Thursday, January 28, 2010

On cloud nine

First of all, I want to warn you all that I am no photographer. Ask my friend Sarah. When I took her picture in a vacation in Rhodes, she was so tiny you could only spot her with a magnifying glass. So when I took the pictures of the cake I'm going to write about here only one of them came out semi-normal. So yeah, it's a lousy photo but since this is not a food blog and I have no intentions in the area it will have to do.

So this is a chocolate cloud cake a recipe extremely popular at our house because
a) It is a cake with lots of chocolate and we are a household of heavy chocoholics.
b) It's very easy to make and very impressive - great when you have no time and energy to fuss with dessert but you still want to get the compliments from your dinner guests.
c) It's Gluten free.
My eldest daughter has Celiac disease and although the rest of the family didn't change their diet, we try to find great food that all of us can eat, especially cakes and cookies but without wheat. Since she was diagnosed 5 years ago we are always in search of better and varied Gluten free food for her since bread and its derivatives are essential and we wanted replacements that she'll like and wouldn’t depress her because she's not like other kids who can eat whatever they want. In the search of a good chocolate cake for birthdays and other occasions I stumbled upon Nigella Lawson's recipe for Chocolate Cloud Cake. It’s a flour free cake, a bit like a soufflé. The "cloud" in the name comes from the heap of whipped cream you put in the middle of the cake that tends to crush down once the cake cools.
So for all the Gluten sensitive, Chocoholics, working mums with no spare time and applause seekers out there, here is the recipe. It’s a piece of cake….

You will need:
250g dark chocolate 60% cocoa solids.
125g unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
175g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau liqueur
22cm spring form cake tin.
For the cream topping:
250ml liquid cream 30% fat
1 tea spoon vanilla extract
1 table spoon Cointreau
- Preheat the oven to 1800C
- Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment and oil the walls with butter
- Melt the chocolate with the butter in the microwave or in a double boiler until you get a smooth paste.
- Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75gr of the caster sugar then gently add the chocolate mixture and Cointreau .
- In another bowl whisk the egg whites and gradually add the rest of the caster sugar while beating the whites till they hold their shape but not too stiff.
- Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.
- Pour into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes without the turbo if you have a turbo oven.
- Bake until the cake is risen and cracked and the centre is no longer wobbly.
- Cool the cake, while it cools the middle will sink in.
- Open the spring form tin and place the cake on a serving plate, whip the cream until its firm and fill the crater in the centre of the cake with cream easing it out towards the edges.
Try to get a piece before everyone else will finish it….

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Anemones of winter.

Winter is short and violent in this area. Most of the time the weather is dry and warm but then suddenly in a matter of hours a storm erupts and showers that should have went down in a month go down in just a few hours. In the Negev (the south part of Israel) it creates floods. An area that is arid and dry most of the year suddenly is swept in tidal waves of water. It's an amazing phenomenon. This week was one of these times. The news was filled with floods rescue stories (one of them ended tragically). My husband and I saw the pictures and cursed ourselves for not dropping everything and going flood watching too. There are safe view points for that purpose in the Negev and if you stay out of the waters' path you're pretty safe. This Saturday the weather was again warm and sunny and we went south to see the desert blooms with our friends The Artzies.

We went to the Besor area, in the north –west part of the Negev, an area that up till a year ago was known as Kassam Land. I'm not relating to politics here at all (I'll do that in following post and very briefly) but the area was bombarded constantly for more than 8 years. Now it is serene and peaceful and even though it is geographically defined as desert, it is now green and filled with the spectacular red blossom of anemones.

We stopped in our way to the Besor watercourse in a pretty park near Kibutz Reim. The park is around a tributary of the Besor named Wadi Grar. The whole country thought it’s a good idea to travel due south today and the place was pretty packed, though here I managed to take a picture of the Wadi without all the cars and with a lovely anemone in the corner.

Wadi Grar is mentioned in the Bible as a place where Abraham and Yitzhak his son dug wells for their herds. The area has many archeological remains some 4000 years old. We decided that what was good for Abraham is good for us and we ate breakfast while the kids were enjoying the outdoors and winter sun.

After we finished eating and after my little one patted the casual huge dog on the grounds, we went further south to the Besor trail. The trail is a dirt road that stretches for about 15km in a park where there are several view points and sites of interest. Check out this link for more info
Of course the trail was ridden with all sorts of vehicles including buggy racing cars and crammed with people.
Here is a picture of us trying to cross the rope bridge on the Besor, but give up when we see the queue….

At some point we got tired of just riding in the car so we got off the trail and went to hike in the hills where we found many fascinating things like animal's bones, and snails. We saw more flowers springing straight from the sand; we saw lovely birds called spur-winged plover (siksak in Hebrew) and even two large rabbits that we scared and run from us in supersonic velocity.


We ended the day in a picnic at Eshkol national park, where the kids got a chance to soak themselves completely in the fountain waters that run through the park. My husband even brought his portable burner and a pan to cook chicken steaks for all. It was a treat, especially eaten by the water side.

On the way home my husband had only himself to talk to. The 3 kids and I were snoring up until he parked in front of our garage door.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Morning has broken…

God, how I hate mornings.
As you may have noticed, I am not a morning person. Never was. My biological clock is not coordinated with the Western culture of working and studying in the hours just after the sun rises. I love sunrises though, but I think they get better if you observe their majesty and then go back to sleep. My best hours have always been between 12 to 2 am, the graveyard shift. Provided of course I can spend the day after sleeping till noon.
My current status as a Working Mom leaves me with a hectic schedule and exhausting mornings, (not to mention waking at least twice every night because of my lovely unsleeping son). My morning begins usually between 6:30 to 6:45. My husband (always an early bird) wakes the girls more or less at the same time. My son (like my husband) usually rises before the sun and so they have an hour or so of male bonding consisting of watching kids programs on the BBC. My middle daughter is very much like me. She is NOT a morning person and usually spends the time between she wakes up till she finishes breakfast in a horrible grumpy mood.
While the kids have their breakfast, I'm trying to jump start my brain with a strong cup of coffee my saint of a husband makes in our very Yuppie but very necessary espresso maker.

Then there is the saga of getting 3 kids dressed, combed, teeth brushed and school bags ready in a very short period of time. My oldest is not a problem, she's a responsible, stylish and quite a messy young lady that knows how to handle her time. My middle child is disastrous in the mornings. She gets absent minded and forgets that she needs to change her pajamas, wear her glasses – she'd rather play hide and seek with her younger brother. So most of the morning I chase the little one in order to change his diaper and clothes while yelling at the middle one: "get dressed", "leave the Barbies", "for the 10th time, go brush your teeth!" Not to mention the fact that dressing my son is like trying to get an octopus to wear pants. By the time the 3 of them are ready and out of the house, usually with my husband driving the lot of them, my nerves are already stretched. Then you get to clear their breakfast table- the floor always has a coat of chocolate milk to it. I'm leaving the house at around 8am after clearing the table, mopping the floor and putting the washer/drier to work. If my husband wasn’t a morning person, I would've collapsed ages ago. Probably would've settled for one child.
Driving to work is done in a when I look and feel like a zombie searching for a brain to eat. Any driver that has the bad luck to cross my path is met with a stream of curses you don't hear from gangsta rappers. But I never have the energy to really shout them, I just mutter to myself and sigh a lot. If there are traffic jams I can become homicidal, good thing I don't carry weapons. When I finally get to the lab, I first have to sit and gaze at the computer with the second cup of coffee until it's almost 10am and only then I can pretend that I'm semi useful. The guys at the lab are already familiar with my sunny cheerful morning personality and tend to not engage in conversation.
They greet me almost every morning with: "Oh, you look tired…" no way.
My wish is to have a job I can perform from 11 to 4 and then go home and sleep every morning till at least 9:30 (with the short break of dressing the kids and scream at the top of my lungs).
Hope you all have a great morning!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is there a Doctor in the house?

It has been two months since I received my PhD degree. After 5 years, some good days and a lot of bad ones, it was finally over. My thesis is bound and gathering dust in the library.
So what now? Currently I'm still in a lab, as Post-Doctoral fellow. But I feel I need to decide what will be my future: is science the career I want? Is that what I dreamt of? Am I going to the Academia and stay in research? Going to the biotech industry? Teach?
There are many options and each very demanding in its way. Everybody around me is very impressed with the achievement and the title Doctor sounds magical. I've been asked a few times to refer to myself as Doctor. It feels ridiculous. Real doctors either sit in hospitals and clinics and usually declare that whatever is wrong with you is a virus, or fly around the universe in a blue police box called the TARDIS.
So, I went down to the crossroad, (like that old song by "Cream") and I need to think it out. What is the next big challenge? Where do I see myself in 10 years (except in my son's Bar-Mitzvah)? A difficult question. Ideas anyone? Job offers?
For now I'll postpone answering all these nagging questions and settle in watching previous seasons of "Doctor Who?" David Tennant is the best.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A weekend of food and comfort:

It seems that the times we're living in are more hectic than ever. Israel is not an easy place to live but the last violence wave peaking in a murder of a 7 year old child by pedophiles seem to drown us all in fear and anxiety. So in times like these I need to activate the repression and denial mechanisms: reading lots of books avoid the papers and news and getting regular SMS from my kids when they leave the house for their different activities.
This weekend was one of rest and a little family harmony accompanied by huge amounts of food we cooked and baked. On Friday ,since my youngest went to his nursery (its open every other week), I took a couple of hours to myself, and went gathering edible herbs with my best friend Sarah, her youngest son and a few other food bloggers with passion. The sunny weather suited us very much as we tramped along a hillside in the Judean hills near Beit-Shemesh. This area of Israel is one of my favorite in the world, and I never get tired to hiking and touring in there in all seasons but especially in winter when the hills become lush green and flowers bloom all over. There you can believe the statements that we live in a beautiful country. It's also very convenient for me since I reside in a city very close to this area, and from my backyard I can see the hills and Judean Mountains. So on Friday I've learned that many plants that we tend to overlook and don't give a second thought to (only maybe as harassing weeds) can be used as food or medicine, and I felt a bit sad that all that knowledge is now almost completely lost and we can benefit from so much of it. For a most informative post about the subject check my friend Sarah's blog at:

I had fun hiking in the sun enjoying the scene and having a most existential conversation with Sarah's son on who's a cooler superhero: Superman, Batman or Spider-man. No conclusions there.

While I was trying to figure out what "Olesh" is in English (Chicory), my husband took advantage of the fact that we were all out of the house and went to one his famous cooking frenzy. Although he's not even remotely near to a North-African descent (all his grandparents came from Poland) or do I, he cooked for us his favourites: Hraime (spicy fish in tomato sauce), Mafrum (eggplant or potato stuffed with minced meat) and Couscous with vegetable soup. For my middle daughter who's extremely picky about food, he stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and tofu. Needless to say that she took out all the tofu cubes one by one from her portion. Since we had such huge amounts of food we invited for our Shabbat meal our friend Y. Y is a very good friend of ours. My husband saw him first, they're friends since high-school but once I met him (17 years ago!) we became good friend as well. People have mistaken us for brother and sister, (when introduced to my real brother, most people are quite surprised because we have no physical resemblance to each other). So Y was pleased to come over for some home cooked meal. He's a 40 years old bachelor and every time he spends with us and our noisy kids I think he's very grateful that he's still on his own… he always seems surprised from how much mayhem 3 kids under 12 can create.

On Shabbat morning the Hazan family came to drink some coffee in our garden since it was very pleasant and sunny. The Hazans are our friends since our oldest daughter went to kindergarten with their oldest daughter. The kids took advantage of the sun and my youngest practised his soccer skills while his older sisters wanted to sit with the grown-ups and listen to some gossip.

Our Shabbat lunch was spent with my parents. My mum cooked Cholent, out of all things. The temp' outside was hitting 20 centigrade. We should have had salads and cold cuts, but according to those who eat Cholent (not me, I just have a brown egg) it was very tasty.

We went home to the desert I baked for Sabbath: chocolate cloud cake, my eldest favourite cake, and we could declare ourselves completely stuffed.

I really enjoyed this weekend full of friends and family and great, great food cooked with love. Sometimes that is all you need to feel sane and safe in this not such a wonderful world.
Having fun in the winter sun

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tatoo of a washing machine

When I was 22 right after I got married, I got myself a tattoo of a small elephant on my right shoulder. For a long time I've wanted to add another one on my forearm but couldn't find the courage or the right thing to be tattooed.
Well, I think I got an idea now. The past 10 days were insane, crazier then usual. My 3 kids got sick and once they started to feel a bit better I got sick myself. It was a stomach bug. A very nasty virus that causes constant diarrhoea and vomiting and poses a real danger for dehydration. We had children puking in stereo. One in our bathroom and the other all over his bed. We changed bed linens every night, and pillows and blankets. This was the week that my husband was actually grateful that I'm addicted to buying textile, luckily we had enough sheets and blankets. I buy a lot of blankets, its one of those disorders that comes out of being a descendant of European Jews: you should always be prepared to be cast outside to the snow. Anyway, the kids were miserable, and once the Doctor declared it was a virus - in other words: "There's nothing I can do" we just had to wait it out. The washing machine was working constantly. I think its fair to say that this week wasn't a very "green" one in our house. Lots of detergent, fabric softener and soap got spilled and the most rigorous washing plans were applied using lots of hot waters.
For the first day of the working week both my husband and I stayed home to take care of the sick bunch and to wash the carpet occasionally. I stayed home with the bunch for a couple of days more after. Since they got sick at the weekend, I spent almost a week in my pyjamas. It made me feel depressed and cranky as if I'm doomed to folding pants and duvet covers for all eternity.
Once they got better and I thought " oh what fun going back to work again!", I got the virus and started to crumple with stomach aches. My kids were very considerate as usual : fighting and screaming. My young one howled for 10 whole minutes when I refused to give him more candy. The virus hit me hard and left my husband as the nurse of the house. The best thing about tummy bugs is that you can't eat. I lost 2.5 kg in 5 days. That actually made me very happy though pale.

Things are back to normal in our house hold. I got back to work at the lab (microbiology lab of all places) , my husband is no longer Florence Nightingale and the kids got back to school and the nursery. I made a promise to myself that if I'll ever have an urge to have a fourth child I should remember this week. Drowning in piles of smelly laundry and scents of vomit and shit drifting around the house. That is why I'm getting myself a tattoo of a washing machine. Original don't you think?