|Shakshouka: at Cordelia restaurant in Jaffa, at beach restaurant Manta Ray, at Arkadia restaurant in Jerusalem.|
So I’m going to write about Israeli food – not the politics, which is a topic without end and probably without solution in my lifetime. Another thing I will talk about is that, on this trip, I got to meet some of the most important food bloggers in the world.
My week in Israel was as the guest of Kinetis, an organisation that seeks to promote Israeli culture beyond the conflict. They invited bloggers from key countries* and, at various times, groups who specialise in particular subjects: music, mummy bloggers and food bloggers.
Becoming a successful blogger, like anything, requires application and talent. But most of all, you have to keep going. So many blogs stutter and stop after three months. Lebowitz and Pille both started pre-blogger format, in 1999 and 2000 respectively. That’s over a decade of constant posting. Without pay. You only do this if you are committed, slightly obsessed and really have something to say.
Serious Eats and The Kitchn, the latter site being an off-shoot of Apartment Therapy, started around 2005. Each employs around a dozen bloggers who post several times a day.
Another reason for inviting bloggers as opposed to mainstream press is that Israel has a vibrant IT and new media sector, not far behind Silicon Valley. One part of the trip we met Israeli internet start-ups and listened to their pitches for new foodie apps. Said one “ipad style computers will match then replace desktop computer within two or three years’.
Apps, and therefore bloggers, are inexorably part of the future of publishing.
And so to the food. Yesterday, with sultry summer weather, leafing through the reissue of Claudia Roden’s evocative book ‘Picnics’, I felt in the mood for testing some of the dishes I ate in Israel, at home. Shakshouka is a classic Middle Eastern breakfast dish, eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce. On my last day in Israel, I went to a cool vegetarian friendly hang-out cafe Orna and Ella with my friend Professor Aeyal Gross, who had just been protesting against the White Night in Tel Aviv. Orna and Ella served a vegan version: tofu shakshouka. It was one of the best things I ate in Israel.
Yesterday I made it, not knowing the official recipe, but just like before, I scoffed the lot in one sitting. I’m a big fan of tofu, which tends to get a bad press for being bland but, paired with strong tastes, it’s an extraordinary flavour sponge. For this dish use silken tofu, a delightful textural contrast. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting purple spring onions in my Riverford Organics vegetable box, so I used those too, for the taste and the colour.
A good slug of olive oil
Half a dozen cherry tomatoes, split in half
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into thin strips
5 sprigs of purple spring onions, chopped into rounds
5 cloves of garlic, cut into slithers
A tin of chopped tomatoes
1 box of silken tofu, cut into squares (on your palm, or in the box)
1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
1 tablespoon of freshly ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
A few strands of saffron
1 teaspoon or more, to taste, of crushed chilli peppers
Salt to taste
A scoop of sour cream or yoghurt (optional)
Heat up the oil in a good quality cast iron skillet or a decent non-stick frying pan such as Green Pan. Then add the cherry tomatoes and the red pepper strips, fry until slightly golden. Add the spring onions. Ditto.
Then add everything else. Don’t stir. It’s cooked once all the tomatoes seem cooked through and the tofu has sort of poached into a silky wobbliness but still retain a cube-like shape.
Once it’s done, add some sour cream or yoghurt and maybe a few slices of the purple spring onions on top. Eat with warm pitta.
Really, this is a dish to convince non-veggies.
|The red and green peppers are just starting to ripen in my garden|
As I couldn’t find the fresh mint in the garden, because I was thinking, mmm fresh mint tea with sugar and pine nuts to cool me down, I accompanied this with a citron pressé, a cool tall drink, popular in French cafés.
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Squeeze the lemon into a tall glass. Add the rest of the ingredients.
|Citron pressé, watching bumble bees bounce upon the sprigs of lavender, a pink blanket on a green lawn|