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My spicy souvenirs

Holidays are an ideal time to try different dishes and search out new ingredients

    Denise Phillips picked up some unusual spices in Tel Aviv farmers’ market
    Denise Phillips picked up some unusual spices in Tel Aviv farmers’ market

    Many of us will have just returned from summer holidays having enjoyed sampling new foods (and, of course, not having to make them oneself).

    For me, holidays are one big adventure - tasting new dishes, visiting the food markets and buying unfamiliar ingredients, so that when I return home, I can create my own versions of food I have enjoying while abroad. It is amazing how memories of those special meals are instantly recalled when these new recipes are recreated back in the UK.

    One useful tip - buy the local spices wherever you are. They are always far superior in aroma and flavours to the supermarket equivalents. They are also easy to transport home in small containers and make great gifts for friends and family.

    In addition, as they are dried, a hechsher supervision is not normally required - the exception to this is when the spices are combined with other ingredients and cannot be clearly identified.

    Recently, I bought some amazing smoked paprika, cinnamon and a basil and garlic mix at the farmers' market in Tel Aviv's old port.

    I was in Israel for my nephew's wedding. It was a great occasion, but the trip was almost as memorable for the food we ate.

    Anyone who has been to Israel will know about their amazing breakfasts - a vast array of dishes of all types and variety. Our hotel offered a huge selection of raw vegetables, fish, cheese, cereals, breads, cake (including hot carrot cake), a wide variety of fruit (melon of several varieties, fresh dates, grapes), rice and lentil salads, olives, pickles of every type, blintzes and mini-quiches.

    This super-breakfast originated with Israel's pioneer farmers who would get up early, around 5am, to work in their fields, thereby avoiding the hot sun of later in the day. By 9am they would be hungry and need a hearty meal of bread, olives, cheese and vegetables before returning to a second shift.

    Nutritionists frequently say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Maximum nourishment is needed to kickstart the brain and energise the body. With such a variety of food on offer at an Israeli breakfast, there is no problem getting the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy start.

    I was very taken with the salads on offer, which were just perfect for the hot climate. Below is one of my favourites - it is great for breakfast, but, of course, you can enjoy with a fish or dairy meal at any time of the day.

    ChickPea, feta and olive salad

    Preparation time: 30 minutes
    Serves: 6 people

    Ingredients

    ● 400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
    ● 200g feta cheese, cut in cubes
    ● 250g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
    ● 55g pitted black olives
    ● 4 tblspoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
    ● Green salad to serve

    Harissa Dressing
    ● 1-2 fresh red chillies
    ● 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
    ● 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
    ● 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    ● ½ teaspoon salt
    ● 6 tablespoons olive oil
    ● 1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Method

    ● Crush the coriander seeds and cumin with a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a frying pan.
    l Heat with no oil for 1-2 minutes or until the seeds smell aromatic.
    ● Remove the seeds and vein from the chillies.
    l Place in the food processor together with the coriander and cumin seeds, garlic and lemon juice. Gradually add the olive oil and whiz together like a mayonnaise.
    ● Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper.
    ● Mix the chickpeas with the cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and black olives.
    l Stir in the parsley.
    ● To serve: Arrange the salad leaves on individual plates.
    ● Add the chick pea salad and drizzle over some of the harrissa dressing.

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