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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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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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Jun 2010 17

Lime rice, fraternal twin sister to lemon rice, is a staple side dish in many south Indian households. Tangy, yellow-tinged basmati rice is dotted with crunchy mustard seeds, gently roasted almonds and cilantro like fresh, colourful confetti. For a variation, try roasted, unsalted peanuts in place of the almonds. Lime rice pairs refreshingly with spiced ground lamb, either formed into kabobs and grilled, or stir-fried loose, and piled high into lettuce cups.

You will need:

2 c. basmati rice
2 ¾ c. water
½ tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp salt

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds (any type; black are stronger-flavoured, yellow more mild)
½ tsp turmeric
¼ c. whole unsalted almonds
¼ c. lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

In a medium-sized pot, bring the water, ½ tsp vegetable oil and salt to boil. Meanwhile, rinse the rice well in cold water, until the water no longer appears cloudy. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water, cover, then turn the heat down to low. When the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes), turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork.

In a larger non-stick pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and the mustard seeds – they should shimmer in the oil. Keep stirring to roast the almonds evenly. Just when the mustard seeds begin to snap, crackle and pop, whisk in the turmeric, remove the pot from the heat, and whisk in the lime juice and zest.
Add the cooked rice and toss to coat. Stir the chopped cilantro into the rice just before serving.

If you are making this ahead of time (e.g., for Shabbos), then stir in an extra squirt or two of lime juice immediately before serving, along with the cilantro. (Often, when the rice is reheated, the lime flavour dissipates. Adding more lime juice just before serving will revive it, and adding the cilantro at the last second will keep it from wilting.)

Serves 4-6

© Shaby Heltay, 2010

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Apr 2010 18

I love light, custardy desserts. I love caramel-y desserts. I also love individually plated, pretty “presentation” desserts. Ergo, I love creme caramel – a light, smooth, egg-rich custard bathed in a pool of bittersweet caramel – and it tastes amazing even when “pareved”!

This dessert can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge. I made them in those little disposable aluminum tart shells, but you could just as easily use proper ramekins. I had initially tried this with saffron, but found that the dominant flavour of the caramel cancelled out any saffron taste – a waste if you ask me, considering the fact that saffron is the most expensive spice ever!

Creme caramel ranks about a medium in terms of the level of skill required. The custard part is easy, but making caramel can be tricky. A word of caution. Do not attempt to make the caramel when there are distractions around – curious kids, other things on the stove, etc. ESPECIALLY do not make the caramel with children around! Hot sugar is a gajillion times hotter than boiling water and any contact with skin can leave you scarred for life. (Have I freaked you out yet?)

Don’t be scared, just be organized about it. Clear off your countertops, get your little ramekins lined up. Then, when you are ready to tackle the caramel, put the dog in the basement and stick the kid(s) in the playpen or somewhere else where they can’t escape for 20 minutes. Turn your phones off, pull on some long rubber gloves and make sure your arms aren’t exposed. And NEVER add ANYTHING to the sugar once it has turned into liquid caramel, or it will explode in a very bad way! Hot sugar is scary stuff, you guys! (But when it’s done safely, oh, is it ever worth it!)

While the caramel is cooling, you can get on with the custard (but don’t let the kids roam free again until the caramel is cool).

You will need:

12 ramekins or mini pie shells

1 1/2 c sugar for the caramel

8 eggs
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 c soy milk (vanilla favoured is fine)
3/4 c coconut milk
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp ground cardamom – or 8 whole cardamom pods

To make the caramel, put the sugar into a medium stainless steel pot (preferably one with a long handle) over high heat. Using a long wooden spoon, stir the sugar continuously. After a few minutes, the sugar will start to clump together – that’s how you’ll know it’s working. Keep on stirring, and eventually the sugar will begin to liquify. When the sugar is all liquid, and starts to give off some colour, turn the heat down to meduim and keep stirring until the sugar is a rich golden/light amber colour. Then take the sugar off the heat and pour a little bit – quickly and carefully! – into the bottom of each ramekin, enough to coat the bottoms with caramel.

Then put the pot down, either on the floor or somewhere it won’t be touched or knocked over. After about 15 minutes it will have cooled and you can fill the pot halfway with water and set it on simmer – all of the hard candy will easily dissolve and cleanup will be a cinch!

Hooray, you’ve just made caramel! Give yourself a pat on the back – that was no easy feat! Now you can relax, and leave it all to cool while you get started on the custard.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. In a pot, whisk together the soy milk, coconut milk, water and cardamom (if you’re using whole pods, bruise them by crushing them a little with the back of a spoon), and place on meduim heat to heat up gently. Keep an eye on it, as soy milk tends to curdle with too much heat.

When the milk begins to steam, remove it from the heat and whisk it into the egg mixture. Then strain this mixture into a large measuring cup, pitcher or bowl. This will ensure that your custard has an even texture and a smooth mouthfeel.

Preheat the oven to 320F. Pour the custard into the ramekins (you can fill them almost to the rim if you have enough).

Prepare a water bath by arranging the ramekins in a large baking/roasting pan (you may need to bake them in batches if your baking pan is not big enough to hold all of them). Then carefully pour water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 25-35 minutes. The custard will still be slightly jiggly when done, but it shouldn’t look liquidy. Allow the custards to cool and chill them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them.

To serve, loosen the custards by running a knife along the edges. Place a dessert plate upside-down over a ramekin and invert it, then give the ramekin a little jiggle on the plate to release the custard. All you need as garnish is a fresh berry or two – or just serve, as you may prefer, au naturel.

Makes 12.

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Apr 2010 13

Many Indian recipes call for a highly flavourful spice mixture (masala) known as garam masala. Garam masalas vary from region to region and from chef to chef. There is no single standard formula, but the general idea is that all of the spices blend together evenly and harmoniously – no single spice stands out as a prominent flavour.

The following is my father’s garam masala recipe, and can be used in any dish calling for garam masala. Ideally, you would use whole spices and grind them up together in a small coffee grinder. But, since we don’t live in an ideal world, it’s fine to use pre-ground spices and just mix them together. (Let’s not be too hard on ourselves.) And, of course, I’ll show you how you can use your masala (after the recipe).

You will need:

2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp anise seed (if available)

Mix and/or grind spices together and store in an airtight container or a ziplock bag.

Makes about 8 tbsp of masala

Now, what to do with your freshly prepared garam masala, you ask? Why, make a curry, of course! I suggest you try a cauliflower curry using the method and recipe in a brief introduction to curries. Just use fresh, cut-up cauliflower florets in place of the chickpeas, and cover the pot to steam the cauliflower when you add it to the spices. I like to tear up pieces of whole wheat tortillas (a fab stand-in for chapati) and use it to scoop up the curry. (In this case, I will gleefully eat with my hands.)

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Mar 2010 22

It’s that time of year again! The harried quest for a delicious, kosher-for-Passover menu is on. Luckily, one of my favourite desserts (which, hooray, is pareve!) just happens to be great for Pesach, and it’s easy and exotic to boot. I love the way the ginger in this ice cream offers a sharp, slightly spicy balance to the rich sweetness of the mango. This would be perfect as a light and refreshing dessert, just when you need that little pick-me-up before bentching at the end of a long, heavy seder.

You will need:

12 eggs, cleanly separated
1 c sugar, divided
1 c + 1 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive!)
2 ripe mangoes, peeled & diced – you want a heaping cup of diced fruit
scant 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
pinch salt

Start by throwing the egg yolks and half a cup of the sugar into a blender or food processor, along with the oil, mangoes, ginger, and salt. Blend the mixture until the mango has been thoroughly pureed and everything is smooth.

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a very large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they are thick and foamy. Add the remaining half cup of sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the mango mixture into the egg white mixture with a whisk until it is more or less incorporated. Pour this into two 9 x 13 baking pans (I use the disposable aluminum ones for Passover) and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place immediately into the coldest part of your freezer, and allow the ice cream to set, about 6 hours.

To serve, just scoop the ice cream right out of the pan. Bejewel your dessert with a few bright red pomegranate seeds or simply dust the tops with a little shredded coconut.

Makes 10-12 servings

Have a Chag Kosher v’Sameach!

 

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