Next to any busy marketplace, roadside or a village carnival in Bangladesh, Pakistan or India and you’ll see people in little stalls making fresh hot Jilebi. They are a little like funnel cakes but more delicate and crispy. There’s nothing like eating hot Jilebis. It’s better than hot Krispy Kremes! They melt in your mouth in a little explosion of sweetness and crunchiness. Of course, you can also buy them at fancier establishments, restaurants or sweet shoppes, but the road side ones are the best. I miss that here. Sometimes when the nostalgia gets to be too much, I just make my own. We were invited to dinner at a friend’s house. I offered to bring dessert just so I could have an excuse to make Jilebis. The problem was that I ate quite a few of them even as I was making them. I finally had to stop so I’d have enough to take to the dinner.
It took me a while to get all the proportions right and to figure out what tool to use to actually expel my batter into the oil to make the jilebi shapes. It also took a lot of trial and error to make them taste like the roadside Jilebis. I think I finally got it. You try it out and let me know.
Here’s the recipe:
1/2 cup all purpose flour (maida)
1-2 tsp of chick pea flour (Besan)
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 cup of warm water
oil for frying
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 crushed cardamom pods
3-4 strands of saffron (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice (to keep it from crystallizing)
Assemble the Jilebi:
In a small bowl add the water, sugar and yeast and let it sit for about 3-5 minutes until it’s all foamy and bubbly. In a separate bowl, mix the two flours and the oil. Slowly add in the proofed yeast while stirring the flour mixture until it’s smooth. Consistency should be like a pancake batter. Make sure there are no lumps. Let it sit covered for about 1 hour.
Make the syrup:
Before getting the batter ready for frying, assemble all the ingredients for the syrup and bring to a boil. Turn it to the lowest setting and let it simmer for about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat.
Making the Jilebi (this goes fast so have everything ready to go):
Preheat oil. Test readiness by putting a little of the jilebi mixture in the oil and if it floats to the top right away it’s ready. Make sure not to overheat the oil. Pour the jilebi mixture into a squeeze bottle or a ziplock bag with a tip cut out to make a small hole. The mixture will be slightly stringy and elastic. If using a squeeze bottle from a baking store, try the Wilton decorating tip number seven. It’s the perfect size hole plus the bottle and tip only cost about $2 and you can use the bottle for tons of different things. Using a circular motion and even pressure put batter into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and set it over some paper towels to absorb excess oil. While jilebi is still hot put it in the warm syrup to coat both sides and take it out immediately. Best served hot. But if you must have some later (if there is any left), please heat in the oven and not the microwave so it retains the crispy texture.
I enjoy finding bargains and especially food bargains. Today on my grocery store run, I discovered some Edam cheese on sale for only 75 cents for an 8 ounce package. I couldn’t pass up that deal so I decided to buy a few packages. I really enjoy different kinds of cheese but Edam was fairly new to me so I decided to try it out. I loved the soft texture and the medium flavor. I decided that it would be great to try to make homemade crackers with them. How hard could it be? I’d made plain cheese crackers before and thought it would be nice to balance out the flavors of this cheese with some fresh herbs. So, here it is, my little creation. They were fantastic with some fresh salad that had D’Anjou pears in them.
Here’s the recipe:
Thyme and Rosemary Edam Crackers
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup shredded Edam cheese
1 tsp fresh Thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh Rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon water (may take a little less or more)
1 1/4 cup flour
Mix together Rosemary and Thyme with the salt and pepper and rub it together to release the flavors. Set aside. In a mixing bowl cream the butter until smooth and add the cheese and the herb mixture. Slowly add in flour and keep mixing at low speed. If necessary use the tablespoon of water (may take a little more or less depending on the humidity) to make the dough come together. Take out of the bowl and roll into a 9 inch log. Wrap the log with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat liner. Using a very sharp knife cut the log into 1/4 or 3/8 inch slices. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-22 minutes. They should be a beautiful golden brown color. Cool and enjoy as an appetizer or with any kind of salad. They are wonderful with some D’Anjou pears sliced thinly on top as well. Makes about 28 crackers.
One of the most vivid memories I have of visiting Greece as a teenager is the amazing food. Everything tasted wonderful and different from foods that I was used to at that time. I loved the pastries, the meats and the delicate flavors. It’s during that trip that I began a serious love affair with Spanakopita, a crispy, delicate and delicious Spinach Pie. I seriously could eat huge quantities of Spanakopita. Every year in September, my city has a big Greek Festival. I try to go annually to load up on Greek delicacies that I don’t have time to make. For years I used to pig out on Spanakopita at the festival, when finally a few years ago I got smart. I decided that I’d asked all of my Greek friends to give me their very best versions of Spanakopita recipes so I could try them all. My friends were very helpful and passed on several recipes and over the last several years I’ve combined the things I liked from all of them to come up with this current recipe. Some families like to make Spanakopita in a large pan and cut them into squares, while others prefer to make them into triangle shapes. I love the versatility of the triangle shape since it’s so portable and because I can freeze them and bake them up individually (or a whole bunch) whenever I have a craving!
Here’s the recipe:
Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles
1 box Fillo Dough
2 pounds frozen chopped Spinach (you can use fresh but in this recipe there is very little difference)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil (I like to use fresh basil)
1 tsp dill
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (you can use dry thyme)
1 tsp kosher salt
5 stalks of Scallions
7 oz crumbled Feta
1/2 cup Ricotta
1/2 cup Cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter
4 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Defrost Spinach and squeeze out all excess water and set aside. In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute onions, scallions, garlic, salt and herbs. After onions are tender, add Spinach to the mixture and stir fry for a few minutes. Take off heat and pour it into a large bowl. Add eggs, cheeses and lemon juice to the Spinach mixture. Stir to mix well.
Take out Fillo dough from package and put them on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out. Melt 3 sticks of butter in a microwave safe bowl and get a pastry brush. Place a piece of Fillo dough on a large cutting board and brush it with melted butter, working quickly so the fillo doesn’t dry out, place another sheet on top and brush that with butter as well. Repeat with three sheets of Fillo. Using a pizza cutter, cut three equal long strips on the Fillo. Place a large 1 1/2 tablespoon of spinach filling on the top of one of the strips and fold it at an angle so it forms a triangle. Keep folding the triangle onto itself until all the filling is enclosed in a triangular shape. Place it on a cookie sheet and brush the completed triangle with melted butter. Repeat the procedure withe the other two strips. Continue making triangles with three sheets of buttered Fillo at a time. Should yield about 42-46 individual Spanakopitas. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Serve warm.