Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How to peel a Pomegranate, رمان, Romàn

How to peel a Pomegranate رمان Romàn !

 Pomegranate, رمان, Romàn
 Pomegranate, رمان, Romàn  

I love pomegranates.  The fruit varies in size but can get as big as a grapefruit.  We used to have a pomegranate tree in the backyard when I was growing up and often the pomegranates would split open when they were ready for picking.  Our tree (looked more like a shrub than a tree) was quite prolific too , maybe producing up to 50 pomegranates a year, each with hundreds of seeds (or arils) .  In fact it produced so much fruit that my mum got sick of them and in the end had it cut down!  

We never used the fruit in cooking it was just eaten as a fruit just like eating berries, and I loved them so it became my job to sit and peel them and I found it rather relaxing sitting quietly and carefully removing the lovely red seeds .  After getting a bowlful I would wash them and start enjoying the fruits of my labour - literally!  I have since used pomegranates in salads as it looks great to have the bright red seeds through a green salad.  I have also used it to garnish Khoshaf خشاف which is a fruit salad made from dried fruits.  

 Pomegranate, رمان, Romàn
 Pomegranate, رمان, Romàn  

I think that I will have a go at making Pomegranate juice when they are next in season and cheap.  In that case I wont be so careful removing the seeds.  Just cut them in half over a bowl of water and scoop them out with a spoon.  The white membrane that separates the compartments of the fruit is light and floats on water so it is easier to remove.  I think that the juice would need to be put through a fine strainer to remove the hard centre of the seeds (normally edible when eating whole).  If you have juiced pomegranates before or if you get a chance to try it before me  send me an email and let me know how it goes.  I would love to hear about your experience.

I looked up Pomegranates on 'Google' the source of all knowledge (I am kidding) and it says the following : 

Ancient Egyptians regarded the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity and ambition. According to the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical writings from around 1500 BC.

I assume this is true since it is on Google after all, but even if it isn't is sounds like good traits to assign a pomegranate.  

Dried fruit saladخشاف   Khoshaf

Dried fruit saladخشاف   Khoshaf
Anyway, back to that tree.  I miss that tree at home.  Now I have to buy pomegranates and they have cost me up to $3 each!  My eldest son was introduced to them from an early age and I remember it was his favourite fruit at 18 months old.  I would take a little container of the seeds with me and it kept him cont ent for ages.

Now that he is a little older he has a keen sense of detection for the fruit in the supermarket or grocer.  He often insists we get one and has thrown tantrums if he cant have one - on more than one occasion.

We now sit and peel pomegranates together and I must say I enjoy it although more and more I get less and less of the pomegranate to peel.  I dare say that next season I wont be allowed to peel them at all, leaving him with the task if he has his way.  Not a bad outcome really, except that I enjoy doing it myself.  I should mention that the juice can stain so I would wear only the clothes that don’t matter too much and avoid peeling pomegranates over a table with a lovely white tablecloth.  We find pomegranate seeds flying off in all directions and inevitably there are enough that land on the floor for a hunting game.

I mentioned my sons love for pomegranates to a friend of mine who said she had never tried one before but had seen them in the supermarket.  I suggested she try it and then she said she wouldnt know how to peel it.  I described how I peeled them and got the seeds out but when we caught up next she had brought a pomegranate with her and asked me to show her how to peel it.  I'd say she thought that the fruit was nothing to rave about but that at least now her kids could try it too.  It was her idea to make a video of how to peel a pomegranate since she thought there would be many other people who wouldnt know too.

So, we did.  Here is a video of one of the many times my son and I sat down and peeled a pomegranate and for anyone interested I hope it is helpful.

 How to peel a Pomegranate, رمان, Romàn  

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk

Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk

Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk
Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk

Kahk represents a time of celebration.  These biscuits are made at Christmas and Easter time and Eid el-fitr which is the feast after Ramadan (when Muslims fast from Sunrise to Sunset for a month). 
I thought that since the blog has reached over 1000 page views it was time to post another delicious entry - something sweet, and something buttery.  The answer…Kahk!
I never made Kahk at home and truth be told, I don’t remember helping mum make it either but we had it every year, always at Christmas and Easter and then for any special occasions outside of that.  Certain visits from particular family friends would see mum making Kahk too – how else to tell someone they are special than through food!

I feel a little guilty when I think about all the times my mother was baking these precious biscuits and I was not interested in learning how to make them until it was too late to learn from her.  I didn’t forget the lesson though and I made sure to join my step mother on her biscuit production day before last Christmas and it was a valuable lesson in the art of biscuit making.  She shared her recipe for making Kahk with me and as I stood with her in the kitchen my mother had stood in, I asked her about how she began making Kahk and if she would teach her daughters to make it.

My step mother is a wonderful lady and I appreciated the time she spent showing me the ropes (so to speak).  She began making Kahk as a child with her mother and then as a teen she took to making it every year by herself.  She told me that Kahk is thought to bring good to the family both where it is made and where it is given and so she would make it to make sure that blessings never passed by their house.  Perhaps this is why at Christmas time there is so much Kahk being made and shared throughout Egypt and in Egyptian families worldwide.
I plan on starting the tradition in my home too.  I am sure that the boys will love it and hopefully so will our guests and visitors.

Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk
Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk
and various other pettifore

I know that there are a variety of Kahk fillings which include nuts such as pistachios, walnuts and almonds or Turkish delight (malban).  Kahk with pitted puréed dates (or ‘agwa’) is more common in the Arab Gulf and is known as Ma’amoul.  My mum made different ones but I can’t remember what they were anymore.  I think if you have a particular liking for something give it a try as a stuffing but a stuffing is not necessary and I rather like a plain Kahk.

Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk

Makes: 20

250g unsalted butter, bring to room temperature 
¼ cup icing sugar
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour, plus extra
½ cup crushed walnuts or almonds
 Extra icing sugar to coat

Preheat oven to moderate 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4). Grease oven trays and cover with baking paper.  Beat butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat well to combine.  Sift baking powder and flours together. Gradually add to butter along with the nuts and combine.  The mixture is ready when it comes together as a ball of dough.  Remove from mixer and place on floured board, roll adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.

Form dough into little balls about the size of walnuts and flatten slightly with a fork or  alternatively mould into thin sausages about 10 cm long and 1cm wide, bringing the ends together to form a horseshoe shape .  Place on trays allowing room for spreading, and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the biscuits are slightly browned on the base.

Remove the Kahk from the oven and leave for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.  While still hot, sift a little icing sugar over the top.  Sift extra icing sugar when cool so that they are well coated.

Note: Kahk stores well in an airtight container out of the fridge, if there is any left!

Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk
Egyptian Shortbread كحك Kahk

Friday, 10 August 2012

Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt

Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt :

I remember I said I would post more on the yoghurt I made. So if you missed it refer to the previous post on how to make home made yoghurt اللبن الرائب Laban Zabadi.

My youngest son had some of the plain home made yoghurt I made and loved it - which made me feel pretty happy.  Nothing like the approval of a 1 year old!  I couldn't wait to try something new with the yoghurt and I was really drawn to cooking trying it in a main dish. So even though this is not a traditional Egyptian dish I thought I would still let you know how it went.

I had some cubed beef which I thawed out and decide to slow cook with the yoghurt.  My plan was to put it together in the morning so it was ready by dinner time…too easy.

Here is the recipe I followed:

Heat a little oil in a pot and fry off a chopped onion.   Add 500g cubed meat then brown it for 10 minutes.  I add 1 ½ tomatoes diced (left half a tomato for the kids' lunch since there were only 2 left in the fridge) along with 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (Vegeta), ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Give it a stir and leave it a few minutes then add 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried thyme) and cover it with 2 cups / 500 ml of the yoghurt into which I added 1 tablespoon of plain flour to use as a thickening agent.  Place the lid on top and leave it for 7 hours.   Voilà !! I served this over rice.

Wow, so tasty and the meat was very tender.  I liked it and decided this was a success and the boys ate it without complaint too.  What I wasn’t expecting was all the compliments from hubby.  :)

Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt
Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt
Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt

Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt
Slow cooked beef in home made yoghurt

Monday, 6 August 2012

Yoghurt made with love - Yoghurt اللبن الرائب Laban Zabadi

How to make yoghurt اللبن الرائب Laban Zabadi

We usually have yoghurt in the fridge like we have milk, butter and cheese.  It is great as morning tea for the kids or more often served with fruit for dessert - especially in summer - because I love fresh berries, ALL berries and mangoes and passionfruit or pawpaw.  So many options really.
I have always bought yoghurt اللبن الرائب Laban Zabadi since moving out of home and as I walk through the dairy isle I find myself reminiscing about my mum making a huge batch of yoghurt and thinking I should really start making it myself.  So, inspired by my mother in law who bought me a yoghurt maker for my birthday last year I undertook to learn how to make Yoghurt - Laban Zabadi at home.  Initially I used the yoghurt maker following the manufacturer’s instructions and using packets of powder.  But the temptation to go without a packet made me look into things further.  I followed my dad’s instructions (since mum is no longer around to ask) and made a very runny, kind of slimy yoghurt which I wasn’t even game enough to taste.  As with most “recipes” from mum or dad I end up needing to refine the instructions.  I am, or rather was, a Scientist and like having a formula because getting consistent results was so important in my previous work life.
Other than the slimy white goo, I made another batch that turned out …well…I don’t know really.  I took a photo but didn’t try this one either.  As you can see it is about half yoghurt and half whey.  The yoghurt looks lumpy and I think this was due to the milk not being fresh enough.  I can’t get milk straight from a cow (but will try and get some next time I go down to Gippsland and visit some in-laws – I am sure milk that fresh would make an absolutely delectable yoghurt!).  

This is not what I would call a good result.  The yoghurt has split, now back to square one.
Anyway, back to the pasteurised, homogenised milk I get from a supermarket.  I have bought some whole (full fat) milk with the longest expiry date I can find.  I am hoping this does the trick.

I was determined to find a formula.  First step…a shopping expedition.  I packed the kids up after Samuel’s morning nap and head off.  We made it home again with the prize, a thermometer, and after lunch and naps I started heating the milk - I was so excited!!
This is the approach I took:
Heat 1 Litre of milk and bring it to 100 ⁰C.  Leave it to cool to 45 ⁰C (very easy with a thermometer and mainly guess work or expertise otherwise).  Remove the skin off the milk surface and add a few spoonful’s of milk to ¼ cup of natural yoghurt.  (I know it seems weird to have to have yoghurt to start but that is why it is called the ‘starter’.  You need a starter to make more then you can keep some of the yoghurt you make as the starter for the next batch.)  Add the yoghurt to the milk and stir it in then pour the milk into a yoghurt maker jar.  Cover with a lid and fill the yoghurt maker with water at 45 ⁰C (instead of boiling water like when you make it with the yoghurt powder as a starter) leave it at room temperature for between 10 and 24 hours and then store it in the fridge.
Just as the kids were heading to bed I remembered the yoghurt and couldn’t wait to have a look at it.  OMG, it worked!  A wonderfully set yoghurt just as I like it and oh the taste, mildly sweet and warm.  I was jumping up and down with excitement, seriously on a high!

Home made yoghurt
The way yoghurt should be!

Home made yoghurt
Yoghurt اللبن الرائب Laban Zabadi
I hope your yoghurt turns out just as nice – let me know in the comments below!  

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Words, words and words.

Vegetables, yes I love them.  Probably all of them but I would definately be happy eating any of the ones in the list below. I will add this list to the words already on the Language Centre page (refer to the tab at the top of this page) and will periodically add some more so keep checking if you want to increase you Arabic Vocabulary!

Thank you also to Marian and for helping me get the translations together :)

Vegetables                        Khodrawat                         خضروات
Artichoke                         Kharshoof                            خرشوف
Asparagus                        Asparagus                         الاسبراجس
Beans (green)                   Fasolia Khadra           خضراء فاصوليا
Cabbage                          Cormb                                     كرنب
Carrot                              Gazar                                        جزر
Capsicum (green/red)       (Felfil Akhdar / Ahmar)                (أخضر / أحمر) فلفل
Cauliflower                       Karnabet                                   قرنبيط
Celery                              Karafss                                     كرفس 
Cucumber                        Kheiar                                         خيار
Eggplant                          Betingan                                   باذنجان
Garlic                              Thom                                            ثوم  
Leeks                              Korat                                        الكراث
Lettuce                            Khas                                           الخس
Mushrooms                     Mushrooms                                 الفطر
Onion                              Basal                                          بصل
Peas                                Besela                                       بازلاء
Potato                             Potato                                    البطاطس
Radish                             Fegl                                             فجل
Spinach                           Sabanekh                                   سبانخ
Sweet potato                   Batata                                        بطاطا
Tomato                           Tomato                                      طماطم
Vegetables                      Khodrawat                            خضروات
Zucchini                          Kosah                                         كوسة