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Mulberries…the ‘super’ spring berry

Although June is now upon us, the Galilee still bears the beauty of spring, with the lush green hills, the wild flowers still in bloom and trees laden with the new seasons crop.

The spring harvest has begun in the Golan, Northern Israel and fruit picking is a family outing,  picking the berries and cherries that laden the trees in these lovely late spring early summer months, before the real heat hits hard.

Mulberries, a superfood in its own right through its high Vitamin C content and antioxidant properties, deck the trees with their ripe red fruit with a deep purple hue, ready for turning into jam, chutney or dark red sorbet.

mulberry sorbet

mulberry sorbet

recipe: mulberry sorbet

  • 750g washed, fresh mulberries
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 250mls water
  • 1/2 juice of lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) or elderflower cordial
  • mint or edible flowers for garnish

put the caster sugar, water & lemon juice in a pan
bring to the boil & simmer for a few minutes until all the sugar has dissolved
remove from the hob to cool completely
place the mulberries in food processor & puree until a pulp, add cassis or elderflower, if using add puree to sugar syrup, mix well then chill in refrigerator for 6-8 hours
churn mixture in an ice cream maker, following instructions for sorbet
put back in freezer & serve with mint or edible flowers as garnish…..

 

 

dedicated to the humble chickpea….

hummous....the Middle Eastern self starter....

hummous….the Middle Eastern self starter….

May 13th is marked on the calendar as International Hummous Day,  a whole day dedicated to the humble chickpea. A popular dip throughout Israel and the Middle East, hummous has recently been elevated to becoming one of Israel’s ‘national foods’, appearing on menus in restaurants and cafe’s throughout the country.

Chickpeas are legumes and rich in nutrients. They are considered to be a popular source of vitamins and minerals in the diet of both vegetarians and vegans. It popularity follows the dietary laws of Kashrut and therefore hummous can be eaten with both meat and milk meals.

Hummous is directly translated from the Arabic meaning ‘chickpeas’ a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine dating back to ancient times, although widely used in stews and tagines, rather than as a cold dip.

Hummous in it’s simplest form is made from cooked, mashed chickpeas and combined with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and salt,  however, many combinations of spices can be added for extra flavour with cumin, coriander or smoked paprika being the most popular and garnishes including whole chickpeas, pinenuts, flat leaf parsley or paprika.  Other versions include using fava beans or broad beans instead of chickpeas and adding beetroot, green olives and sun-dried tomatoes for colour and texture. Sumac and za’atar are also used sprinkled on top to enhance the Middle Eastern flavour.

Hummous is part of the culture of Israel and equally as popular amongst the Israeli Jews and Arabs alike. Throughout the country there are restaurants dedicated to the humble chickpea and even tours throughout Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to find the best tasting plates of hummous, made from traditional recipes handed down through the generations of the eclectic cuisines of Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘foodography’ the genre of food art…..

The Grand Kitchen by Shoeb Faruquee

The Grand Kitchen by Shoeb Faruquee

From a highly competitive market, the judges of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Awards sifted through 7000 images and films entered this year. Andy Macdonald, director of Pink Lady® in the UK said “the competition was intensely fierce and the standard was phenomenal” as he announced this years overall winner Mark Benham, who captured the immense fun and art of baking, with ‘flour frenzy’.

At a culinary star studded reception in the Mall Galleries, London, on Tuesday 28th April 2016, journalist and food critic, Jay Rayner took to the stage to compere and announce the winners of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Awards.

The Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year, now in its fifth year, is recognised as the world’s leading celebration of the art of food photography, attracting fierce competition worldwide.

The winner of Best Food for Celebration category was won by Shoeb Faruquee from Bangladesh, with his stunning image of The Grand Kitchen, portraying a frenetic scene of chefs in a hot, steamy kitchen preparing for a wedding feast.

Israel’s most well known food photographer Dan Peretz, entered the competition with his Still Life in Pears into the Food Sn-apping category, a photography that was worthy of a commendation by the judges.

Still Life in Pears

Still Life in Pears by Dan Peretz

Highly respected throughout Israel, Dan Peretz has photographed stunning images of food for newspapers, cookbooks and magazines, as well as joining forces with Carmel Winery and Chef Meir Adoni to create ‘foodography’ a food photography workshop in Catit, Chef Adoni’s renowned restaurant in Tel Aviv. The idea came from the continuous ‘snapping’ of food plates in high class restaurants on customers mobile phones, so together with ceramic designer Adi Nissani who created stunning tableware for the workshop, the culinary experience of ‘foodography’ was created.

For further information: http://foodography.co.il

the green gems of spring….

green almonds of spring

green almonds of spring

With Spring in full bloom, the Galilee is a place of beauty with wild flowers cascading through the lush green hills, the smell of the citrus in the air and the white blossoms have fallen to the ground, to make way for the first fruits.

May heralds the beginning of the elusive fresh, green almond, a misunderstood nut that is grown in Northern Israel and throughout the Middle East. South of Nazareth in the Lower Galilee is the Arab village of Iksal, famous for their almond groves and the abundant harvests of a special strain of almond called Um al-Fahem. unique not only in it’s size and taste but also for it’s extra soft skin. These almonds are sold as fair trade and known to be amogst the best in Israel.

Delicate in both flavour and texture, the young, unripe nuts are picked whilst the outer skin remains light green and furry, well before the hard brown shell of the almond has had the chance to form. Inside the light olive green casing is a smooth, soft, white almond with a subtle, grassy flavour.

They can be eaten both whole as a sour fruit, due to the tart flesh, shelled and dipped into lemon juice or olive oil for extra flavour or simply plain and scattered into salads, raw and whole, lightly toasted or even sliced thinly, furry skin and all, adding a new dimension and texture to any already fresh, vibrant salad.

These understated translucent spring gems have a short season, before the almond hardens and the green shell turns a brown and is sold in the Israeli markets in the sacksful.

fresh almonds

fresh brown skinned almonds

recipe: wild watercress & green almond salad

  • 1 x bunch wild watercress, bought at an Arab market sliced
  • a  handful of fresh green almonds, either sliced in skins or peeled & left whole
  • 1 x onion, sliced thin or diced small
  • 1 x sweet red pepper & 1 sweet yellow pepper, cut into strips
  • juice of lemon
  • 1/2 cup best quality olive oil
  • 1 x teaspoon cumin
  • 2 x teaspoon sumac

mix the watercress, onions, peppers together in a large salad bowl
mix the lemon juice & olive oil with salt & pepper
sprinkle half of the sumac and cumin over the salad & mix well
add the green almonds & sprinkle the remaining sumac over the top & serve…..

wild watercress & green almond salad

wild watercress & green almond salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s a wonderful, culinary world out there…..

Eyal Shani's deconstructed apple crumble, served on his signature dish.....cardboard

Eyal Shani’s deconstructed apple crumble, served on his ‘signature dish’…..cardboard….

I have two passions in life….food and Israel….but not necessarily in that order…

Israel Good Food Guide is my way of combining my enthusiasm for both and giving you a taste of the eclectic cuisine of Israel, through news, reviews and delicious pictures of plates of art.

With tips on where to buy and eat wonderful produce, both on and off the beaten track, great recipes to try and recommendations for experiencing the coffee culture, culinary tours and workshops, you will see for yourself how exciting the food of Israel really is.

I will introduce you to great restaurants as well as the inspirational chefs and creators of  exquisite food, so join me in meeting the ‘foodies’ of this wonderful, diverse culinary world.

food culture in the galilee…..

local ingredients laid out in preparation for cooking

local ingredients laid out in preparation for cooking

Israel has an eclectic population with diverse cultures; however food is a culture that can be experienced by all.

Israel’s northern region is a beautiful mountainous range, separated and known as the upper and lower Galilee. A lush land full of food that has matured from small beginnings into the fruit bearing trees, vines, wild herbs and edible flowers synonymous with the area and grown, foraged and picked by the locals for its freshness, taste and nutritional value.

A world apart from the culinary capital of Tel Aviv where highly acclaimed chefs produce gourmet food as works of art on the plate, the food from the north is rustic, homely and cooked straight from the ground.

Eyal Shanis freekeh from Port Said

Eyal Shanis freekeh from Port Said

Galileat, the brainchild of an Australian chef, Paul Nirens, who moved to the north of Israel over 30 years ago. Paul trained in one of Israel’s leading culinary schools before managing commercial kitchens in a competitive profession. Whilst selling locally crafted gourmet foods, he found an opportunity in the untapped market of intercultural activities in the Galilee, through food.

Based on the model of culinary workshops in Europe, Galileat evolved, not as a food tour but by selling a cultural meeting through food of the land. The idea was for tourists and Israelis alike to interact with the people of the Galilee, through cooking workshops in the homes of the local population. Christian, Druze Muslim and Jewish hosts were found and welcomed the initiative of Galileat to show off their skills in cooking as well as to earn money for their family.

Most of the produce for the workshops is ‘baladi’ translated as ‘my land’ in Arabic, a term meaning grown in traditional ways and not industrially produced. In England we call the produce ‘ugly’ and unfortunately considered unsellable to supermarkets, but in Northern Israel, it is wild and full of flavour and therefore considered to be the best.

local baladi cultivated, organic aubergines

local baladi cultivated, organic aubergines

The menus consist only of authentic, seasonal local food, using as many vegetables, grains, herbs and spices that the host can find on the day and prepared and cooked in their own kitchens, often using either an original ‘saj’ an upside down wok for cooking pittas or flat breads or in a ‘taboon’ an original wood fired stone oven.

‘saj’ or upside down wok, for making Druze pittas

‘saj’ or upside down wok, for making Druze pittas

Fascinated by this initiative, I enrol in a culinary workshop to see how this original product with a social conscience can truly bring the Galilean hills to our plates. Met by Director Paul, our first stop was a local market in the mixed Christian and Muslim Arab village of Deir Hanna, where it is believed John the Baptist lived for a time and from where the name of the village directly translates in Arabic, Jonathan’s Monastery. Walking to the market, we stumble across the remnants of wild endive, a leaf with slight bitterness that is foraged for during the winter months and used in fresh salads. We continue on past the old flour mill, where wholemeal four is produced and sold in its natural state, alongside pittas and pastries. The market is a haven for seasonal fruit and vegetables, wild garlic and vine leaves, to name a few, together with aubergines, tomatoes and cucumbers in the many shapes and sizes and with lumps and bumps highlighting that they are all ‘baladi’, grown locally and full of flavour.

We then approach a stall selling vibrant yellow dough rounds, known as ‘hubz asfar’ simply translated to yellow bread. Great chunks are pulled off for us to taste, which with great delight we eat and savour this tasty, sweet bread made with turmeric not only for its bright yellow colour, buts also its anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

‘hubz asfar’or ‘yellow bread’

‘hubz asfar’or ‘yellow bread’

We then drove to the Muslim village of Arrabeh, to meet our host Nowal. As tradition dictates, any guests entering the home of an Arab family are served coffee and tea immediately and with the aroma of coffee and cardamom filling the air, we welcomed this gesture, whilst introductions were taking place. It was not long before the conversation turned to food and the menu for our workshop. We were going to be cooking with fresh local ingredients such as akkub, freekeh and jarjir, and with help from our host, turning the wild thistles from the artichoke family, cereal and watercress into local dishes, that would give us a satisfying lunch, at the end of the morning.

Throughout the preparation of our meal, the conversation flowed with talk of mixtures, dough, ovens, family and so much more. We made a yeast pastry from scratch, ‘boxing’ the gluten to form the dough and then once proved tore the dough into small balls, flattened them, filled them with a spiced chard mixture, shaped them into triangles and baked them in the oven in a bath of oil, to make delicious ‘f’tir’, stuffed pastries.

We were taught how to cook the nutritious supergrain, freekeh as well as preparing simple salads of wild watercress and cabbage to give freshness to the meal. We turned lamb mince into kebabs and cooked them with tahini to make ‘Sinye’ but my favourite dish was undoubtedly the ‘akkub’ the undeveloped flower buds of the wild thistle plant, native to the area and when cooked slowly with onion and delicate spice, tasting like a cross between the artichoke and the asparagus.

‘akkub’

‘akkub’

The workshop was inspiring, filled with new ingredients, new cooking techniques and above all, tasting new foods, which culminated in eating lunch with Nowal, her husband and granddaughter, who was learning the family recipes and traditions of cooking from a tender age.

I asked Paul why he felt his workshops were becoming so successful, to which he replied “I am a cultural mediator between people, I am not selling a food tour, I am bringing people together for a cultural meeting through food. I go into the homes of Middle Eastern women insisting on Western standards of hospitality and the results are enriching and delicious.” This innovative idea has grown over the past three years into a “niche product” within the Israeli tourism sector and with rave reviews; Galileat has been awarded the Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor.

For more information on Galileat’s workshops contact: Paul Nirens on (+972) 55 8810727 or paul@galileat.com or visit: www.galileat.com

About Ruth….

IMG_0094I am a passionate foodie, I spend my time between Israel and London, writing, photographing and eating great Middle Eastern food.
Inspired from working in the kitchens of Kibbutz Amiad, in northern Israel over 30 years ago, I returned to London to complete a Diploma in Food and Wine at Leiths Cookery School, with the sole aim of setting up a catering company, providing fresh, exciting food for all occasions and baking delicious cakes!!
I set up Israel Good Food Guide to showcase the very best of Israel’s cuisine, through write-ups of restaurants and innovative young chef, cafes, food tours and markets as well all the latest food news from Tel Aviv to the Galilee, accompanied by beautiful photographs taken on my travels. I am a foodie with a distinction, having gained a diploma in food journalism in 2016, and have embarked on writing a cookbook, The Galilean Kitchen, showcasing the food of the region. My food meanderings in both Israel and London are never far away from Twitter, so follow my culinary expeditions or get in touch at @israelfoodguide

the ethos is simply….ice cream

Bouza ice cream

Bouza ice cream

Ice cream, common throughout all cultures, is being heralded as the new language, with the sound of a lick…

“Buza” a luxurious ice cream parlour in the Western Galil is the venture of Adam Ziv, a Jewish kibbutznik from Sasa and Alaa Sawitat, an Arab Muslim from Ma’alot Tarshiha. Taken from the Arabic word ‘meaning ice cream, this new shop opened in Tarshiha shuk last July and although attracts a mixed clientele, they are all only interested in the homemade new flavours of ice cream on sale that day.

During a gap year in Europe and Africa, Ziv apprenticed at gelaterias in Italy, with the aim of returning to Israel to set up his own store. Seeking the advice of his old family friend Sawitat, an experienced restauranteur in Tarshiha, they decided to join forces and open Buza, a partnership that allows Ziv to create the ice cream and leaves Sawitat to run the business.

They currently have four ice cream outlets, as well as running a workshop on Kibbutz Sasa, teaching the art of making this sublime creamy dessert.

The raw ingredients used in the making of ice cream is local produce sourced within the Galilee, with a little help from imported delicacies such as nut pastes and rich dark chocolate from Italy.

Their motto ‘פשוט גלידה‘ ‘simply ice cream’ is exactly their ethos and one that can be shared by Israeli’s and Arabs alike…..well worth a visit!

a new look…..

roasted cauliflower carrot salad with tahini dressing

roasted cauliflower carrot salad with tahini dressing (Container, Jaffa Port)

Israel’s cuisine is the fusion of the Middle East and its surrounding Mediterranean influences with the Sephardic and Askenazi styles of Jewish cooking, to produce creative, innovative modern food from the traditions of old.

The Israel Good Food Guide is about allowing you to discover their culinary delights, in the hope that you will experience the foods, restaurants, chefs, produce and all things ‘foodie’ in Israel, to make your culinary tour the very best it can be.