Tbit – Iraqi Cholent


According to religious laws of Judaism, Saturday is a day of complete rest. This is a day when an observant person should spend time with his/her family (and, naturally, pray in the temple). No work is allowed whatsoever. One could only imagine the challenges such a life style may impose on a housewife that needs to feed the family. That’s why Friday morning is the busiest day in a traditional Jewish family’ kitchen. Food needs to be prepared for the whole weekend and the deadline is very clear.

To make things even more complicated, lighting a fire is considered a “work” from the traditional perspective (to understand this one needs to think of a historical angle, when people had to chop wood and bring it into the house in order to start a fire for cooking). Since eating “cold cuts” only on Saturday is not the best possible idea (to say the least), a tradition of “slow cooking” on a low heat that remains open throughout the whole day (this way the work required to start it takes place before Saturday, and there is no dedicated work during Saturday to maintain it). The variety of dishes prepared this way is huge, as different Jewish communities have taken local cuisine and adjusted it to their constraints, but all of them have the same goal – provide a warm meal for observant families on Saturday.

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The idea for this recipe has appeared in a magazine review of traditional recipes by various Jewish communities. It comes from Iraq. It’s a chicken roasted with rice in the oven all night long. When I first read about it, the whole story sounded a bit surreal, since usually, chicken is roasted for about an hour, and rice is cooked after 20 minutes. The result is surprisingly delicious, and has this “home cooking” atmosphere. All of the ingredients are simple and available.

Ingredients:

Whole chicken (ask your butcher to remove the skeleton, but leave the chicken whole)
2 glasses of long rice (basmati, persian or khimshali)
4 tomatoes, grated with a fine grater
1 large onion, grated as well
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1.5 tbsp. of baharat (*) spices mixture
1 tsp. dried mint
Salt, Pepper
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 glasses of chicken stock or water

* Baharat is a mixture that can contain: cloves, cinnamon, English pepper, black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom and coriander seeds. In Iraqi version, cumin is added as well.

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Mediterranean Cold Eggplant Soup


Spring is coming, gradually bringing warm weather, and this means that its time to update the menu and replace “heavy” winter soups with light and cold summer ones. Here’s one based on eggplants. Making this soup is very quick and if the weather suddenly becomes less warm than anticipated, it can actually be served hot as well.

The tastes combination is classically Mediterranean – eggplants, mint, goat yogurt and chili peppers….

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Ingredients:

(For 6 regular soup-bowls or 16 small servings, like the one illustrated above)

3 large eggplants (or 500 grams of grilled eggplant “flesh”)
500 ml. goat yogurt
500 ml. water
2 garlic cloves
100 gr. goat cheese – similar to non-aged/young Sainte-Maure
1/2 chili pepper
Mint leaves (amount can be varied, roughly take half-a-bunch or mint branches)
Salt, Pepper

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Russian Beef Stew with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine and Vegetables


Here’s a very nice variation on Russian beef stew. It is very light and could serve as a great dish on every table.

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Ingredients:

1.5 kg beef
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Some flour
1 large onion
20 gr. dried Porcini mushrooms
1 bottle dry white wine
5 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
water (or vegetable broth)

Preparation:

Cut the meat into cubes (approximately 2 x 2 x 2 centimeters). Cut the onion into half-rings. Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl and pour a glass of boiling water on them.

Warm up the frying pan, heat the vegetable oil, add onion and thyme and fry. When ready, remove the content of the frying pan.

Roll the meat cubes in flour. The best technique to do this is in a plastic bag – put a couple of tablespoons of floor in, add some meat cubes close and shake vigorously to reach the desired effect.

When ready start frying the meat cubes on high heat (not all of them together – better to do that in small portions). Afterwards, add back the onion and thyme, pour in the wine and bring to boiling.

In the meantime, squeeze the mushrooms to remove extra liquids and chop them into small parts. Add both the mushroom parts and the water squeezed from the mushrooms into the pan containing the meat. Then top up with the additional water (or vegetable stock) to cover the “barely” cover the meat with liquids. Add salt and pepper, bring to boiling and then simmer over low heat for 2-2.5 hours.

As a garnish for this dish I would recommend some simple oven-baked vegetables.

1 cauliflower
1 large sweet potato
1 large onion
2 small zucchini
3 branches of thyme
10 garlic cloves
Salt (better use coarse)
2 tbsp. olive oil

Dismantle the cauliflower into florets, coarsely slice other vegetables (important – leave the garlic cloves intact). Add some salt, pour in the oil and mix by hands. Bake in the oven on 200C for approximately 40 minutes until the vegetables are ready.

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If you liked this recipe, check out other related recipes:

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Roast Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Olives


This is a “festive” version of the daily oven-roasted chicken. Yesterday all my cooking was very impulsive, and this dish has actually began as a plan for a fried chicken. But while I was doing other things, the day was almost over, and the main dish was still missing. So, I quickly grabbed “literally” first things that came into my mind from the refrigerator, mixed them all together and “threw” them into the oven. The result was, actually, quite awesome….

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Ingredients:

6 chicken “quarters”
Some cherry tomatoes
750 gr. Mushroom
10 large black olives (Kalamata olives or Thassos olives)*
2 rosemary branches
Salt
2 tbsp Olive oil

The process:

The chicken portions could be cut into further halves, if needed. Cherry tomatoes need to be washed thoroughly. Mushrooms can be just wiped with a damp cloth and cut into halves. Remove leaves from rosemary branches.

The reasons why I insist on Kalamata or Thassos olives is a very special spicy and sour flavor they add to the dish. This is exactly the “twist” we’re looking for here to turn an otherwise “everyday” dish into something more unique and memorable.

In case you can’t get these kinds of olives anywhere, try to pour some lemon juice over the chicken and add some chili. You will get a slightly different twist, but still you will get a memorable experience.

Put the chicken parts into the baking form, add cherry tomatoes, olives and mushrooms on top,  “sprinkle” with rosemary, salt and pour some olive oil.

Tightly cover with foil and bake for 1 hour at the highest temperature. Then remove the foil and shake the form lightly to cover the upper part of the meat with the “juice”. Bake 20 more minutes on the grill until golden brown.

Optionally, you can add some potato slices, putting them below the chicken portions, and then get the both the main dish and the garnish with minimal effort.

Before serving, “sprinkle” with green leaves previously removed from the rosemary branches and you’re done!

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Did you like this recipe? Do you think that you are going to cook it anytime soon? Have you already tried it?

Please leave us comments about your experience…..