Pascale's Kitchen: Homemade comfort food

Making dishes that we remember fondly from our childhoods is a great way to make ourselves feel good, and to create a bond between the generations.

Tarte Tatin (photo credit: CHAGIT GOREN)
Tarte Tatin
(photo credit: CHAGIT GOREN)
Many of us spend a lot of time on Fridays in the kitchen cooking and baking for Shabbat, even if this isn’t necessarily our favorite pastime, and during the week we do the minimum to feed our families. But in an effort to make something special for Shabbat dinner and create a nice feeling in the house for the weekend, it’s nice to invest extra time and effort in our food preparations.
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Making dishes that we remember fondly from our childhoods is a great way to make ourselves feel good, and to create a bond between the generations.
Whether it be spicy fish, aromatic chicken soup or moist chocolate cake, everyone recalls some dish she yearns to taste again or a comfort food that gives her a nice warm feeling. And so, this week I’m bringing you, my readers, three dough-based recipes that are on my list of comfort foods I remember from my childhood: homemade bread, meat and potato croquettes and tarte Tatin, all three of which will thoroughly enhance your Shabbat meals.
The bread is made from a very basic dough recipe – flour, water and yeast – that can easily be upgraded. All you need to do is knead the dough vigorously, let it rise, shape it however you want and stick it in the oven. It’s that simple. If you want to make it a little different, you can use a mixture of flours or add nuts, fruits or seeds. I usually just brush the bread with egg wash and add some sesame seeds. You can also sprinkle sunflower, pumpkin, flax or poppy seeds on top.
The second recipe is for banatages – meat and potato croquettes – which are a popular treat from North African cuisine. Banatage is what the dish is called in Tunisian cuisine, but it can also be found in lots of other communities by different names. In Tripolitan cuisine, it’s called bastille; in Moroccan, it’s pastel; Iraqis call them kubbeh patata; in Indian cuisine, it’s referred to as patis; and Ashkenazi Jews make something similar called knishes. Each community makes them in their own special way, and they can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish.
For dessert, I’ve offered a recipe for apple tarte Tatin, which is nice with almond slivers or crushed nuts. The fruit pieces are first caramelized and then baked underneath the crust, and you then flip it over onto a serving plate.
It’s said that this classic upside-down tarte was first prepared by two sisters in the Tatin Hotel in France in 1889. As legend has it, the pie was first created accidentally when the sisters were trying to bake a traditional apple pie, but had left the apples stewing too long. When they smelled the burning caramel, they decided to cover the pan with the dough and stick it into the oven so the thin crust could be baked. This unique baking method quickly spread and became a world-renowned classic.
Makes 6-8 servings (6 large or 12 small croquettes).
6 large potatoes, cooked, peeled and mashed
1-2 eggs
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and cubed
250 gr. beef, cooked in water, and then either ground, cubed or shredded (can use chicken instead)
10 stalks parsley, rinsed and chopped finely
2 medium onions, peeled, rinsed and chopped
¼ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. black or white pepper
½ tsp. salt
For frying:
¾ cup (100 gr.) flour, sifted
1 egg, beaten
For adornment:
½ lemon
To prepare the puree, add the mashed potatoes to a bowl. Add each egg one after another while mixing in between. Add half of the seasoning and half of the parsley. Mix well. If you don’t like parsley, leave it out.
To prepare the filling, shred the beef and then add the hard-boiled egg, the rest of the seasoning, parsley and onion. Mix well.
Take a little of the potato mixture and flatten it on your hand. Place a spoonful of meat filling on top and then add more potato mixture on top, seal sides and roll into an elliptical shape. Dip the croquette in flour and then in the egg. Fry in the hot oil. Serve hot.
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 90 minutes.
Status: Meat.

Use a 26-cm. or 28-cm. diameter pan.
1¼ cups flour, sifted
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
115 gr. cold butter (or margarine), cut into small cubes
¼ cup ice water
6 Granny Smith apples
¾ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cold water
60 gr. butter, cubed
To prepare the dough, use an electric mixer fitted with a steel blade. Mix together the flour, salt and sugar for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix for 10 seconds until crumbly. Gradually add the water and mix for another 30 seconds until well mixed.
Note: The less you mix the dough, the crispier it will turn out.
Form a ball from the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
To prepare the filling, peel and quarter the apples. Save one apple half to decorate the middle of the tarte. Add the sugar and water to a pan that can be put in the oven and bring to a boil over a high flame. Lower the flame to medium and cook until the sugar browns. Don’t stir the sugar, just shake the pan a little bit now and then. Turn off the flame and add the butter. Stir.
Place all the apple quarters in the pan, with the round side facing down. Cook for 20 minutes over a low flame until the sauce thickens. Turn off the flame.
Take the dough out of the fridge and, on a floured surface, roll out into a circle that’s slightly larger than the size of the frying pan. Place the dough on top of the pan with the apples and press the edges down inside the pan.
Stick the pan inside an oven that has been preheated to 190º (you can cover the handle with aluminum foil) and bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust browns. Remove and place on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Next, take a large serving plate and place it upside down on top of the tarte. Flip it over and serve immediately.
Level of difficulty: Medium-difficult.
Time: 2 hours.
Status: Dairy or parve.
Makes 3-4 loaves.
500 gr. (3½ cups) flour, sifted (any type of flour can be used)
25 gr. fresh yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. oil
1-1½ cups water
Egg wash:
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
Using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour together with yeast. Add the salt, sugar and oil. While mixing, gradually add the water. Mix until dough falls away from side of the bowl.
Note: the amount of water needed depends on what type of flour you are using, which is why you should add the water gradually.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm location to rise for 90 minutes or until it doubles in volume.
Split the dough into three or four sections, and roll each section into a log shape. Place on a tray covered with baking paper, with plenty of space between them.
Beat an egg with the water and then brush onto the loaves. Cover and let rise for another 20 minutes. Brush on more egg wash and then bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180º for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 90 minutes.
Status: Parve.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.