Gazan dagga “hot tomato dill salsa” #Arabicflavor

Gazan dakka (dill and pepper tomato salsa)

I have been trying to write a post for 2 weeks with no luck. What is happening in Gaza makes it very hard to write about food or anything else for that matter.

If you have not been keeping up with the news, let me fill you in. In the past 21 days, over 1000 Palestinians (mostly civilians) have been killed. Over 200 of the 1000 were children. Almost 6000 Palestinians have been injured. Nearly 166,000 Palestinians have sought shelter at United Nations facilities because their homes were either destroyed or unsafe to live in because of the Israeli attack.

The images, footage and stories coming out of Gaza are enough to give you nightmares for the rest of your life but can  you imagine what it must be like to live through it all? I have dear friends in Gaza,and I have been worried sick about them especially after losing contact with most of them after short messages saying that their houses were bombed, they are still alive but barely.

I can hardly bear to watch the news, yet I can’t stop myself from watching. Every broadcast leaves me with a cascade of emotions. I am Sad, broken, angry, furious but above all, I feel helpless. I want to do something but what?

Nisreen Al shawwa, and Mona Al Saboni, two wonderfully talented Arabic bloggers had the answer. They called upon all the Arabic food bloggers to come together and form a group. The aim of the group is to provide a true image of the Arabic world using food and recipes as a canvas.  With every recipe “Arabic flavor” (the name we chose for the group) will share a recipe from a country and every blogger will tell you a little more about that country.

Our first feature and the reason the group came together is Gaza and Nisreen suggested the Gazan Dagga. But before I get to the recipe..

Let me tell you a little about Gaza

The Gaza strip or simply Gaza is a Palestinian region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.Gaza is a small area measuring  41 kilometers long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi).  Around 1.82 million Palestinians live in Gaza making it among the most densely populated parts of the world. 1.1 million of the 1.8 million in Gaza are Palestinian refugees. They were kicked out of their homes when Israel occupied Palestine in 1948.

Gaza cuisine

As home to the largest concentration of refugees within historic Palestine,Gaza has a unique cuisine that is the result of the merging of the culinary traditions of the original Gaza residents with those brought by the refugees from hundreds of towns and villages that now exist only in memory—depopulated and destroyed in the year 1948.  Add to the mix the Egyptian influence that resulted from the Egyptian rule between 1959 and 1967 and the result is an extraordinary cuisine that is Mediterranean, Levantine, Egyptian but above all uniquely Gazan

Gazan dakka ingredients

Hot Chili and dill is one of the unique combinations in the Gazan cuisine . It is served along side grilled meat, chicken or fish for a blast of heat and flavor.  Chili and dill are also combined with tomatoes and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil to form the signature Gazan salad (Gazan dagga). Fresh green chili peppers crushed in a mortar with dill seeds or fresh dill along with lemon and salt are also served along side stews and soups for a blast of bright flavor on cold and dark winter days.Ground red chili peppers  with dill seeds are preserved in oil and sold as a condiment and ingredient, resembling North Africa’s popular harissa. In short, Gazans take pride in making you sweat :) then again, if you live in a place that is bombed by Israel every two years, you’d better learn to tolerate the heat.

 

Gazan dakka (dill and pepper tomato salsa)

Gazan dagga

Gazan salad or salata ghazaweh (السلطه الغزاويه او الدقه الغزاويه)

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 small onion chopped

2 hot chili peppers, roughly chopped

1 cup fresh dill, minced or 1 teaspoon of dill seeds

2 very ripe tomatoes, chopped

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a Gazan clay bowl or zibdiya (or a morter or curved bottomed bowl) mash the onion and salt into a paste using a pestle.

Add chilies and continue to crush.

Add half of the dill (if using fresh dill) or all of the dill seeds if using seeds and crush them to release the natural oils

Add tomatoes and mash (you can make the salsa as smooth or as chunky as you like.

If using fresh dill add the other half along with the lemon juice and toss .

Top generously with olive oil.

Serve with flat bread on the side for dipping

Notes and variations:

  • You can substitute minced garlic for the onions.
  • For a tahini salsa variable, dd chopped cucumbers and 1 tablespoon of tahini. (This variation is from the old village of Beit Jirja, north of the Gaza Strip.)
  • A small food processor may be used in place of a mortar and pestle. Make sure to “pulse” the ingredients—don’t purée them But if you want to experience the full flavor of this salsa, do take the time and effort to make it in a mortar and pestle.
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Cheese bread wreath

Cheese stuffed bread wreath

Today is the 16 th of Ramadan, every year I receive requests to explain a little more about the month of Ramadan and the practice of fasting and it is always a pleasure to do so.You can find my previous posts about Ramadan here, here and here but for this year I thought I’d answer a few FAQ.

If you have a question about Ramadan,I’d love to hear from you. So please leave me a comment or send me an email. let’s start with the basics:

So what is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the month in which Muslims are instructed to fast from sun rise till sunset.

What exactly is fasting?

To fast by definition means to abstain. In Ramadan Muslims abstain from food,tobacoo and drinks from sun rise till sunset but fasting goes way beyond this simple definition. Abstaining from eating or drinking is actually the easy part! To avoid repeating myself, here is a little explanation of what fasting is all about from the post I published last year.

Fasting is a school of discipline present in most religions and cultures. In Islam fasting by definition means to abstain, abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset but it doesn’t stop there.

One way to look at it is that in fasting what comes out of your mouth is just as important as what goes in. You have to abstain from everything that is bad. No lying, gossiping or using profanity. Keep in mind though, that your mouth is not the only part of you that is fasting, the whole of you is. Your hands are fasting, you can’t do harm, steal or hurt others. Your eyes are fasting, you are not allowed to watch anything inappropriate. Your ears are fasting, you can’t listen to anything inappropriate.

If you think about it, fasting  is meant to impact the way you behave,in every aspect.

But the lesson does not stop at your senses. It extends to controlling your mood, temper and desires. If you think fasting gives you an excuse to throw a tantrum because you’re not eating or drinking,think again. When you fast you are required to control your anger to the same extent that you control your mouth or your senses.

To fast or not to fast?Why should I do it?Only for religious reasons?

Although Muslims fast primarily for religious reasons. The true beauty of any religion is when you see the why behind the must.

Fasting gives your body a rest

Digesting food requires high amounts of energy; in fact, the digestive system can sometimes drain energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body. Therefore, it makes sense to give it a vacation once in awhile.

Help your body heal and detoxify

In many cultures, the art of fasting has been practiced for thousands of years for curing illness of all kinds, rejuvenation, clarity and decision making, cleansing and strengthening. Have you noticed that when you’re sick, your appetite diminishes? (Similarly, when animals are ill, they lie down and often don’t eat or drink.) Energy goes towards healing our bodies instead of digesting food.

Fasting makes you more compassionate. Trying out hunger for hours everyday gives you a sense of what it is like not to have anything to eat. It is a great motivation to reach out and help those in need

Fasting teaches you that you are in control. You are in control of your body, your senses and your desires.

It is a great way to break bad habits. If you can stop smoking for 16 hours because you are fasting, you can do it for the remaining 8 hours. If you can stop gossiping or lying or using profanity for 16 hours, you can quit it for good.

Why does Ramadan come at a different time each year?

The Islamic calendar(also called the hijri calender) is lunar(it follows the moon) and because of that, the start of the Islamic year advances 11 days each year compared with the seasonal year.That is why, Ramadan occurs at different times of the year over a 33-year cycle. This can result in the Ramadan fast being undertaken in markedly different environmental conditions between years in the same country.

Are all Muslims required to fast? Are there any exceptions?

Adult  sane Muslims are required to fast but there are exceptions to that rule.By definition, adult and sane excludes children and those who are mentally ill or insane. Because Islam is a religion based on compassion and mercy, there are also those who can postpone the fast because they are going through conditions that make fasting too hard or harmful to their health for example :(the acutely ill; women during menstruation, pregnancy, post-childbirth and during lactation and also travelers) . Then there are also those who are excused because they are unable to fast (the chronically ill; the frail elderly).

 

I hope I’ve covered a few of the questions you may have about Ramadan, if you have any more questions, please send me an email or leave me a comment.

Cheese bread wreath/ chef in disguise

A few weeks ago, Lail asked me to join her in her first virtual Iftar potluck. Lail is one of the sweetest bloggers I have met in the past three years of blogging. I deeply admire her dedication, passion and talent so it was a true pleasure to  oblige her invitation. I decided to bring her this Cheese bread wreath.

Today’s recipe is one of my go to bread recipes when I have company or when I am busy. Instead of making individual pastries, this lovely bread wreath is a great way to serve stuffed bread. It is elegant, easy to make and really versatile in terms of filling (you can check out the notes for both savory and sweet suggestions).

Cheese bread wreath

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (57 gram) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup (50 gram) white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams)salt
  • 3 1/4 tp 3 1/2 cups ( 416-448 gram) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram)cardamom optional

Instead of the egg-wash use

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) milk powder
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) instant coffee

stuffing (see notes for options)

  • 1 cup (80 grams) Nabulsi cheese grated or cut into small cubes (you can use any firm salty cheese)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint  (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Nigella seeds (optional)

 

Instructions

In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside

In another bowl sift the flour with the salt and the cardamom .

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough. (That usually requires 7 to 10 minutes)

Place the dough in a bowl that you have previously brushed with some oil.

Cover the doughwith a wet kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place to double

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface

Roll into a rectangle

1

Spread cheese stuffing leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) margin all around

2

Roll the dough starting from the long side to foem a tube

3

Join both ends of the tube to form a circle and pinch the dough together

4

Using a scissor or a knife make cuts that go 2/3 of the way through the dough

5

Turn the slices 90 degrees so that cut part faces upward

Using a brush, brush the dough with egg wash  or my egg wash replacement if you prefer

Allow  the wreath to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to 270C (500F) (rack in the middle)

Bake for 5 minutes on 270C (500F) then lower the temperature to 200 C (400 F) and cook for 15-20 more minutes

(ovens do differ greatly, so the time may differ..what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown)

If the top isn’t  golden, Place the wreath under the broiler for a couple of minutes until it is golden brown on top

Cheese stuffed bread wreath

Notes

The stuffing:

When it comes to the stuffing, the possibilities are really endless. For savory options try: Sauteed spinach with onions and garlic.Minced meat, sauteed with onions and your favorite blend of spices is a great choice for the meat lovers out there For a sweet option,try date puree, dried fruits, or jam.

Cheese stuffing:

The cheese I usually use in this bread is a combination of Nabulsi cheese and sharp cheddar but you can use any other cheese combination you like. Cheddar, Monterrey jack and Colby. Halloumi with fresh mint or parsley. Experiment and find your favorite, just remember to use a cheese with intense flavor or else it will be overwhelmed by the bread

No knead olive bread

No knead olive bread Ramadan Mubarak to all my wonderful readers who observe it.

Hello everyone :) Yes, I am still here and I have not vanished off the face of the earth lol Moving  a family from one country to another is a huge adventure and regardless of how prepared you think you are, you are sure to get a few pleasant surprises along the way :) I will  do my best to reply to your emails , questions and comments soon, thank you for your patience .In my upcoming posts I will tell you more about the whole  move experience and hopefully manage to tell you a little more about Ramadan before this beautiful month is over.

In the mean time, there is nothing like a  Secret recipe club reveal date to get me out of my blogging slumber.

The assignment

For the month of July, my assigned blog was Della cucina povera. The beautiful Francesca describes her blog as being about a tuscan way of life. Using simple, seasonal ingredients and forgiving measurements. Francesca’s mother is Italian and her father is Iranian and she grew up enjoying this mix in her family’s restaurant in Washington. Later on, she traveled through out  North America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe in the pursuit of adventure. She shares the stories and recipes she came across on those foreign paths.

The recipe: no knead olive bread

After a tour in Francesca’s archives,I decided to go for her no knead bread because at the time of preparing this recipe, we were packing and anything with minimum effort and involvement seemed like the perfect choice. Added to that, I have been intrigued by the idea of no knead bread for quite some time and as always, I find that  secret recipe club assignments are the perfect opportunity to cross things off my “must try soon” list.

 The result:

The bread as the name implies requires no kneading, it relies on slow fermentation instead. All you have to do is invest 5 minutes to mix up the ingredients and then let time do the magic. The end result is a loaf of bread with a beautiful crisp walnut colored crust and a soft and chewy interior. The olives scattered throughout the crumb add color and a delicious richness to the bread.

My addition to the recipe was a tablespoon of rosemary, simply because I think rosemary and black olives are a match made in heaven, especially when bread is concerned. If you have never tried the two together, please do. You can thank me later :)

I found the process of making this bread reminiscent of sourdough bread . The wet dough, the long fermentation and the final shaping of the bread.The difference is that a sourdough starter adds a certain richness and depth of flavor to the bread in addition to being a leavening agent.

No knead bread

No knead olive bread

Recipe source: From Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 Teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Cups cool water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Method

Preparing the dough

In a bowl mix the flour and yeast Add the drained,pitted,chopped olives and the rosemary Add the water and mix using your hands or a spoon step1 Cover the mix and allow it to rest at room temperature for 14-18 hours The dough will turn into a bubbly mess! That is actually OK because it means that the yeast is active and it has done its job step2

 

Shaping the dough

Scrape your dough onto a heavily floured surface (the dough will be very wet and almost batter like in consistency)

Liberally flour the top of the dough and just fold it a few times.

If you find that the dough is too sticky, add more flour

Eventually you want it to be firm enough to form a ball or loaf with it.

Take a large tea towel and sprinkle it liberally with flour, then plop your dough in the center, and cover your dough with the corners of your tea towel. (I personally proofed my bread on the baking sheet but that resulted in it spreading during baking, next time I will probably proof in in a pan and bake it in it as well)

Let the loaf ferment and proof for another two hours.

step 3 After your bread has been proofing for about 90 minutes, preheat your oven to AS HOT AS YOU CAN.

Bake  until the edges are golden brown and when you knock on the “back” of the bread, and it gives you a nice hollow sound.( it took me 30 minutes, the original recipe calls for 40-50 minutes, ovens vary. please keep that in mind) step 4 Allow the bread to cool down completely on a wire rack before cutting into it no knead bread - chef in disguiseNo knead bread

Notes:

The bread spread quite a bit during baking, I would suggest making it in a loaf pan if you want it to retain its shape. It was still quite tasty but when sliced it was a little on the thin side.

 

خبز الزيتون بدون عجن

ثلاث اكواب طحين

واحد و نصف كوب زيتون اسود مبزر و مصفى من الماء و مفروم

ثلاث ارباع ملعقه صغيره خميره

واحد و نصف كوب ماء

ملعقه كبيره اكليل الجبل مفروم

لتحضير العجين

اخلطي الطحين و الخميره

اضيفي الزيتون و كليل الجبل

اضيفي الماء و حركي باليد او بملعقه خشبيه

غطي العجين و دعيه يرتاح من 14-18 ساعه

سيتحول العجين الى قوام سائل مليء بالفقاقيع

لتشكيل العجين

رشي كميه من الطحين على سطح العجن و صبي العجين فوقه

رشي العجين بالكثير من الطحين و اثني العجين على نفسه عده مرات

اذا احسستي ان العجين لازال لزجا و يلصق باليد اضيفي المزيد من الطحين

استمري باضافه الطحين و ثني العجين على نفسه حتى يصبح متماسك و يمكن تشكيله على شكل كره

شكليه على شكل كرة و ضعيه على صينيه الخبز و غطيه مده ساعتين

يمكنك ايضا تخميره برش فوطه بالكثير من الطحين ووضع العجين في وسطها ثم اغلقي الفوطه على العجين و دعيه يتخمر

ضعي العجين على صينيه الخبز و اخبزيه في فرن محمى مسبقا على اعلى درجه حراره يصلها فرنك

اخبزيه حتى تصبح اطرافه ذهبيه و اذا طرقتي على الرغيف من الاسفل يعطي صوت اجوف

اخرجي الخبز من الفرن و دعيه يبرد

Couscous dessert

Moroccan Couscous dessert

A few weeks ago I shared my way of making maftoul (Palestinian couscous) from scratch and I promised you some new and creative recipes to use maftoul. I have already shared my Mediterranean couscous salad that I usually make with maftoul

Couscous salad with Mediterranean flavors

and today I am sharing a couscous dessert that you can make with maftoul or couscous or even left over couscous. This recipe is inspired by a Moroccan dessert called suffa which uses vermicelli or couscous and infuses it with milk and orange blossom water then it is decorated with nuts, dried fruits or ground sugar and spices.

Read the full post »

Anzac biscotti (oatmeal coconut biscotti)

biscotti

When I get my secret recipe club assignment, I go through the blog’s archives focusing mainly on healthy recipes. Salads,  and vegetarian categories are usually my first stop. This time things were a little different, I started my archive search with  bread and baked goods!

You see, May was a super stressful  month.We are moving to the United Arab Emirates in a couple of weeks and despite the fact that I have been preparing for this move for 4 months, the idea has not fully sinked in! The past few months and May in particular have been a hectic race to get everything done and organised in time for the move. I had to hand over my patients at the clinic to another Dr, the kids’  papers and school transfer arrangements, preparing the house, organizing the stuff to be shipped, the list goes on and on, I will spare you the headache and just say that venting through baking seemed like the only sane option.

Read the full post »

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