June Fudge

We had April Fudge and May Fudge and now it is time for the June fudge…This time I chose a challenging one – caramel fudge.

The caramel is the challenge as we will not use extracts or work with brown sugar, rather we will caramelize white sugar ourselves.

3 cups of sugar
250 ml double cream
60 grams buttter
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt

Brown 1 cup of sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Gradually add the cream, the rest of the sugar, the butter, and the salt.
Cook until 113ºC and remove from the stove.
Mix until it begins to solidify and pour into a greased pan. Cool for 3-5 hours and cut into squares.

Enjoy 🙂
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We reached one very clear conclusion from our previous experiments with check meat – A kosher cut presents a real problem.
Either this cut absorbs salt at a spectacular rate or it receives a near lethal dose of salt during the process which renders it virtually unusable.
The end result is that whoever is trying to make me eat Kosher meat is actually forcing me to soak the meat in milk in order to remove the salt (with only partial success) – rather ironic.
So when the butcher (in the non-kosher butcher shop) said “yes, we have cheek meat”, I seized the opportunity (and 2 cheeks) and put them in the freezer.
Sadly the deli recently closed its doors on 6 great years of Peter Hummel’s, so in memory of the place I liked, and because I wanted a terrine, I decided to defrost the cheeks.

After defrosting and drying, I seasoned the cheeks with a little salt and black pepper and placed each one in a separate sous vide bag to cook for 12 hours at 80⁰C. I made sure that the meat was soft enough but still in one piece, chilled the bags in ice water and opened one of them.

I placed the cheek in a pan and placed in on the top rack of the smoker.
I kept the liquid from the bag and the 2nd cheek for the Terrine (wait for th post).
I placed apple & lemon tree chunks on the coals, and removed the cheek after 2.5 hours of smoking – I trusted my judgment and did not measure the temperature.

The cheek fat turned golden and crispy, and the meat was soft and tasty.
This time the result was really good!
Best served hot, as the texture when cold, is less appetizing.
Finally, after quite a number of cheeks, we managed to get it just right!

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Flank variations

It is a little sad to remove the last piece of flank from the freezer On the other hand it means that it is on the way to your plate, so there is reason for joy too. A while back I experimented a little with Flank and yogurt so I decided to continue in this vein.
After a day of defrosting in the fridge, I removed the cut from the bag and placed it in a pan. I poured a small container of yogurt over it and rubbed it all over. I returned the pan to the fridge for the night.
In the middle of the following morning, I washed the yogurt of the meat and dried it. I spread some Dijon mustard on it. I sprinkled it with a mixture of sweet paprika, ground cardamom and powdered Bulgarian honey garlic (Allium siculum).

Once the smoker reached the desired temperature, I placed the flank on the bottom shelf, right over the water tray so the meat would remain as moist as possible, and places some wine barrel wood chunks on the coals.
I took the meat out of the smoker after approx. 1 hour. I estimate the internal temperature was about 45-50 degrees.
I carved it into slices 2 cm thick.

Charred it lightly on the griddle, seasoned it with some salt and pepper, and served it.

The meat was juicy, soft & tasty with a slight hint of smokiness. What more can you ask from a weekday lunch 🙂

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Sous vide octopus and smoked jack mackerel

The age of Covid 19 has brought with it significant changes to the food supply industry. Suppliers catering mainly to restaurants have been forced to seek new customers, and retails stores are ramping up their delivery capabilities. The end result is that slowly and surely it is becoming much easier to have food delivered to you home even if you do not live in the Tel-Aviv area.
And on a personal note, there are more of us at home for more meals. the number of cooks has grown, so we have started to prepare new types of food. Every delivery requires a minimum order, so we often (purposely) find ourselves with new ingredients that we have not yet cooked.

Sous vide octopus
Cut the octopus head below the level of the eyes and remove the beak. Cut off the top part of the head and clean it too (there is an abundance of clips on the web).

Blanch the octopus in boiling water for 30 seconds and remove to a bowl of ice water. Chill and dry off.

Place the octopus in a sous vide bag with a little salt and cook at 77⁰C for 5 hours.
Remove again to a bowl of ice water and transfer to the fridge.

At this stage you can freeze the octopus or keep it for quite a few days in the fridge.
Remove the octopus from the bag and dry it. Cut it into portions – 2 legs per person, or 1 if it is large.
Char on a coal barbecue, griddle, frying pan or whatever takes your fancy.

Sprinkle with a little salt, drizzle some olive oil and add a few drops of lemon juice, and voilà- a restaurant dish has arrived at your table 🙂

Smoked jack mackerel
Being a type of mackerel, it is treated in a similar manner.
I was hoping for medium sized fish, but received a collection of tiny ones (at least there were gutted).

Place in a pan, sprinkle with coarse salt and place in the fridge for 3 hours.
Wash and transfer to the smoker for approx. 1 hour until they are ready (above 60⁰C internal temperature). Tasty hot or cold!

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What do you do with a tail?

While I was rearranging the contents of my freezer, I stumbled upon a tail…
A moving tail in your pantry could very well be cause for alarm, however a stationary tail in the freezer is actually more of an invitation to party.
So I removed it to the fridge for defrosting, and went to the supermarket to buy some Philas dough.
On Friday morning I fired up the smoker, placed the pieces of tail in a pan, and placed the pan in the smoker for approximately 3 hours. I used oak wine barrel chunks for smoke and did not salt the meat as it was kosher.

The smoked tail pieces were place din the sous vide at 80⁰C.
On Saturday morning I verified that the meat was falling off the bone (it took approx. 20 hours) and removed the bag of tail from the water.

After the bag cooled down a little, I took out the pieces of tail and separated the meat from the bones and cartilage.

I seasoned the meat with some salt, ground black pepper, garlic granules, mustard,lemon juice and fresh basil from my garden.
I placed the mixture on the Philas dough and created some rolls.
The rolls were placed in the oven at 175⁰C for approx. 45 min, and made for a nice and tasty lunch

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Smoked Pecans

Growing up in Arad, we had neighbours with family toes to a Moshav in the center of the country. Every year just before Passover we would receive a small sack of fresh pecans that we would crack with great enjoyment for a few months.
One of the things my mother would do with the abundance of pecans was partially crack them, sprinkle salt and water on them, and bake them in the oven.
I left Arad long ago, but I still like pecans. So, given the variety of fruit and vegetables that can now (Covid 19) be purchased directly from the growers, we invested in a small sack (only 5 kg) of fresh pecans, a good few kilo of avocado and plenty of clementines.

After much cracking, eating and enjoyment, I found some time to reconstruct my mothers recipe.

  • Wash the pecans thoroughly with water
  • Gently bash each pecan twice with a wooden mallet
  • Sprinkle some water over the pecans
  • Sprinkle the pecans with table salt
  • Place the pecans in the oven at 150⁰C for 45 minutes

And what about something new?
Place the nuts in the smoker at 107⁰C for approx, 1.5 hours
*you can use pecan wood, but it is not a must 😉

It might be an idea to prepare a few trays at once, as they tend to vanish rather quickly!

Tip – it is much easier to peal roasted pecans than fresh ones

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Smoked octopus

After the previous small octopi, we received an octopus twice as large (750 grams).
This one’s head was of reasonable size and not something to toss out.
It was treated in an identical manner – cleaning, cutting, blanching, cooking and cooking in the sous-vide.
After it was cooked the octopus waited patiently in the fridge for the suitable moment.

The smoker was heated to 107⁰C. I added an additional grate perpendicular to the existing one and placed the octopus on top of it.
I think I left it there for approx. 45 min. just so it would attract some smoke and heat up.

It was very tasty and the extra smokiness was nice, but we all agreed that the charing contributes more to the experience than smoke. So, if combining smoke and charing is an option, then it is great, but otherwise…

Let’s hope that next time the octopus size keeps growing exponentially 🙂

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The Salmon Man!

During our last visit to Paphos (in December of the last decade – OK, less than 2 months ago) we booked a table for 10 at Salmon’s Taste -. The rumor was that the entire meal is based on salmon – even the pizza. We did not know exactly what to expect, and even if we had been told, I am not sure we would have believed it. We were heartily welcomed by the owner Andreas, and after the only other couple in the restaurant left, we had the place to ourselves the entire evening. Andreas told us that we would start with some traditional Meze and continue with salmon and in short that we should trust him. We agreed and the plates started to arrive:

Great, but where is the salmon?
Salmon sticks

We were requested to guess the origin of the rolls’ colors. difficult to believe the rolls are gluten free. we spent the entire meal debating whether we could distinguish between the rolls with our eyes closed. The accompanying cheese was fantastic.

We discovered that he is a health food enthusiast who takes pride in importing special salmon from Scandinavia and spends a lot of time on preparing healthy, nutritious and tasty food for his athlete son.

When I told him that I also cure and smoke salmon we immediately become friends. He told us that he recently discovered that part of his ancestry is Jewish. He is a great admirer of Israel and has visited our country Well, it is not far away 🙂

A pizza for the young child and the vegetarian cousin

Some stories about the rest of the family and a surprise

Salmon underbelly snacks
A salmon dish with whole grained rice and carob extract

a little about his history…

and a tad more salmon

some stories about the places he has visited…

Salmon pizza for the non-vegetarians

and for the main course

Oven baked salmon – not that there is no white protein

We finished our meal full of salmon and took the leftovers with us in boxes :-) .Undoubtedly a very special place with an impressive range of salmon dishes

We returned to our villa and lit the 6th Hanukkah candle

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We dig Israel!

Summer has arrived and so have our relatives from abroad, and even though it is insanely hot, it is time to go out and explore the country.
The activity – participation in a real archaeological dig – is something that they told us about, as it is not published locally in Hebrew, and the information is only available in English on the site of the Archaeological Seminars Institute and on Facebook.
“Dig for a day” is a 3 hour activity at Tel Maresha, part of Bet Guvrin National Park which is worth visiting even without participating in a dig, but not recommended in August as it is way too hot!

The activity takes part in groups of approx. 20 and includes:
– Explanations about the Hellenistic period (2200-2300 years ago), the Tel Maresha site and what archaeological digging is all about


– Digging inside a cave system with natural air-conditioning at approx 22˚C (much better than the 34˚C outside though still humid), and finding pottery shards, pieces of plaster, animal bones, seashells, and on rare occasions jewelry or coins


–  Sifting the excavated dirt, which is actually the most important part, as when you are on your knees in a cave you tend to miss a lot of items

– Visiting and crawling through a yet un-excavated cave system lit by candles
– Visiting fully excavated caves that are already open to the public (water cisterns and olive oil production “machinery”
– Summary, receiving certificates, and a surprise (pottery shards to take hone, as those you dig out must remain onsite)

The site is quite big, and so far over 5000 caves have been discovered, but there are still many let to dig in, and there were several groups working in parallel during our visit. Our guide Nimrod was very knowledgeable and presented the information in a manner appealing to the younger kids too, he also paid special attention to our Tomer and spoke Hebrew to him as he was the only participant who did not understand English.

Participation in the activity is not cheap, but please note that Israeli residents pay significantly less 🙂
Regardless of the cost, it is a very fun thing to do for kids and adults of all ages. There is something to be said for digging up an artifact that has not been touched by a human hand for over 2300 years!

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Holy Mackerel!

Despite the crazy heat and my wish to remain in an air-conditioned room, some things simply cannot be arranged over the phone or Internet, which is why I found myself wandering around Netanya. Since I was not far from the market, I decided to take a look and see if I could find something interesting.
The meat looked tired and unappetizing, but one of the fishmongers had a crate of mackerels at only 30 NIS per kilo, so I chose 3 nice ones, 600g each before cleaning.
I packed them in the cold bag I usually take with me when I leave the house and headed home.

Given that my plan to read up on smoking fish had just become urgent, I sat down to it. The northern European countries have a age-old tradition of fish smoking, so I turned to the sources of the British Empire and more specifically Scotland. I found one very interesting video 🙂 but really needed more details. I turned to FAO – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – for some more detailed information about Hot smoking of fish and Handling and processing mackerel as practiced in Britain.

Following are the choices I made based on the technical details I found:
The first decision I needed to make was whether to decapitate the fish or not – the size of my smoker did not leave me much choice – so “off with their heads” (a simple procedure that the fishmonger will happily do for you). The articles did not indicate that it affects the smoking in any way.
The second decision was whether to fillet the fish or not. Here the decision was obvious – most certainly not! There is no need to take apart a small fish and risk over salting/smoking etc.
The third decision was whether to dry salt or brine, my preference is usually dry salting, but given the time of day, I realized that the smoking would have to wait till the morrow, and since I did not want to just leave the fish in the fridge, I dissolved 132g of salt in one liter of cold water and returned the fish to their “natural habitat” for 17 hours. The time can be reduced to a minimum of 5 hours using a more concentrated solution, but I did not want to find myself smoking at midnight either :-).

The following day I removed the fish and dried them, tied pieces of string around the tails and hung them on hooks, and fired up the smoker.

The Smoking Process
The theory calls for a first phase of 45-60 min. at 30 degrees (all measurements in centigrade), however since I am in Israel and not in Britain, and the temperature in my smoker during the summer is above 30 even before I light it 🙂 I skipped this phase. The second phase is 30 min, at 50 degrees, and the third is 45-75 min at 80 degrees, depending on the size of the fish.

My solution:
Lighting a small quantity of coals and opening the smoke vent all the way stabilized the temperature at 55, I added the wood shavings and smoked the fish for 45 min.

Then I closed the smoke vent causing the temperature to rise to approx. 80 degrees and gave the fish another 45 min. (total smoking time 1.5 hours).

I removed one fish for testing, it opened easily, removing the fish-bone was easy and the fish was surprisingly juicy, delicately smoked with a slightly salty flavour. After the fish cooled to room (air-conditioned) temperature it was still juicy and slightly saltier.

Goes great with Scottish whisky 🙂

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