 minutes. Then take one cup of the liquid and set it aside to use in the dough.

3. Add the lemon juice, baharat spice, salt, sugar and celery leaves to the pot. Bring to the boil and lower the heat, simmering for 20 minutes. Taste and add seasoning if required.

4. Decant about 1 liter of the soup into a separate bowl and set aside – you will add this back into the soup before serving.

Note: You can make the soup ahead of time and refrigerate.

The dough

Place a meat ball in the middle of a flattened piece of dough

1. In a large bowl, mix the semolina, j’rish, baharat spice and salt till combined.

2. Add the soup broth and mix until you have an soft but elastic dough. If required, add a little water until you get to a dough that is workable.

3. Allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes covered.

The kube

1. Remove the meat balls from the freezer.

Wrap the dough closely around the meat ball and pinch together to seal

2. Take about a tablespoon of the dough in your hands and flatten the dough so that it’s about 2-3 mm thick (1/10 inch).

3. Place a meat ball in the middle of your piece of dough and wrap the dough around the ball, closing it up and pinching off any excess dough. Make sure there are no gaps between the dough and the meat or the balls will open up when cooking. Seal any ragged edged with a few drops of water and smooth the surface. If the dough gets too dry, you can knead in some extra water. (This should yield about 30 balls)

Kube made and ready to cook (and looking a lot like kneidlach!)

4. Bring the soup in the pot (without the liter you’ve decanted) to the boil. Carefully drop the kube balls into the soup. Once all the balls are in the pot, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for an hour.

5. If you are serving the soup immediately, then add the extra broth just before you serve and heat it in the pot. If you are preparing the soup ahead of time, then keep the extra broth separate until you are ready to reheat the soup. Reheat the soup till hot in a covered pot, and then add the decanted broth and reheat it. The kube absorbs a lot of the liquid during the cooking process.

Tastes even better than it looks

Serves 12-14

*Baharat is a spice mix used in Middle Eastern cuisine to season meat and soups. In Israel, you can buy it at any spice store. Outside of Israel, you may be able to find it in specialty stores. If not, you can make your own baharat mix from the following: 4 parts black pepper; 3 parts coriander seeds; 3 parts cinnamon; 3 parts cloves; 4 parts cumin seeds; 1 part cardamom pods; 3 parts nutmeg; 6 parts paprika

Pesach is Almost Here, Bring on the Memories

(Warning: I will be using Yiddish as this is what Pesach/Passover is all about to me)

My childhood memories of Pesach (in our house called peisach) are almost all connected to food, as I am sure most of yours are. My home was always the eye of a cleaning frenzy in the days before the festival, as sets of dishes and pots were hauled out of cupboards that had been locked for many months; pots of grape jam and peisichdikke teiglach were being prepared ahead of the chag; pcha was being contemplated, and in general, there was always an feeling of bustling activity, a smell of schmaltz, and excitement in the air.

My family’s Seders were always extravagant affairs, with the fine China that was only ever used once a year being removed from its original paper coverings and placed on very long tables that would seat dozens of relatives and friends.

Seder Table - Tel Mond 2011

My late mother would be on her feet from early morning till late night in the days before the Seder, preparing her usual gerichten (delicacies) that everyone would anticipate from year to year. They included her wonderful gefilte fish, various types of herring, chicken soup and kneidlach, tzimmes, fluamen tzimmes, brisket, pletzlach, imberlach, and more. My mother never made the controversial pcha (jellied calf’s foot, or known in Hebrew as regel krushah). My late great aunt Hessie was the pchaqueen, but I’m afraid that gray, jellied substance, afloat with slices of boiled egg, had me fleeing the table during hors d’oeuvres with a big “oy vey”!

At a Seder in possibly 1974 at Aunty Hessie's, with my cousins Anita (left), Renee (second right) and Karen (right), about to wash hands.

The joys of those family Seders – me and my cousin Renee singing the Four Questions till we were in our twenties because we were always the youngest and taking around a basin of water to all the men so they wash their hands without getting up; the bedlam that surrounded finding the afikoman and the ensuing negotiations for its safe and lucrative return – are as vivid to me today as they were then.

The result: For me, Pesach is the festival I most love. I love the atmosphere; I love the deep and meaningful symbolism that still resonates; and most of all, I love preparing the food.

Last year, I had 30+ for our Seder, and it was a delight. My approach to cooking for the Seder is to keep it as simple as possible. Cooking on Pesach is clearly a challenge. In my family, we do eat kitniot, so it makes things a little easier. Still, there are staples that just aren’t kosher for Pesach, so this is a time to be resourceful and stick to the recipes that work.

This year, I have been invited out, so I am not cooking. So while I’d love to post recipes with pictures of all I make, I’ll have to skip the pics so that I can ensure you get my Pesach favorites in time for your pre-Pesach preparation.

I’d like to share some of my typical Seder dishes with you, and I will post as many of these recipes as I can before Pesach under the new “Passover” tab on my Home Page. Some of them are recipes I’ve posted before, which are good for Pesach with minor changes. Where I have recipes that include kitniot, I will note this in the recipe.

The first recipe is for my chicken soup and kneidlach/matza balls. For me, this is how every Seder meal starts. This recipe is works well, and importantly, the soup can be cooked and frozen ahead of time. You can also make the kneidlach earlier and keep them refrigerated.

(For my US readers, here’s the OU Guide to Passover 2012/5772.)

CHICKEN SOUP (serves about 8 – depending on how hungry they are)

Ingredients 

Chicken Soup and Matza Balls

1.5-2 kg of turkey necks (or wings)

4 large carrots peeled and cut into large sections (about 4 per carrot)

One large leek cut into chunks (only the while parts)

2 parsley roots (You can also use parsnip or celery root – make sure they are peeled and cleaned very well)

1 large red pepper cut into large chunks

1 very small sweet potato peeled and cut into chunks

2 medium zucchini cut into chunks (optional)

3-5 bay leaves

Half a bunch of fresh parsley

Dill (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it 

Turkey and vegetables cooked and ready for straining

1. Place the turkey in a very large pot and add boiling water till covered. When the water comes to the boil, pour it off (this cleans all the icky bits off the turkey that you don’t want in your soup)

2. Chop up all your veggies (you can do this while the turkey is getting its first boil) and add to the pot after you’ve drained the first lot of water.

3. Add about 3 liters (pints) of boiling water to the pot. Bring to the boil and turn it down to a simmer. Cook for about 1.5 hours.

4. Drain the cooked soup through a strainer into a clean pot, setting aside the turkey, carrots and zucchini and any other vegetables you’d like to cut up to serve in the soup. Using the back of a large spoon, squeeze as many of the remaining vegetables through the sieve as you can – the red pepper and the sweet potato will give the soup great color and flavor, as will the roots, leeks and carrot (I usually take a few pieces of carrot to kvetch through into the soup for the flavor). Add about 1 cup of the turkey meat.

You can freeze this soup in air tight containers for several weeks – perfect for entertaining and planning ahead.

After the vegetables are strained into the soup, the soup takes on a rich, orange color

MATZA BALLS (KNEIDLACH) 

This recipe makes about 5 matza balls, so multiply as needed. For 8 people, I use 4 eggs.

Ingredients 

Cooking the matza balls in the soup

1 egg

1 tablespoon margarine

3 tablespoons boiling water

A pinch of ground cinnamon

A pinch of ground ginger

½ teaspoon kosher for Pesach baking powder (if you can’t get any, you can leave it out)

Salt and pepper

Matza meal (no set quantity – this is the tricky bit…)

How to do it

1. In a bowl, beat the egg well with a whisk. Add the margarine and beat it in as well as you can (it will stay lumpy but try to separate it as much as possible at this stage). Add the boiling water and whisk till the margarine has melted.Add the seasoning.

2. Slowly add the matza meal, stirring the mixture with a spoon. You need to do this slowly and in stages, as the matza meal hardens the egg mixture quite quickly and you don’t want your mixture to get hard. Once the mixture starts to be less liquidy (I know it’s not a word…) start testing the consistency by dropping spoonfuls into the bowl. As soon as it stops being runny and starts for fall from the spoon in a blob, then you are done. You will always use a slightly different quantity of matza meal because the size of the eggs varies.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour (not too much longer because you want the mixture to set but not too much.)

Cooking the matza balls

You can cook your matza balls in your soup – this gives them great flavor. If your soup pot is too full and you are making a very large quantity, you can also cook them in water. I recommend adding a few ladles of the chicken soup to the water or a tablespoon of chicken soup powder so that the matza balls don’t come out too watery.

How to do it

1. Bring the soup (or water) to the boil.

2. With wet hands (keep a bowl of water next to you) make balls about the size of gold of ping pong balls. The mixture should be quite soft and not extremely easy to work with, which is why you need to have wet hands. If the mixture is too hard, your matza balls will be hard too. Drop them into the boiling liquid one by one.

3. When they are all in the pot, continue cooking them for about 10-15 minutes.

Related articles

A Seder Table that could Split the Sea (The Jewish Hostess)

Six Charoset Recipes from all Over the World (The Jewish Hostess)

Still Cool Enough for Soup

As the deep cold of winter slips away, we leave behind us those rich and hearty winter soups that punctuate our November-February menus. But I like soup at any time of year, and even in the summer, I’m happy to serve hot soup. Still, I tend to stay away from the heavier soups like minestrone and bean in favor of the lighter vegetable soups.

Here’s one that I found in Bill Granger’s “Everyday Asian” recipe book for a beautiful corn soup. (Since buying this book, I have made several recipes from it and without fail, they’ve all been terrific, with spot on instructions, so I highly recommend this one if you like Asian dishes made easy.) It took me about 15 minutes to make the soup from start to finish (how’s that for quick?). Instead of using fresh corn as per the recipe, I used frozen, and not only was it delicious, but it cut about 10 minutes out of the prep time. And on top of it all, it’s parev!

Quick as a Flash Asian Corn Soup

This recipe calls for Mirin, which is a sweet rice wine. I was very happy to find it in my little local spice shop, which means it’s available in stores around Israel that stock Asian ingredients. But if you can’t find any or don’t have any at home, you can substitute for it by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of sugar into a half a cup of white wine and that should do the trick. In general, we love Asian flavors in my house, so I make sure I have the basic Asian ingredients in my kitchen at all times – fresh ginger and garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and now…mirin! With these in my pantry, I am ready to whip up this soup at any time and in no time, and I’m glad I can.

SUPER QUICK ASIAN CORN SOUP

Ingredients

2 tablespoons oil

8 green onions with the white and green parts separated and chopped (or one small onion finely chopped)

2 garlic cloves crushed

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

600-700 g (1½ lbs) fresh corn kernels or frozen corn

1 liter (1 quart) parev chicken soup stock

2 eggs beaten

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons mirin (or mirin substitute)

Salt and black pepper

How to do it

1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot. Add the chopped white parts of the green onion or the onion and saute until they’re soft – about 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute or two making sure not to burn the garlic.

2. Add the stock and the corn to the pot, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes till tender if you’re using fresh corn, or for about 5 minutes if you’re using frozen corn.

3. Switch off the heat and puree half the soup – I use a hand-held blender, and I puree the soup partially. Return to the heat (medium-low) and pour the eggs into the soup in a thin stream, while stirring constantly. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with sliced green onions as garnish.

Serves about 5.

The Most Outrageously Delicious Soup

I have just finished making a new recipe – Roasted Pumpkin, Chili and Coriander Soup – which I found in an old food magazine I’d schlepped back from South Africa over 10 years ago! When I tasted it I nearly cried – not because it was a disaster (I don’t publish my disasters, and I do have them) but because the flavors in this soup are just so unbelievable. The eastern flavors lift the pumpkin to new heights and bring an incredible zing into your soup bowl.

I highly recommend that you drop everything you’re doing and go out to buy the ingredients for this soup and make it now! I know this sounds obnoxiously pushy, but I can assure you that you will not regret taking my advice.

I’m not writing another word – straight to the recipe!

ROASTED PUMPKIN, CHILI AND CORIANDER SOUP

Ingredients 

Roasted Pumpkin, Chili and Coriander Soup

1½ kg (3½ lb) pumpkin, peeled and cut into even sized pieces

3 large onions peeled and quartered or sixthed (I know there’s no such word, but in my world it means cutting it into six segments – this should be a word, if quartered is one…)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic crushed

2 teaspoons of minced fresh ginger

1 green chili de-seeded and finely chopped

400 ml (13 fl oz) coconut milk (one can)

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 teaspoons fish sauce (½ teaspoon salt, only if you can’t find fish sauce)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh chopped coriander leaves

How to do it

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

2. Line a roasting pan with baking paper and drizzle with olive oil just to cover. Place the pumpkin and onions on the tray and season with salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, turning over the pumpkin once in the middle, until the pumpkin is cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, add the olive oil and saute the chili for a minute over medium heat. Then add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute or two, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add the coconut milk and stock. Mix, turn off the heat, cover the pot and remove from the hot plate. Leave the pot for a few minutes so the flavors can infuse with the stock and coconut milk.

4. Remove the vegetables from the oven (removing the very top layer of each onion piece as they are usually papery) and transfer into the stock pot, pouring any juices into the pot that have accumulated in the pan. Add the sugar and fish sauce and mix. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat, allowing the soup to simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.

5. Add the coriander and allow the soup to cool down for a few minutes. Then liquidize the soup till smooth.

Serves 6-8

Tu Bishvat is Coming: Let’s Start with Soup

As someone who loves to cook, Tu Bishvat, coming up on February 8 this year, is more than just “The New Year of the Trees”. I love the directive to eat the fruits of the Land of Israel, particularly those that are singled out in the Torah. The beautiful verses of Deuteronomy 8:7-9 say “For the Lord your God is bringing you to a good land, a land with brooks of water, fountains and depths, that emerge in valleys and mountains, a land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil producing olives and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, you will lack nothing in it…” are so poetic and inspire me.

This week I’ll be sharing recipes I’ve come up with that include some of the seven species of the Land of Israel that we should eat at on this day, the species that have always exemplified the fertility of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. As time has moved on, Israel has become a global center of agricultural excellence and since the days of our forefathers, we’ve emerged as a leading innovator and developer of some wonderful new species of fruits and vegetables. This week’s recipes celebrate Israel’s rich and wonderful growing tradition that began in the days of the Torah.

Barley, Mushroom, Bean and Leek Soup

Barley is one of the seven species. With Tu Bishvat falling in the cold days of mid-winter, a steaming pot of hearty barely soup is the perfect start to a Tu Bishvat meal. As with many soups, you can really have fun with this recipe and add any additional vegetables you like.

BARLEY, MUSHROOM, BEAN AND LEEK SOUP

Ingredients

1½ cup pearl barley

1½ cup navy beans (small white beans or any small beans you like)

3 cloves garlic crushed

1 bay leaf

1 leek chopped

3 medium carrots diced

3 stalks of celery diced

10-15 mushrooms chopped

2 large ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

2 liters (2 quarts) parev chicken soup stock

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it

1. Rinse the beans and barley and in a large pot, soak the beans and barley overnight  in water (make sure you have at least 3 times the amount of water than the beans and barley. Remove any beans that have floated to the top.).

2. Drain the water and add more cold water – about 3 times the amount of water than the beans and barley. Add the garlic and bay leaf and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until both the beans and the barley are soft. (Most of the water will cook away and you’ll be left with a very porridgey mixture – don’t worry.)

2. Add the leeks, carrots, mushrooms, parsley and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Then add the tomato, parsley and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for another 15 minutes.

This will make a nice big pot of soup that will easily feed 10. If the soup is too heavy, you can dilute it with some additional chicken stock.

Serve with thick slices of whole wheat bread to add to the Tu Bishvat experience.

Another Hearty Winter Soup: Salmon Chowder

I’m not a big fan of canned food and there are only a few products for which I am prepared to reach for the can opener. One of them is canned salmon. I can’t say that I love the icky bits inside a can of salmon, but this recipe for a salmon chowder makes the effort to separate the salmon from the yuck worth your while. And since I don’t often make fish because Israel isn’t a great fish country, this is a good way to get a fish dish on the table.

This is a diary soup, and I’ve never tried it with non-dairy substitutes because I’m not sure it will turn out well. But if you decide to try it and it works, please do let me know. But there are enough occasions that call for dairy, and this will impress.

SALMON CHOWDER

Ingredients 

Salmon Chowder

2 cans pink salmon flaked (remove all skin and bones)

2 cups frozen corn

1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped

2 red peppers fine chopped

1 onion finely chopped

4 medium-sized potatoes cubed into bite sized pieces and par boiled for 5 minutes (bring potatoes to the boil in a pot of water and let simmer for 5 minutes or until a fork can pierce the potatoes. Drain.)

2 tablespoons of oil or butter

2 tablespoons flour

5 cups milk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsely

Salt and black pepper

How to do it

1. In a large pot, heat the oil/butter and saute the onion, peppers and jalapeno pepper until soft and the onions are translucent.

2. Stir the flour into the vegetables and then the milk. Cook and stir for a few minutes until it starts thickening slightly.

3. Add the par boiled potatoes, salmon, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook it through until hot. If it’s too thick, you can add a little parev chicken stock till you get the desired consistency.

Serves about 6.