Sometimes you don’t need an excuse to prepare a nice meal for your family or friends. Even if it’s not a holiday or a special time of year, there’s no reason to make the same food all the time. Whenever you feel like it, you can prepare a fun meal with tasty dishes for your family.
Here are recipes for three dishes that can really spice up your week: Indian naan bread; labaneh balls; and cinnamon nut cake.
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Naan bread, which is made in a frying pan, consists of flour, yeast, oil, eggs and yogurt, which makes the bread soft and flexible.
If you’ve ever visited India, you might have seen how naan is baked in a tandoori ceramic oven. The dough is stretched, then quickly and nimbly pressed onto the internal walls of the oven. That’s why naan made in such an oven comes out so crunchy on the bottom while remaining soft on top. When you’re making naan at home, though, it’s best to use a frying pan. For best results, use a heavy pan made of iron.
Let the pan get extremely hot before you lay the pieces of naan dough on it. After letting it cook for a minute or two, gently turn it over to cook on the other side, or cook it over an open flame. When it’s done, spread a generous amount of olive oil on top and serve the naan with spreads or stews.
The second recipe is for seasoned labaneh balls, which happen to go great with naan bread. To make the labaneh, you will need yogurt, sour cream and a cheesecloth. If you don’t have a cheesecloth, you can use any simple cloth or a special device for making labaneh that has a thin and dense sieve.
For this recipe, I formed the labaneh into balls, and then rolled them in herbs and seeds.
The third recipe is a cinnamon nut cake that is easy to make and doesn’t take much time. All you need are a few ingredients that you mix together, and soon your entire house will smell so good. If you want, you can use a different type of nut in the filling, or even just leave the filling out completely – although I must admit that I love seeing the line of filling in the middle of the cake when you slice it.
This cake is even festive enough to be used for special occasions when you’re short on time. If you use a pan with a fancy shape,the cake comes out looking even more dazzling. I recommend doubling this recipe, since the cake gets eaten very quickly.
INDIAN NAAN BREAD
Makes 6-8 servings.
- 2 tsp. dry yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ½-¾ cup yogurt
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups flour, sifted
- ½ tsp. salt
- Olive oil
- 3-4 Tbsp. zaatar or fresh oregano, chopped
Place the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and stir. Cover the bowl and let the yeast ferment for a few minutes. Add the oil, yogurt and egg, then mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the yeast mixture gradually to the flour, while mixing.
Knead the dough with your hands for 3-4 minutes until it’s well mixed and smooth. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 90 minutes. Separate the dough into 6 to 8 equal-sized sections. Flatten them into circles about the size of a pita bread.
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy skillet. Place the dough circle in the pan, and add the zaatar or oregano. As soon as bubbles start to form in the naan, turn it over and fry the other side for a minute or two. Serve hot with a side dish or a spread.
Level of difficulty: Easy
Time: 2 hours (including time for letting dough rise)
SEASONED LABANEH BALLS
Makes 6-8 servings.
- 750 gr. yogurt 4% fat (at least), made from goat or sheep milk
- 1 level tsp. salt
- 1 container (200 gr.) sour cream
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- To help form the balls:
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup sumac
- ½ cup zaatar
- ½ cup sesame seeds or dried oregano
- ½ cup nigella or black sesame seeds
- ½ cup black pepper (if you like it spicy) or sweet or spicy paprika
Pour the yogurt into a large bowl. Add the salt, sour cream and lemon juice, and mix well with a whisk until it’s smooth. Spread a cheesecloth over a second large bowl, and pour the yogurt on top of it. Grab the four corners of the cheesecloth and tie them together over the faucet of your kitchen sink.
Place the bowl in the sink underneath the cheese, and leave the yogurt to drip for 18-24 hours, depending on the desired consistency. You can squeeze the cloth every once in a while to squeeze out more liquid.
Take the cheese out of the cloth and place it in a bowl. Put some oil on your palms, then take a bit of cheese and create balls with a diameter of 2 or 3 cm., or whatever size you desire. Put more oil on your hands as necessary.
Place the toppings in little bowls and roll the cheese balls in whichever toppings you choose. Arrange the balls on a serving platter or store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a few days.
Level of difficulty: Easy
Time: 30 minutes + 24 hours of waiting
CINNAMON NUT CAKE
Bake in a 24-cm.-diameter wonder pot.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ cup walnuts, ground
- ½ cup pecans, ground
- 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
- 125 gr. butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2½ cups flour, sifted
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 15 almonds, ground
- 1¼ cups sour cream or yogurt
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
To prepare the filling: Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl, except the butter, which should be added gradually until the filling is mixed well.
To prepare the batter: Mix the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer until it is creamy. Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to mix.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and almonds. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture gradually, while continuing to mix.
Add the sour cream or yogurt and mix well.
Pour half of the batter into the baking pan. Add the filling on top of the batter, then add the rest of the batter and flatten.
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 50-60 minutes. Let the cake cool, then dust it with powdered sugar.
Level of difficulty: Medium
Time: 90 minutes
Translated by Hannah Hochner.