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Jan 2014 19

Everyone knows about the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Well, here is his infamous soup (or at least, my dad’s version of it). It’s a major upgrade from the usual Friday night chicken soup. Little bits of ground beef and lentils float around and give the broth a little bit of “chew”.  The cayenne gives it plenty of kick – start with the smaller amount, then taste and add more, as much as you can handle. Sometimes I serve this with cilantro matzo balls (which are just regular matzo balls with lots of fresh chopped cilantro in them). But to tell you the truth, it doesn’t need the extras.

You will need:

1 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp ground beef
3 tbsp tiny red lentils
3 tbsp yellow split peas
10 cups chicken stock
¼ tsp – ½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp curry powder
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
4 peppercorns
1 star anise
Pinch saffron
salt to taste
½ c chopped cilantro

In a large soup pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and sauté until browned. Add the lentils, split peas and chicken stock, then turn heat down to medium-low. Stir in the curry powder and cayenne pepper.

Using a small square of cheesecloth, make a bouquet garnis (sort of a makeshift tea bag) with the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and anise. Add the bouquet garnis to the soup and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally as the lentils often travel to the bottom of the pot and stick there.  Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the bouquet garnis.

Using your fingers, crush the saffron in the palm of your hand, being careful not to lose any.  Add the saffron to the soup and season with salt if needed.  When serving, give the pot a good stir to ensure that every bowl will have a small amount of lentils and ground beef in the broth. Garnish each bowl with a generous sprinkling of cilantro.

Serves 8

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Jan 2014 19

When it comes to chollent, I prefer to take the easiest route possible. And it makes sense – after spending 3 days shopping, prepping, cooking and baking up a fantastic Shabbos dinner, the last thing I want to do is to make another big production out of lunch. When the time comes to put together a chollent, I don’t even want to cut up onions or brown my meat – I throw it in frozen – that’s how lazy I get. I’ve been tweaking my personal chollent recipe for 5 years, and I’m now satisfied that it’s both as easy and as delicious as can be. The result is kind of a cross between ashkenazi chollent and Moroccan dafina.

Bear in mind that this is a recipe for the type of “little of this, handful of that” cooking that doesn’t easily translate into cups and tablespoons. As such, its success depends on a variety of factors – especially when it comes down to the all-important liquid/solid ratio. Some prefer a soupy (aka “spoony”) chollent, while others go for a “forky” consistency. After your first go at it, you may find that you need to adjust the amount of water based on your particular preferences/crockpot/chollent start time. Anyway, the whole process of throwing this together takes no more than four minutes – baruch Hashem!

You will need:

3/4 c barley
3/4 c wheat berries (aka hard wheat or soft wheat)
1/2 c dried chickpeas
about 675 g (1 1/2 lbs) flanken or beef cheek meat
1 medium red-skinned potato, cubed (no need to peel)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 beef marrow bone

2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp garlic powder

1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tbsp hot hungarian paprika (or regular paprika with some cayenne pepper added)
1 tsp pepper
dash cinnamon

2 tbsp honey
1 bottle beer (I use a dark ale – not that I know anything about beer)
approximately 6 c water (for a soupier chollent use about 8 cups)

1. Place all of the dry ingredients into a slow-cooker, layering each ingredient in the order they appear in the recipe. In other words, you should have a layer of grains/beans, a layer of meat, and a layer of potatoes and marrow bones. Throw the spices on top, then pour the honey and beer over everything. Add about 6-8 cups of water, or simply fill the pot until everything is covered with 1-2 inches of water.

2. Set the crockpot to low, and leave it to cook about 24 hours in total. (If the meat goes in frozen, then either set the crockpot to high for a few hours and then turn it down to low just before Shabbos, or start your chollent in the morning.)

Serves 6

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Sep 2010 27

Every year during Sukkos time, we enjoy the same drama: families huddle inside a flimsy outdoor hut, eating, drinking and praying the wind won’t send their schach tumbling down the street. Although this is tons of fun, the weather is cold, and it is often rainy and/or windy. This is why, in my mind, the Sukkos menu begs for a soup course. There’s no comfort we need more, camping outside in the fall, than a piping hot bowl of yummy.

Pho is a great option because, like Sukkos, it is social – meant to be shared among friends and family. It is also lots of fun. A platter of fresh herbs and vegetables is placed in the middle of the table. Everyone is encouraged to mix and match, filling their bowls with colourful ingredients, assembling their own unique combinations. Then, the fun part: boiling hot broth is ladled into each bowl, cooking all of the ingredients in under a minute. (Note that this makes it an appropriate meal for chol hamoed or yontiv, but not for Shabbos.)

If you cannot get beef broth, you can easily make some by simmering beef chuck, marrow bones and onions in lots of water for 3 hours. This is preferable, but if you’re strapped for time you can cheat and simmer a few beef-flavoured boullion cubes in chicken stock for a quick faux beef broth. I promise I won’t tell. :-)

You will need:

1/3 lb flank steak, london broil, or sirloin

6-7 c. beef broth
5 whole cloves
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
juice of 1 lime
salt, to taste

230g (1/2 lb) rice noodles, cooked and drained

plus any number of the following “fillings” (try to include at least 4 or 5 choices):

1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 c mint, chopped
1/4 c basil, chopped
1/4 c green onions, thinly sliced
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c bean sprouts
1/4 c kohlrabi, thinly sliced or grated (on the large holes)
1/4 c baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1/4 c shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 c enoki mushrooms

Place the steak in the freezer (you want to leave it there for 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the beef broth, cloves and ginger to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, about 30 minutes. Remove 1/4 c of the broth into a cup or bowl, and whisk in the hoisin sauce. Add this back to the rest of the broth. Add the lime juice and salt, to taste.

Remove the steak from the freezer. Slice the beef across the grain, as thinly as humanly possible. Set aside.

Take out 4 soup bowls and divide the rice noodles among them. Assemble the rest of the ingredients on a platter, including the raw beef.

To serve, heat the broth. Give each person a bowl of noodles and have them assemble their own combinations of vegetables, herbs and beef. When the broth is at a rolling boil (i.e., going crazy), bring the pot to the table and immediately ladle enough scorching hot broth into each bowl to cover all of the ingredients.

Let the soup rest for a minute (to allow the beef to cook) before digging in.

Serves 4.

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Jul 2010 28

Curry puffs are a popular snack food in Malaysia, Thailand and India. Their bland name does not quite describe their wide appeal. Think: hot, dry ground meat or potato, so spicy it could pickle your tongue, hidden within a pocket of flaky, light, and ever-so-slightly chewy puff pastry. This version uses crumbled beef, and is baked to produce a light crust.

If you’ve ever had a Jamaican beef patty (and, having grown up secular in Toronto, I have had many), this is similar, but dare I say better – the pastry is flakier, more tender than its tough yellow Jamaican counterpart. These puffs are great at room temperature, which is why I often make them as a side for Shabbos lunch. You can also do mini versions for festive hors d’oeuvres.

I prefer to use the folded-up frozen puff pastry you have to thaw and roll out, as the pre-cut squares tend to stick together and get misshapen. But this is your call.

You will need:

1 lb lean ground beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cumin
up to 2 tbsp cayenne pepper or schug (chili compote)
1 tsp salt

1 pkg frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
1/4 c all-purpose flour (for dusting)
1 egg, beaten with a little water

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they become glassy.

Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and cumin. Lightly stir-fry them for a second, then add the beef. Brown the beef, stirring constantly, and continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated. Add the cayenne pepper or schug slowly, tasting as you go, until you’ve achieved your desired heat level (it should be as hot as you can stand)! Season with the salt and remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Dust your work surface and your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the puff pastry dough (try to keep its square shape intact) until it is about as thin as a graham cracker. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 9 squares.

Place about 1 tbsp of the curried beef into the center of each pastry square. Dip your finger or a pastry brush into water, and use it to moisten the edges of a square. Fold the square in half (rectangle, triangle, whichever you prefer) and use your fingers to firmly seal and crimp the edges. Repeat with the remaining squares until you have 9 beautiful little curry babies.

Use a pastry brush to give the puffs a nice egg wash (top side only), then make a small slit in the top of each with a knife, to let the steam escape.

Arrange the curry puffs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until they are puffy and golden. Meanwhile, you can scoop up any leftover beef with a handful of tortilla chips and wash it down with something ice-cold and alcoholic.

Serves 6.

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May 2010 26

This aromatic brisket may be the most tender you will ever have. Forget about leathery, tough slivers of beef – this is so soft you may not even be able to slice it properly, but at any rate, it will fall apart in your mouth, guaranteed.

It is known also as the Wednesday Brisket because, if you’re making this for Shabbos, you start it on Wednesday night. But don’t let that put you off – it is so simple to prepare that it doesn’t feel like cooking at all. And really, it’s not! You just throw everything into your chollent pot (slow-cooker) before bed and let it simmer through the night.

When you wake up the next morning, with the most mouth-watering smell permeating your home, you simply plop the brisket into a baking dish, sauce and all, and leave it in the fridge for the rest of the day. That rest time gives the meat a chance to really soak up the flavours and become even more tender.

Then, on Friday morning, it’s just a matter of slicing the brisket and simmering the sauce a little bit on the stovetop. And that’s really it!

Tender, flavourful, spicy brisket… you’re welcome. :-)

You will need:

1 large double brisket (about 4-6 lbs)
2 small onions, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 c water or chicken stock

1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp hot paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch saffron threads, crushed
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

Wednesday night:

Place the brisket in a chollent pot and cover it with all of the other ingredients (except for the parsley). Put the lid on and set it to low heat (it should cook for about 8 hours). Then go to sleep and dream about beef!

Thursday morning:

Transfer the brisket to a baking dish. If there are large deposits of fat on the meat, trim them off now while the brisket is hot. Pour all of the juices into the baking dish too, then cover with plastic wrap and put the brisket in the fridge. Then get on with your day and daydream about beef!

Thursday night:

Do nothing. Ha!

Friday, any time before Shabbos:

Use a spoon to remove the solidified fat from the surface of the sauce.

Transfer the brisket carefully onto a cutting board and slice against the grain. It may fall apart a little bit, because, like I said, it is seriously tender. (Trust me, nobody will complain.)

Transfer the juices to a saucepan or a pot, and simmer, about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened a little.

Carefully transfer the brisket slices back into the baking dish, then pour the sauce back over the meat. Cover and warm through in the oven just before serving. Garnish the brisket with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

Makes 6-8 servings.

© Shaby Heltay, 2010