Pan de Muerto ( Bread of the Dead)

Pan de Muerto ( Bread of the Dead)

The 2th of November, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. Is a colorful traditions full of smells, good food and nostalgia. We not only remember our lost ones, we actually believe for one night they come back not to hunt us but to party! So we left an small offering that includes their favorite food, drinks and any vice they enjoyed during life. At night, thanks to the flowers, the candles and the incense, they will find their way home and will take the smell of all of the food with them.

Of course, the next day the living eat what is left behind. One of the fundamental traditions of the day, together with the sugar skulls is eating bread of the death. Yes, Bread of the death and no, nobody died in the making of this recipe. However, my sources say that long long time ago, I mean prehispanic times, this bread might had included blood, or a princess heart. The Spanish monks did not appreciate this culinary tradition so they suggest to change it for bread with the shape of a heart and painted with red sugar. Probably this new thing took some time to become popular, and in the way, it changed immensely, to the point that is not red anymore or has a heart shape. Now it is round, has bones on top and a bread skull.  The orange blossom flavouring is a reminder of our loved ones that are no longer with us.  The bones are put on top of the bread in a cross shape. This was convenient for everyone as Mexicans interpreted as the four directions of the universe while Spanish so a Christian cross in it.

Making bread of the death is not the easiest thing ever, but is worth it! The key is how long do you knead the dough. You need to start with a really sticky dough and finish with a soft and elastic one. I suggest you see some youtube videos; it can be of any kind of bread so you get the idea of how the dough should look like. If you speak Spanish, I would recommend looking for Yuri de Gortari recipes in his channel “ Cocina e Identidad.”




Pan de Muerto ( bread of the dead)

For 6-7 small loaves

250 ml of milk

500 grams of strong bread flour ( if you live in a country were normal plain flour is weak… if you find strong bread flour probably the normal one is weak)

100 grams of  caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling

15 grams of dry fast action yeast

2 to 3  large eggs

½ teaspoon of sea salt

Two teaspoons of orange blossom ( if you do not find it put an orange blossom tea bag in the warm milk for 5 minutes)

150 grams of butter

Melted butter, for greasing and brushing

  1. Warm 150 ml of the milk. Add the yeast and one tablespoon of sugar and another one of flour. Let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes (until it bubbles, if it does not you killed your yeast! So try again and do not over heat the milk).
  2. Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well, sprinkle the rest of the sugar, and salt. When the yeast has rest add the mixture to the flour as well as the orange blossom and two eggs ( if you are doing this in a standing mixer just put all the ingredients together except the butter, until you have a dough ball. Then add the butter)
  3. Start kneading the dough, the dough most be sticky, do not add more flour! If necessary add the rest of the milk and the egg.
  4. After kneading for10 minutes add the butter. Knead until the dough is soft and elastic (by hand more or less 30 minutes). Let it rest for one hour or until it has doubled its size.
  5. Divide it into 120g balls. Role it into small balls and use 2 of the pieces to make the “bones” of the bread and the skulls. Let the dough rest for at least 30 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  6. Wet your fingers to “glue” the bones and on top of them the skull. Yes, well this is not as easy as it seems. I did 18 loaves this year, and the skull of all of them fall to the side… if anybody knows how to avoid this please please let me know!
  7. Bake the bread for 20-30 minutes or until gold. While still hot, glaze the rolls with melted butter and cover in sugar.
  8. Let them cool before eating! I suggest to eat them with hot chocolate.. dunk Paul Hollywood style!

These loaves freeze beautifully!

Breakfast at Tel Aviv ( Or how to make Shakshuka)

Breakfast at Tel Aviv ( Or how to make Shakshuka)


Shakshuka is everywhere. In the last few months, the picture of eggs poached in a red sauce and served in an iron cast has become the most common thing I see on my Instagram.  However, shakshuka has been around for ages; I am sorry to tell you, but Ottolenghi did not invent shakshuka. Somebody, centuries ago created this dish in North Africa, maybe in Lybia, maybe in Tunisia. Is it a Jewish dish? I’m not sure. But from his or her kitchen shakshuka travelled to the Middle East and became extremely popular in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv.  However, as far as I know other countries like Turkey also have similar dishes and I know for a fact that Palestinians also love it.  A Moroccan woman in Israel also told me once that shakshuka was the name of the sauce, and it did not need the eggs to be called like that.

Independently of its origin, shakshuka is now the trendiest brunch food in New York and London. In Tel Aviv it has been in the menus for decades. Almost every restaurant offers it, and there are thousands of varieties. However, I still love Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa, an extremely popular restaurant that serves excellent Lybian food in ridiculously big portions. Just don’t try to go on a Saturday morning as you will find it close: it is a kosher restaurant.

So here is my recipe for Shakshuka. No, is not a quick one so I recommend you to cook the sauce the day before or make a lot of it and freeze it (although it last for a week in tour fridge). Remember also that the heavier the pan, the better and that ideally you serve shakshuka in the pan.



3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

4 red peppers (I prefer to use romano peppers) cut into 3 cm squares ( you do not need to measure them, is just my way to tell you not  to chop them)

1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

4 eggs

2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

½  teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of  sweet paprika

1 red dry chili ( I used ancho, but use any chili you have fresh, dry anything.. or don’t use it)

Salt and maybe sugar

To serve: You can serve this with a side of tahini sauce and bread ( Challah is the traditional Tel Avivi choice but feel free to use sourdough or even pita), you can top your shakshuka with feta cheese, zaatar, coriander, parsley… Anything you want!


How to do it?

The sauce

As mentioned before, you can do this part the day before.

  1. Put the oil in a heavy pan with the peppers and a pinch of salt. Let the peppers cook for around 30 minutes at medium-law hit or until they collapse (that means until they are extremely soft).
  2. Add the garlic, the chilli ( If you used a dry chilli remember to soak it in boiling water before) and let them cook for two minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes. At this point try the sauce and if you think is too sour add a pinch of sugar.
  3. Let the sauce simmer for ten more minutes over a medium heat. The add the paprika, cumin, and salt.
  4. If you are preparing this in advance, let the sauce cool down and then put it in the fridge.

The eggs

  1. Heat the sauce over a medium flame until bubbling. Use a cast-iron pan or a heavy pan for this.
  2. Make four holes in the sauce and crack the eggs on them. You can use a wooden spoon to mix the whites with the sauce slightly… however, do as you wish.
  3. Cover the pan with a lid and let the eggs yolks cook as much as you want. However, in a really good shakshuka, the yolks should be runny.
  4. Turn the heat off, put any topping you are using in the shakshuka and serve it immediately on the table with bread to soak in the sauce and tahini* on the side.

Remember, you are having an Israeli style brunch so the idea is that everybody in the table can share the shakshuka… Double dipping is the right thing to do!

*Mix the tahini paste with lemon juice,  garlic (optional) and cold water until it gets the texture you wish. Do not serve the paste directly from the jar!


Not in the mood for cooking?

These are my favourite places to get shakshuka in London:

Honey & Co ( you need a reservation)

Roni  ( No reservation needed, three locations and please also try the bagels!)

The good egg ( long lines but worth it! Also try the sabih)

People that don’t eat fish

People that don’t eat fish


There are hundreds of culinary tribes out there. Gluten-free people, vegetarians, vegans, pescetarians, flexitarians, lactose-intolerant, people that don’t eat red meat but do eat chicken, coriander haters, detox-obsessed, cold-press juice lovers, carb avoiders,  and of course kosher and halal keepers. However, there is one more tribe, a silent, discriminated group of people that nobody talks about: the people that don’t eat fish.

I am one of them. I want to say I have always been a member of this tribe,  but my mother will tell you that is not truth. I can tell you I have a childhood trauma, which I do not like fish on my plate or my beach, but I would just be making excuses. I simply hate the smell of fish.  You probably have at least one friend that hates fish, but modern society has told us not liking fish is not ok. So we hide, lie and come up with non-existing allergies.  You can go to a dinner party and tell the host “ I do not eat red meat”, or even “ I only eat free range eggs, and ethically sourced beef.” However, if you tell them “ I do not eat fish or any seafood” her answer will not be as kind as if you have told them you only eat mushrooms picked in the autumn by blind pigs in the north of Italy.

So why is it ok, even cool to avoid bread and pasta without a medical diagnosis but is not ok not to eat fish? Well, that question has haunted me for decades. Traditional vegetarians eat fish as if living in the sea made you a less important being than if you live in a farm. Fish are also not as cute as spring lambs and in a society that measures the value of an animal according to how fluffy they are, fish have definitely lose the battle. I do have used the excuse “I do not eat tuna because dolphins get caught in the fisher nets” and my feeder at the moment has looked at me convinced of the ethical value of my food choices.

But the thing is, people that don’t  eat fish exist, and we are a lot. We are a close, selective, peace loving group of people that can’t stand the smell of paella on a Sunday. We do not understand the fascination for lobster, the thrill that people get when they eat an oyster and passionately tell you “ it is exactly like having the ocean in your mouth.”

I have the joy to count among my friends with at least three members of this almost secret society. I can also tell you that I felt in love with my husband when I heard his laugh for the first time, but the minute he told me “ well, I am not crazy about fish” I knew we were made for each other. I understood what complicity means one day that I was sitting in a restaurant next to the beach with a large group of people and found the other person ordering pizza. When I hear somebody openly and unapologetically saying he does not like fish, I simply know I have found a new friend. I feel sorrow when I hear a person saying“ yes I am allergic to fish, well to anything that swims, yes yes is weird.” I know the truth, I know his inner child still remembers the lunches he had to endure when he was invited to his friend’s house and was confronted with fish fingers.

But the thing is, I am a food anthropologist. We could say, I eat for a living. Yes is great, interesting, unconventional, but is also sometimes a nightmare. Before I started my Ph.D. fieldwork, I had to teach myself to eat fish. There was no way I could sit down in hundreds of Shabbat dinners and not eat fish. So I learned, I suffered, but I can now sit down, eat my fish and not agonize for days before and after. I still need a big glass of water in front of me, and I will not eat anything with eyes or bones as  I have not yet developed the skills that are necessary to avoid choking with a thorn.

The path to be able to eat fish was not easy.  One of my worst experiences was when I was invited by one of my research informants to a Greek restaurant in Tel Aviv. I said I did not eat seafood, as that was quite common in a kosher country. She thought that was a reasonable excuse, but eating fish was unavoidable. We arrived at the restaurant, and after a few drinks and an incredible selection of Greek salads, the main attraction arrived: fish liver, a Greek delicacy. I wanted to run away and cry, but I stayed, I was brave, and I ate it. I got drunk in the process of doing it, and I also developed an obsession with raki/arak/ouzo or any variety of anise flavoured drink. However, my efforts were well paid. During that meal, I heard an incredible love story that involved spies that loved champagne and caviar,  an Italian priest that ran away with an Israeli rebellious married pioneer woman,  a Moroccan aunt that substitute saffron with turmeric and an unfaithful chef.   Yes I only ate ice cream for a week after, and the texture and flavour of that liver still lingers on my tongue, but that story… That story was worth every bite.

However, my biggest challenge came a few weeks later. And yes, a lot of you know what I am talking about: Gefiltefish. The famous gefiltefish, a traditional European Jewish dish, eaten in Passover and hated by a large percentage of the world population. I can almost say that I might make a career from my repulsion for this dish. People that have the courage to eat it will only eat the one prepared by their grandmothers, and apart from one person with an intense need to prove her belonging to Judaism, I have never found anybody that says “ I love Gefiltefish.” So this ground fish with carrots and sugar is possibly the worst nightmare of anybody in my tribe. However, it was my job to try it. The day came, the Passover dinner and the Gefilte fish was there. A huge ball of fish in front of me, prepared by a lovely Ukrainian-Israeli grandmother and with all the symbolism that an almost millennial culinary tradition can give. But I could not do it, I looked at it and said: “ I am sorry, I am allergic to fish, can you pass me chopped liver?”

The people that don’t eat fish are my favourite people. My husband and I have hundreds of differences, from political to religious. But when I hear him say “ I do not feel comfortable having fish in the house” I know our love is forever.

Bagel (or Beigel) Recipe

Bagel (or Beigel) Recipe

  • bagels4


So, you are new to London and you are visiting Brick Lane for the first time. Suddenly, you see a big line of people politely queueing (a really British thing to do) outside  a shop. You immediately try to see what all the fuss is about and you discover that the shop’s name is “Beigel Shop” and yes, people are queueing for bagels.

But is ‘beigel’ a spelling mistake???? Or is it some kind of British pastry that you are not familiar with? Well, neither, a beigel is a bagel, but on this side of the city the proper name is Beigel.  In theory, there is a difference: beigels must be handmade and bagels are factory produced. I´m not sure if we can say that this applies now, but I can say that the Beigel shop in Brick Lane does make beigels by hand (with a little bit of industrialised help). The story is not very clear to me, but what we do know is that these little pieces of bread were invented some centuries ago in Poland, the legend says that it was in Krakow. Although they are usually related to Jewish food, apparently they were common with Polish people of all religions and they may have been invented to commemorate childbirth (quite a graphic commemoration to be honest). Jewish Polish communities travelled to the United States with the bagels recipe   becaming popular, especially in New York.  Jewish communities became fond of them because the parboiling process allows them to remain fresher for longer, and during times when ingredients are scarce, it is always nice to know that the bread made with the only flour available will last longer than other styles.  Although nowadays bagels are common everywhere in the United States the rumor is that the best bagels are the ones produced in Montreal, and if anyone is curious about my opinion and is willing to sponsor me for the trip I will be happy to let you know the result of the experiment!

Brick Lane is not close to my house and sometimes I really want to have fresh beigels  for breakfast so I bake my own. It is the easiest bread ever – it does take time, but for most of it, you can be sleeping, reading or drinking at the pub.  They freeze really well, so you can freeze half of them and eat the rest during the week. Enjoy!!


(12 bagels)

700 grams of strong white flour (if there is no such thing in your country, just add two alka seltzers to any kind of white flour that you have)

12grams of instant yeast

4 tsp of sugar

10 grams of salt (yes, yes it is not too much, you will be perfectly fine)

400 ml of warm water (by warm water I mean that if you put your finger in it you will not scream)

Sesame seeds, nigella seeds, and I definitely do not recommend poppy seeds as they never stick to the dough and it becomes really messy (but hey! You are the one cleaning up after so you decide)

You will also need:  a bowl, saucepan, an oven, a scale, a baking sheet with baking paper (or lightly oiled), a tea towel or cling film. I also used a standing mixer but you can do this by hand and you can skip the upper body routine in the gym.


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with the exception of two teaspoons of sugar. Try to put the yeast as far as possible from the salt and as close to the sugar as you can. It’s believed that the salt kills the yeast, it has never happened in my experience but well, it doesn’t hurt to follow all wisdom.
  2. Start kneading the dough by hand or in the standing mixer with the dough attachment. The time this is going to take you varies depending on you or your machine’s strength, so between 10 and 30 minutes I will say. It is going to be slightly sticky at the beginning, do not add more water. Nigella says you can add more flour (only to the bagels) but I have never needed to do this. It is a hard dough (literally) so be patient. You want the dough to be elastic and does not stick to any surface or your hands. It is also going to become a little shiny.
  3. When your dough is ready, cover it with a damp tea towel or cling film. You now have two options: let the dough rise at room temperature for two hours or until it doubles in size, or put it in the fridge for around 10 hours and take it out for an hour before going to the next step.bagel
  4. Divide the dough into 100 grams pieces. Roll them into balls, flatten them slightly and make a whole in them with your fingers. Remember the dough will continue proving so make big holes that they will not close after. Cover them again and let them to rise for half hour.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat your oven at 220 C. Put the rest of the sugar in a saucepan with boiling water and start popping the bagels in it. Let them boil for 30 seconds on each side and then immediately cover them with sesame seeds or nigella seeds if you are using them.
  6. Bake the bagels for 25 minutes, or until they are crispy on the top and sound shallow in the bottom.
  7. Let them cool down before eating or freezing them. If you are eating them during the week keep them at room temperature in a closed bag or container.


You want to know more about bagels?? Try The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread by Ms. Maria Balinska

Tinga en Chinga!

Tinga en Chinga!

tacos.jpgFirst of all, you just learned a new word in Mexican Spanish. Chinga means quickly in Mexico, although it can have hundreds of different meanings, and is a word that you might not want to repeat in front of a Mexican grandmother unless she is really cool and laid back.

So, the important part is that this is a quick recipe for Tinga, a traditional Mexican guisado (another new word, this  refers  to some kind of stew that normally involves meat) of chicken and tomatoes. Guisados can be used as fillings for tacos, and I suggest you eat this tinga with corn tortillas.

But now that we are talking about tacos, let me give you  some general rules about them:

  1. A taco is a soft tortilla filled with absolutely anything you want (look! I´m being really relaxed here!). It is eaten by pushing two of the sides of the tortilla together and encasing the filling inside. You eat tacos with your hands. ALWAYS.
  2. Notice that I mention soft tortillas. Yes, the only way you can call whatever you are eating tonight a taco is by using soft tortillas, corn preferably, or wheat (if you really do not have any other option. If you are using a hard shell you either are eating a weird shaped “tostada”, or you are eating a strange dish invented by the owner of Taco Bell who thought that tacos were not “fast enough” for the United States and invented that hard shell f thing.  The guy clearly never visited a real taqueria ( a place that sells tacos) as he would have noticed that we are pretty fast in serving and eating tacos (the real thing) without any of his inventions.
  3. A taco does not need cream, cheese or lettuce. We normally use a small amount of lime juice, coriander, salsa and onion if the tacos are filled with grilled meat. If, like in the case of this recipe, the filling of your choice is a guisado we don’t normally add anything, (sometimes more salsa or rice)

So I hope this inspires you to try real tacos, and please make me proud next #TacoTuesday .

So here you have a traditional, easy and if you want “authentic” Mexican recipe:


(for 10 small small tacos)

400gr of skinless chicken breast

1 tin of chopped tomatoes or passata (really good quality, if you live in a sunny country use real tomatoes, the sweeter the better, you´ll need around 300 grams)

1 Onion, thinly sliced

1 pinch of cumin

1 or 2 chipotles (depending on how spicy you want it, if you do not have chipotles use one teaspoon of good quality chipotle salsa or chipotle powder. Do not substitute this with normal chili powder, it is better to use a fresh red chilli or nothing)

1 pinch of sugar

2 cloves of garlic

250 ml of water


1 chicken stock cube

Vegetable oil


Equipment:  a stove, a saucepan, a blender




  1. Boiled the chicken in salted water until it is completely cooked (around 25 minutes).
  2. Let the chicken cool and shred it as thin as your patience allows you.
  3. In a blender, blend together the tomatos, garlic, salt cumin, sugar, chicken stock cube and chipotles.
  4. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until it is translucent on a medium heat (around 10 minutes).
  5. Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan with the onions, increase the heat and add the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for five minutes before adding the chicken.
  6. Simmer the tinga for 15 minutes on a medium heat making sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Taste for salt and sugar.
  7. Serve in hot tortillas or with rice and refried beans.


Want to know more about tacos? Look for  Tacopedia, the taco encyclopedia  by Deborah Holtz, or get more academic with Global Taco by Jeffrey Pilcher.



Biblical Lentil soup (well kind of)

Biblical Lentil soup (well kind of)


Lentils have been popular since immemorial times. They are eaten everywhere and have been even the source of some family arguments.  They are healthy, extremely cheap and according to the Egyptians enlightening.  A bowl of soup after a hard day of work is so rewarding that our biblical friend Essau gave up his birthright in exchange of some lentil soup.

They are thousands of varieties of lentils, although is believed that the original ones were red, and when Westerns discovered them they decided to change them to green (don´t ask me why or how but you know for our dear ancestors color was kind of a big thing). Now a days India is the country with more varieties of lentils although Canada is the number one producer. Lentils are a fundamental part of the diet of vegetarians and vegans, and of course of students. Full of protein they are the best alternative to a beef steak and waay cheaper.

Since I arrived to London four years ago, lentils have become a staple in my kitchen and I eat a lentil soup at least once a week. I know hundreds of recipes to prepare them and red, brown or green lentils  work perfectly well in almost any recipe (Unless you are following a traditional recipe of certain country like Turkey, in that case go always for red lentils).  Of course the result change according to the variety of lentils. In my experience that is not based in any scientific prove, red lentils cook quicker and are creamer than green ones that can keep their shape for a longer time.

So this is my basic recipe for lentil soup. You can add any spice you like and feel free to change green lentils for red, just reduce the cooking time by 15 minutes (check constantly, just in casem) and if you want a creamer texture blend half of the soup.

Ingredients ( for three portions as a main dish, but it might be four depending in your eating habits)

350 grams of brown or green lentils

1 liter of boiling water

1 cube of vegetable or beef stock (let’s be honest you are not actually going to make the it from scratch)

½ cup of chopped carrot

½ cup of chopped celery

1 cup of chopped onion

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 clove of garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of tomato puree

Something spicy if you are in the mood ( I used 1 tablespoon of harissa, but you could chopped a chili, use paprika, good quality chipotle sauce, a chipotle, just avoid please avoid powder chili or cayenne pepper)


Maybe cumin? You decide


A large saucepan and a stove


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery and carrot and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly for around 10 minutes in a medium heat until the vegetables are soft and have not catch any color.
  2. Incorporate the garlic, and spices if you are using and immediately after mix in the tomato puree (the immediate part is important, otherwise the spices will become bitter).
  3. Let the tomato puree cook for a minute and then stir in the lentils, the stock cube and 750 ml of the water. Let it simmer for 40 minutes ( 25 minutes if they are red) or until the lentils are soft. Remember that the older your letils are the longer they will take to cook. Add the rest of the water if the lentils if are drying too much or  if you want a thinner soup.
  4. You can serve the soup immediately but if you reheat it the next day it will be even better!







Do I really need that cookbook?

Do I really need that cookbook?


Anne Shooter Sesame and Spice £19.99 ( hardcover)

sesame and spice

I have around 110 cookbooks. Yes is not ok, you need a lot of Billy bookcases to hold them and sometimes the amount of possibilities are overwhelming, especially if you are as disorganized as I am.  It ends up taking hours to find the recipe you want. So no, you probably don’t need so many recipebooks in your life so my intention in this posts is to try to give you cookbook reviews that help you to decide if this book is really for you.

I’ m starting today with Anne Shooter’s baking book that was published last year. Having a baking cookbook is a good idea if you are interested in getting good results. A lot of recipes in the web are not tested and although this might not be fundamental for making a soup is definitely a most when we talk about cakes, bread, biscuits and everything in between.

What is it about?

Sesame and Spice is a book that focus mainly in popular Jewish baking recipes from around the world. You will find recipes for bread, pizza, cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, sponge cakes, puddings, cinnamon rolls and so on. Some of the recipes will probably sound familiar to you, others will be really good surprises. Every recipe comes with a small explanation of the origins of the dishes or the meaning of it for the author.

 Why should I buy a Jewish baking book?

Well, as you know, they are Jewish communities all over the world so a Jewish cookbook will cover recipes from Europe, America and the Middle East (at least) so you will have a good variety to choose from. They will also probably include some gluten free recipes and lacto free. If you are like me and you do not like creaming butter, Jewish baking books can also be a good source of recipes that use oil instead. All of this “alternative” recipes are the result of centuries of cooking with religious dietary restrictions in mind, but even if you are not Jewish you will find that after so much time spent in baking without yeast or flour for a week every year we have come up with a pretty decent amount of treats that will not make your celiac friends sick.

Is this the book for me?

Yes if you really enjoy baking and want some new ideas or if you have some free time during the weekend that you will like to spend in baking projects.  There are recipes that are extremely easy and others  that require more time ( that does not mean they are necessarily difficult).  Some of them, like Grandma´s apple cake are sincerely easy to make and the result is really impressive! Also, the Passover  section is fairly wide so if you have some love ones that prefer gluten free brownies  this book is definitely for you (if you are celiac yourself you might want to avoid it as you will probably be tempted by the rest of the recipes).

If you already own a Jewish baking book that was given to you by your grandmother you might want also to buy this one as it will provide you with easier techniques  to bake  classics like bagels or honey cake and some more innovative and modern recipes like shakshuka pizza.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a simple muffin recipe for your office bake off and you do not bake often this is probably not the best investment.

 What about ingredients and equipment?

Ingredients: extremely easy to find them, nothing to exotic, the spices, flours and everything else needed are all available in a big supermarket.

Equipment: You will definitly need an oven an a scale is fundamental, baking parchment, and some baking trays and a cake tin are also important. Anything else can be improvised and you do not need to bake in the exact shape that the recipe says.If you are really into baking bread you might want to start saving for a standing mixer, however is not indispensable. Start with the recipes that have a lower content of water and mix them by hand, is fairly quick and easy (like bagels for example).

 My favourite recipes:

I have cook around half of the recipes in the book. They all work as long as you do not change the quantities of the ingredients, remember they were tested like that!  My favourite is definitely the plum and vanilla cake but the hazelnut and chocolate filo cigars with rose water syrup are also an excellent choice for a dinner party.  I also love the onion pletzel recipe, I got really popular among my friends after that one….  Haven´t done the cheesecakes (there is no one but three recipes!) as I´m afraid I will eat them by myself, anyone wants to share?


“My mother would be proud of you” salad

“My mother would be proud of you” salad


A few months ago, I was invited to a pot luck lunch by a PhD friend. The guests where mainly PhD students with Middle Eastern backgrounds or some affinity to the region. If you have not cross paths with somebody from the Middle East you should know something: they are generally speaking, real born and raise foodies. And by foodies I don´t mean pretentious snobs, I mean people with a deep love for food, a good understanding of it and an outstanding  appreciation for homecook dishes. So this Mexican Food Anthropologist wanted to make an impression without spending hours in the kitchen. So I decided to take a risk: I made a chopped salad.

You might think that a chopped salad is too simple to impress anybody. Well you´ll be surprised. Chopped salad is not only an extremely popular dish in the Middle East, is also a controversial one.  Half of the world knows it as “Israeli salad” the other one as “Arab Salad” so depending in your politics you can call it however you want, at the end is your kitchen.  In my case, I prefer to call it “my mother would be proud of you” salad, as during the lunch,A Lebanese friend complemented me by saying that ( definitely the best complement you can get after “ohh  this taste exactly as my mother´s dish”).

So here you have my recipe, yes it is simple butis not exactly quick: it takes a good hour or more, depending on how much people are you cooking for and your knife skills. You will only need a good knife for this ( you want your knife to cut through the skin of a tomato easily) but if you manage to do this with an Ikea knife you have my eternal respect.


( for four as a side dish, but I really don´t know how much you eat so this is only a suggestion)

3 salad tomatoes (not too ripe)

½ red or white onion ( or more if you are an onion lover)

2 sweet peppers (  red, yellow or orange avoid the green ones)

10 small radishes

1 cucumber or 3 Middle Eastern cucumbers ( the small ones available in any good Turkish or Middle Eastern shop)

Olive oil ( as much as you want)

Lemon juice ( also as much as you want)

Zaatar ( if you want to get fancy)


You can also add olives and feta cheese although then you will be getting closer to Greece and farther away from the Levant


  1. Chop all the vegetables. The smaller the better, and the prouder your mom´s friend will be. You don´t know how to chop an onion? Don´t worry! You tube have really good tutorials. Put some music,  I suggest Mashrou´ Leila mixed in with some Idan Raichel ( to keep your Middle Eastern politics balanced)
  2. Before serving mix all the ingredients with the olive oil, lemon, salt and Zaatar if you are using it. Taste it before serving and decide if you want to add anything! )That is the most important part)
  3. Serve it with grilled meat, pitta bread, or whatever you want. I really like this with a boiled egg for breakfast. I suggest you put the salad together the same day you are serving it as it does not keep too well.


Looking for more elaborated Middle Eastern recipes? Look for Claudia Roden´s  New Middle Eastern cookbook ( she has more books about Middle East food they are all great). Buy any edition you can find, if it does not have pictures even better, you will not create unrealistic expectations about your food. Her recipes are always excellent, and her cookbooks are nostalgic and full of stories about the dishes and  the people that eat them!