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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Escape room or not?

The invitation to my 26th escape room arrived from an unexpected source – a bloggers event hosted by Questomania to present the new trends in the field including hands-on experience.

Our fourth escape room was one of Questomania’s and it was a disappointment, especially their handling of the issues we encountered, so to be honest, I did not expect to ever return, however I decided to give it a chance.
After light refreshments we settled down to a short yet comprehensive presentation given by the owner – Michael Safran.
2 years ago there were a handful of companies with about 10 rooms (rooms #6 and #7 were opened by Questomania). Today, there are over 300 rooms in Israel, many companies competing to carve out their niche, and an ever growing community of escapers. Questomania has chosen to branch out into additional activities other than “regular” escape rooms including:
* Portable escape rooms which enable building quests on site and using them as tools for training and organizational development
* Games in the dark
* A street quest pending final approval by the Tel-Aviv municipality
* Future plans for culinary quests

By the time Michael completed his presentation our numbers had grown to 20 so we split into 2 groups. Our group started with the “portable escape room”. Out of 5 available games we were given the Retro, classified as medium difficulty.
Well, it is not a room, and you don’t need to escape from it. Other typical escape room characteristics such as multiple spaces, decor, and light & sound effects are also lacking, so it is definitely not an “escape room”. However it is a certainly a quest, with many recognizably elements (such as locks, puzzles, riddles, ultraviolet flashlight and even some technological gadgets) that can be found in escape rooms.

Our biggest challenge was the size of our group – 10 people, most of whom had just met for the first time. The quest is parallel and not linear but it was not designed for more than 6 at the most. Unlike classic escape rooms, the gamemaster is more than just a voice and his physical presence changed the nature of communication. He was quite good and helped in synchronizing the 10 of us. We completed the quest fairly quickly – only 37 min. and in my opinion it should be classified as easy. However it was nice and is certainly suitable for beginners who are not familiar with the concept. The mobility is certainly a great advantage as it can be taken to the workplace, schools or private homes.

The noise (shouts of joy?) emanating from the room the 2nd group was in, could be heard very clearly. So we waited patiently, some of us nervously, for our next challenge.
In the first game we played 5 against 4 as it is forbidden for pregnant women (and men too). In fact you have to sign a disclaimer of liability before you enter. The purpose is to find gold treasure hidden in the room and transfer it to your team’s vault. The first team to reach 15 wins. The game takes place in total darkness with helmets and protective goggles.
The duration of the game depends on the players, but a typical game lasts 15-20 min.
Deciding on a strategy is nice, but when you cannot see anything, you have no idea where you are or where your team’s vault is, and you are trying to figure out if the person you just bumped into is on your team or not – your plans evaporate into thin air. Most of us had a lot of fun, I think one quit in the middle. Also, my team won so 🙂
For the 2nd game only 5 of us remained (a darkness overdose?). I was one of 2 catchers with glowing signs on their helmets who needed to tag 3 hiders with 2 coins each. Whenever a catcher tags a hider, he takes 1 coin. The objective is to collect all the coins in 15 min. Unlike the previous game, this one was silent except for the background music that helped the hiders. After 15 min. we had only collected 5 of the 6 coins so we lost but nevertheless it was great fun.
There are similar games that can be played in the dark so unlike an escape room or quest you can return with a different group to share the fun. Not necessarily suitable for everyone, but I enjoyed myself.

To cap: Questomania has a variety of interesting options for small and large groups and there is no doubt that after such games you will be more familiar with those who played with you 🙂



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Shall I light up?

I have been meaning to try it myself for years, you must admit it is intriguing. I have talked about it with friends, read about it on the internet and even watched some TV programs about it, but I have not yet tried it myself.
Overseas it is already an accepting thing, but until recently it was not very popular in this country. However this has slowly been changing and it has become more popular, so I plucked up my courage and decided to give it a shot myself.
Why shouldn’t I? It is my turn now and I want everybody to know all about it. Who knows, maybe one of my readers is also deliberating and I could help them take the plunge?

Whoever thinks I have been talking about smoking weed or pot simply does not know me very well, or maybe has been doing some smoking themselves. The joints I am talking about smoking are joints of meat (and the same goes for cuts – meat/fish only :-)).

The first step was to go out and get myself a smoker, I could have gone to a bar and looked for someone lighting up, but I suspect that would have pointed me in the direction of the other type of smoking. instead, I embarked on an Internet journey after defining my exact needs – a dual purpose device suited for barbecues (Independence day is coming up) as well as smoking, not too large and not expensive. The internet provided me with some useful information but my next call was to an expert who pointed me in the right direction. A compact grill/smoker that a friend of his had recently began importing, which he had fondly nicknamed RD2D.It arrived in a rather small cardboard box, a neat feat of packaging which I set out to build with my 5 year old who had great fun handling real nuts, bolts and washers.
It cost all of 550 NIS and can be purchased from the following link.
We promptly left our new robot in the middle of the house and went out to enjoy our last day of the Passover holidays before returning to school.

The following day I took the smoker outside and decided to begin with a little chicken, so I hopped over to the local supermarket and bought some coals and chicken thighs (as well as some marshmallows for Independence day). I already had a stock of wood shavings from a tiny smoker I once used to tinker around with.

Important: You can buy wood chips for smoking or use what you find in nature but beware, not all wood is suitable – for example never use conifers, and certainly do not use processed wood that contains chemicals. You do not want to end up with a ghastly flavor or poisoning yourself – so do your homework on this topic!

I placed the chicken thighs in a mix of 2 good barbecue sauces and proceeded to light the coals (approx 1 kg) in the bottom tray.

It took the smoker a while to reach the required temperature of 105-110°C (225°F) and then it was time to put the bowl of wood shavings in place (there is no point in putting in in place right after lighting the coals as the meat is still in the kitchen and your wood shavings will literally just be going up in smoke), and place the chicken on the top rack.

Now all that was left for me to do was wait and occasionally make sure the temperature did not vary too much. You have limited control over the temperature by controlling the smoke flow out of the lid, and you can add coals via the bottom door if necessary.
Chicken thighs take approx. 2 hours to cook and you can also measure the internal temperature, with a suitable thermometer, which should reach 75°C (165°F).

And here are the beautiful results



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Barcelona lessons – Spanish Omelet

Eggs are not my favorite food. It is one thing when they are hidden in a quiche or a mousse, in a meringue or in ice-cream. I can even handle a yolk when it is fried with bacon, but hard-boiled eggs, soft-boiled eggs or omelets are not for me, that is unless it is a Spanish omelet (Tortilla Espanola or Tortilla de Patatas) – another dish we learned how to cook in Barcelona

?So what is the difference between a regular omelet and a Spanish one
It is like the difference between tomato soup and Gazpacho – i.e. something completely different.

Ingredients (for 4)
4 medium sized potatoes
1 onion
4 eggs
Olive oil

Preparation (copied from our cooking class)
1. Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut them in halves and dice them thinly. Peel and cut the onion.
2. Fry the potatoes on a low heat for 10 mins. Then add the onions and fry it all together for 10 mins more. Drain them and set aside.
3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and mix them with the drained potatoes and onions and season it with salt.
4, Pour the mixture into a heated pan and cook it for 2-3 mins. Flip it over with a plate and cook it for 2 mins more. Flip it again and serve.

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Can be eaten hot or cold, on a plate or in a sandwich


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Barcelona lessons – Gazpacho

During our trip to Spain last month, my son & I attended a cooking class in Barcelona, one of the dishes we learned to prepares was Gazpacho (4 weeks ago to the day) – a cold soup from the southern region of Andalusia. A refreshing dish suitable for the summer months, or a hot November day in Israel. There are many Gazpacho recipes online, but I have chosen to stick with the one taught daily in Spain 🙂

6 tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber
1 garlic clove
1 small green pepper
1/2 a red pepper
300 ml water
1 slice of dry bread
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt for seasoning

Preparation (verbatim from the cooking class)
1. Firstly grate the tomatoes and cut up all the vegetables.
2. Then set aside about 50g of the cucumber, green pepper and red pepper and dice them very finely to garnish the gazpacho.
3. Soak the bread in the water and the vinegar. Then, in a bowl, mix all the vegetables together and pour the soaked bread in and blend while adding olive oil to emulsify.
4. Refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. Garnish and serve.

Additional dishes will follow…

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Ribbed animal wanted

Ribbed animal wanted
for Saturday lunch

Animal ribs wanted

Separate the ribs with a knife – just the meat, leave the bones connected
Coat with honey and then with mustard
Place rosemary sprigs between the ribs
Brush with a little soy sauce
Place in a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil

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Cut potatoes into wedges
Coat with olive oil – use your hands the oils is good for the skin
Sprinkle with “Tuscany” herb blend (coarse salt, ground black pepper, garlic crystals, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, sweet paprika, rosemary)


Place both pans in a pre-heated oven at 175 C
After 30 min. remove the aluminum foil from the ribs
Cook for another 15-30 min.

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Enjoy the food then take a nap 🙂

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I need to de-liver

“May I have some chicken liver?”
“Are you sure? It is Shavuot now everyone is into milk”
“Don’t worry, I will take milk products too”
“So what is it you wanted?”
“Some of these livers, yes the darker ones, not the light brown ones”

When I got home, I chopped a little onion and placed it in a heavy frying pan.
I added a generous quantity of olive oil so it would not burn and set it simmering.
When the onion began to turn translucent, I ground some black pepper from above.
No, it is not yet time for the salt 🙂

I pushed the onion aside leaving the center of the pan free and placed 4 beautiful pieces of liver in the middle, listening to the sounds…

The colour started to change from the bottom up and when it reached midway and they began to bleed, I turned them over gently.
No, it is still not time for the salt 🙂

I gave the pan a gentle shake to mix the liver and onions

I poured a little brandy over them, if you wish you can also flambé.
1-2 minutes to let the alcohol and extra liquid evaporate and straight to the plate!

Now is the time for the salt 🙂

Enjoy your breakfast!

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Who died?

“I have a new Kurt Vonnegut book for you”
“Isn’t he dead?”
“I think he is, maybe it has only just been translated”
“Let’s see what it says in the book”
Translated 2011
Written 2009
Died 2007

So is he too writing from the grave?

vg.jpg download 

Look at the Birdie is a collection of 14 short stories (first published according to the jacket), however some sounded rather familiar, but this could be due to Vonnegut’s unique style. Look at the Birdie is also the name of the 12th story which I think is the best of the bunch due to its brilliant and original underlying idea – I like ideas that switch the cause and effect and take advantage of opportunities (the legendary Phillip K. Dick had many such ideas too).
The phrase “Look at the Birdie” sounded familiar but even though I know Vonnegut’s works I could not recall where exactly I had seen it before, neither was Google any help.

One of the things I like best about his writing is that the stories are timeless, and even though they do have a set time & location, they could just have easily occurred elsewhere and elsewhen, which makes them great for any time. When your idea is good, you are not too dependent on the details surrounding you.

Translating Vonnegut is quite a challenge and Nadav Dror has stood up to it nicely though I do intend to lay my hands on an English copy some time (&place).


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