Israel Part I

So incredible to arrive here in Israel. I love the first glimpse out of the plane window to see the extreme Mediterranean landscape. As a Brit, there is great familiarity to the terroir from our local (south of) French neighbours but with the added glittering spice of the exotic Middle East.  

We replenished ourselves with an espresso martini on the roof of our beautiful hotel, Poli House. We then walked along the streets of Tel Aviv. It was quiet following large parties in the city, celebrating 70 years of independence.    

Like being in Australia, walking down the main streets, the flats and apartments are low rise, giving a feeling of cosyness, to only increase the uplifting warmth of the wonderful Eastern Mediterranean. 

My third visit to Israel and it is becoming a tradition to go to Restaurant Santa Katarina.

The first taste we get of Israel proper is the bread (Jerusalem bagel to be precise), it is mind blowing, so crisp, so light, so flavoursome, so comforting. How do they do it?  The climate? The wheat roasted in the hot med sun?  Is it because they have been doing it for longer than the rest of us?  I am reminded of the comfort of Israeli cooking and their inherent ability to add richness to the simplest of dishes. The creaminess of the chickpeas… alongside tahini feels just, well, right? In London, tahini always feels a bit out of place for me.  The perfectly puffy bread soaks up compelling chilli alongside the chickpea “mashaba” - yum. Labne ravioli with tomatoes and olives.  Pasta is thick by my standards but who cares?

Then followed artichokes with aioli, zhoug and crème fraiche.  The artichoke is simply charred then halved. Do they know how lucky they are with their produce?! Then follows the most perfect crispy squid tempura, smoked eggplant and broccoli on a spicy tomato sauce, we chased the smoked eggplant round the plate and munched on the exquisitely fresh squid.

We ended with a spiced fish stew, a beautiful balance of anise, prawns, peas, fennel, tomato and drum fish. Washed down with a beautiful red wine Castel Grand Vin 2014 from the Castel winery. We serve this wine at restaurant Marianne and are due a visit to the vineyard on Tuesday…   We have eaten far too much (a common theme to the trip) but the fresh sage and mint tea is the perfect antidote….

RECIPE- FRESH MINT AND SAGE TEA

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS-

20 fresh mint leaves 

5 small sage leaves 

METHOD-

Place the herbs in small teapot and cover with boiling water. 

Steep for 30 seconds and then pour

 

Marianne Lumb