I won't lie. It has been a slow start around here. I valiantly attempted kickstarting the blog, only to find that time somehow slips me by everyday. I look up and its already bed time! I do feel I have passed the last couple of months in a continuous snooze and haze. It has not been a easy time health wise with trying digestive troubles, and, bouts of fatigue hitting me hard, worsened by the terrible Winter that it still is. But, I have my hopes up that the dark times will soon pass and Spring is around the corner.. surely?!
Recently, in an effort to kick myself out of the downward spiral of declining into culinary obscurity, I forced myself onto several hours of ogling blogs; Much I used to do in my early days of post-crisis trauma management. Back in 2008 and 2009, and, for years after, I would spend several hours just pouring over blogs whose photography I adored. I racked up my 10,000 hours pretty quickly and my skill in photos ramped up. I figured the same intentional boot camp into finding a culinary muse would help me this time around in getting past the diet constraints and find my rhythm of sorts again.
I have a list of blogs that I typically cycle through for inspiration - recipes, travel and photography. Leading upto Purim, the interweb was flying wild with hamantaschen on every platform. I see them as basically jam cookies in a cool shape. That's it. Then Molly posted a savory potato version that caught my fancy and my hands twitching. I was inspired.
During a casual conversation with a barely Jewish friend, I realised there was a story to hamantaschen, that is named for Haman's Ears, and why it is baked for Purim. Here is the story, if you like, and expectedly, it is filled with Old Testament, love and persecution. And yet....
"The hamantaschen actually did not emerge in Jewish culture until much later, perhaps as recently as the beginning of the 19th century. Starting in the late 18th century, a popular treat throughout Europe was the “Mohntaschen,” which is loosely translated from a Yiddish-German dialect to mean “poppy pocket.” A folded, triangle, doughy cookie filled with poppy seed paste, the pastry was eaten by all sects of the population. Considering the Jewish people’s preponderance to eat pastries on Purim and the word “mohn” sorta sounding like Haman, many scholars believe this is how the word "hamantaschen" came to be." - Food & Wine Magazine
Anyway, once the gears started turning, they swung my legs the kitchen way and jars of flour were lined up on the flour, baskets and fridge foraged to see what may be used for filling. Full disclosure, I did not deliberately choose sweet potato and stilton to be honest. They are just 2 of the meagre provisions I had in terms of pantry on hand (as I hadn't cooked much in weeks). It is a good thing that it makes a good match on the palate...
An orange potato baked, onions and garlic minced, flour dough-ed and knishes came to happen. It was a joyous couple of hours that took my mind away from my ails, put the loving caress of camera back in my hand and filled my heart with pride. Aye, pride, because when something you make with your hands comes out well, the world seems a lot barmier even in the depth of a blizzard... which, it practically was the next day!
So, here is to inspiration, never giving up and always looking for the light...
Oh and to good food stories :)
Sweet Potato and Stilton Knishes
with Chickpea crust
For the dough:
3/4 scant cup AP Flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 tsp sug1 tsp salt
3 T olive oil
1/4 cup water
For the filling:
1 medium baked sweet potato
1 small red onion, minced
1 garlic minced
handful of stilton crumbles
dried oregano and paprika for spice
salt and pepper to season
Combine all the dough ingredients and bring together into a loosely held dough.
Either in the bowl or on a clean countertop, knead the dough for a few minutes until it comes together in to a tacky, soft dough ball. It will be soft and oily, which is good. Cover with cloth and leave aside while you prepare the filling.
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a little oil, sauté the onion and garlic till soft. Add to a bowl.
Peel and mash in the sweet potato flesh to the bowl. Mix in spices and seasoning to taste. If the mixture feels too wet add a teaspoon or two of flour, so it becomes dense.
To make traditional shaped knish (closed or open), roll the dough on a lightly floured surface or wood board to 1/8th thickness, basically as thin as you can without tearing, into a long rectangle. Cut 2 inch wide strips, place a small ball of filling on one end. Roll, stretch and roll the dough into shape.
Here is a video to help with the knish rolling that I looked up to get an idea of how to make it flaky. It's stretch and pull, and roll.
Hint: The triangles are easier, see below.
To make the fancy triangle 'ears', divide the dough into 6 small balls. Roll each into 3-4 inch rounds. Place a tablespoon or so of filling in the center and pinch the sides into a triangle.
Top with stilton sprinkles.
Place on prepared baking tray and bake for 18-20 minutes until the cheese is melted, filling looks to be bubbling and the dough cooked through.
Remove to rack, cool for a few minutes and enjoy. It stays good in a sealed container for upto four days.