Israel Part II
I was vaguely familiar with the sabich “sandwich” pita. Sabich was a person (perhaps like a middle eastern earl of sandwich) and this combination would normally consist of cold vegetables: aubergine, potato, hard boiled eggs, showered in tahini and houmous. From Jewish origin, born to suit the rules of no cooking on the Shabbat… this time the “sabich” is in the form of a salad (no pitta). Also, pickles and delicous fresh challah.
We reach the amazing bustling markets. The CARMEL MARKET is everything I remembered it to be and more. Herbs,vegetables and fruit piled high. Abundance of dried rose petals, loquats, spices, kohlrabi and fresh garlic, Celeriac, perfectly prepared juicy pomegranates, perismmons, the most incredible aromatic strawberries, pumpkin seeds, mountains of baklava and kataifi and very busy.
Ouzeria is a short walk from the hotel. A bustling restaurant on the corner with a huge queue. We are whisked to the counter, prime spot next to the kitchen. And so it begins. .. a beautiful symphony of incredible dishes. We start with chef Avivit Priel’s signature of the humble cauliflower, roasted in a delicious ceasar dressing. This works well, but is blown out of the water by a clever, jewel-like dish of beetroot ravioli; thinly sliced beetroot that had been previously wood roasted, sandwiched together with some mild goats cheese, and garnished with parsley…. An ace! Note: they use parsley stalks in abundance here, just like I would with coriander stalks.
Local Tomato salad (all cherry tomatoes) served with Israeli burrata combusts with flavour. The mint alongside basil add an extra wow. Nothing revelatory here… just gorgeous simplicity.
Eggplant carpaccio (in my world Aubergine Caviar) rolled flat under some plastic wrap, joyfully adorned with tomato Concasse, chilli, parsley and tahini, is right up my street. Bruschetta with zhoug, a completely posh garlic bread topped with smoked tuna was a complete winner…. escabeche of Grey mullet, Levinsky market salsa (preserved lemon, olives and elephant garlic)
The generous chef advised us to try her almond creme brûlée semi freddo with cherries….wonderful. The rich umami flavour of the nuts are paramount. I leave admiring what she has achieved here. She has successfully managed children and an amazing restaurant :- the holy grail.
Smugly I walk back to the hotel in what I think is the perfect shoe for walking and going out. Part trainer, part wedge, part sandal. Thank you Net-a-Porte and Nike :)
Pastel is a beautiful, mega restaurant alongside an art gallery. Bread served with what is peeled and de-seeded tomato swimming in olive oil. So good. (We will revisit this in part 4) Now to the most important bits…
A beetroot salad with cheese, the most incredible croutons and hazelnuts, it stops you in your tracks. Next, a whole cos lettuce, cut in half with candied almonds, Gouda dressing and covered in flat leaf parsley. Just incredible, again a showstopper. The meatiness of the cheese is offset by the freshness of the flat parsley and cos lettuce. The addition of a meat knife to cut the lettuce is a nod to the importance of the ingredient. The Israeli’s often do this and I love it. They put the vegetables at the highest status possible, almost like the way you would serve roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on a trolley, or crepe Suzette. But in tasting these dishes, so they should.
Another salad of asparagus, Parmesan and mushrooms, delicious but not as mind blowing as the former two but worth a mention. Then follow octopus with potatoes (those Israeli potatoes) and the most wonderful labne tortellini with tomatoes. Unforgettable.
I love this loaf fresh with butter, toasted with jam, or in an egg and spice mix for French toast.
500g 00 flour
9g quick dried yeast
60g caster sugar
1 egg beaten
60g olive oil
30g butter melted
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp milk
Black / white sesame or poppy seeds
1. Place the flour in a large bowl, mix in the yeast,sugar and salt.
In a small pan heat the honey and butter together until melted. Remove from the heat and mix with 250mls of just warm water. Beat the egg and the oil together. Add this with the water mix to the flour, mix until vaguely coherent, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes until the dough is smooth.
2. Transfer to a oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for two hours or until doubled in size.
3. Knock back briefly and divide into three pieces. Roll into long sausages. Join the three pieces at one end, and then Plait, as for a traditional challah. Place on a floured tray and cover with the oiled cling film again and allow to rise for 20 minutes.
4. Glaze with egg and milk wash, prove for another ten minutes.
5. Glaze again and carefully scatter with black and white sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
6. Bake at 180oC. after 10 minutes cover loosely with tin foil then bake for another 30 minutes or until cooked (the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom)