Straight out of the taboun

The heat of the taboun browns and softens food, and sometimes even scorches it a tiny bit.

Tomatoes cooked on a skillet in a taboun. (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Tomatoes cooked on a skillet in a taboun.
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
I love my work. It allows me to express my creativity and prepare tasty meals and pastries for my friends and loved ones and leads me to new vegetable markets and exotic flavors. Recently, I was lucky enough to spend the day with Chef Bat-Chen Diamant at her home in Ein Vered, where she introduced me to the intricacies of cooking on a taboun in her backyard. The heat of the taboun browns and softens food, and sometimes even scorches it a tiny bit. Diamant studied at The French Culinary Institute in New York and opened a catering service with her sister.
When her children, Tamar and Nadav, were born, she decided to focus on delicacies she could prepare at home. After a lot of trial and error, she found that dishes she cooked in a taboun oven were her biggest successes. In 2015, she opened the Bat-Chen Studio for Cooking and Baking, where she holds workshops, such as Healthy Cooking, Asian Cooking, Cooking with Yeast, and Baking.
What’s special about cooking on a taboun, Diamant explains, is that food is cooked or baked at very high temperatures, which enhances flavors. Luckily enough, though, her recipes are still delicious when cooked in a normal oven.
Makes 8 servings
2 onions, cubed
7 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
100 gr. lamb, ground coarsely
2 tomatoes, cubed
5 scallions, chopped
½ cup freekeh (green wheat), soaked and drained
2 Tbsp. baharat
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch of parsley, chopped coarsely 1 leg of lamb (2 kg.), cut lengthwise
(you can ask butcher to prepare it to be cooked with filling inside)
For seasoning: olive oil, sea salt, baharat, coarsely ground black pepper
To prepare the filling, heat a pan in the taboun. Add the olive oil, onions, garlic, lamb and tomatoes. Grill on the taboun for three minutes until golden brown. Add the freekeh, stir, and add the baharat, salt and pepper. Mix well. Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley and scallion. Let filling cool.
Stuff the leg of lamb with the filling and close with a string. Season outside of lamb.
Place the lamb in a deep pan and put in taboun that has been heated to 300° for seven minutes. Roast over an open flame and brown on all sides.
Cover with foil, secure sides and seal well. Return pan to the taboun for 90 minutes. Keep door of taboun closed so that the heat doesn’t escape. Remove the pan from the taboun. Baste with juices. Wait five minutes and then slice meat.
Makes 8 servings
1 cup flour, sifted
¾ cup sugar
100 gr. cold butter (or margarine), cubed
½ cup oats
Apple filling:
½ cup sugar
10 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into sections
50 gr. butter (or margarine)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
To prepare crumble topping in a bowl, add all the ingredients and mix with hands until crumbly.
To prepare apple filling, pour sugar into a pan and cook over an open flame of a taboun that has been heated to 200° until it turns into caramel. Remove from flame and add butter and apples. Cook for five minutes until soft (but not too soft). Add the cinnamon, vanilla and walnuts. Mix gently. Cool.
Spread the topping on top of the apple mixture and press down with your fingers. Bake in a taboun that has been preheated to 300° with no open flames for seven minutes, until topping turns golden brown and an aroma of apple and cinnamon fills the air. Sprinkle with powdered sugar after you take it out of the oven.
Makes 8 servings
1 kg. flour for pita/focaccia/bread
5 gr. dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
650 ml. cold water
1 ¾ Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 sea bream, filleted and cleaned of bones
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red pepper, cut into large pieces
1 spicy green pepper, seeded and cut into large pieces
5 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. filfel huma (hot pepper paste)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. filfel huma
½ cup fresh coriander, whole or chopped (optional)
To prepare the dough, place the flour, yeast and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Mix for 30 seconds. Add the water gradually and mix for two minutes until mixed well. Add the olive oil and salt and mix for eight minutes. The dough should be rubbery and smooth to the touch.
Take the dough out of the bowl and place in another bowl that has been greased. Cover with a towel and let it rise for two hours or until it doubles in volume.
Divide the dough into eight sections – each section should weigh 210 grams. Shape each section into a ball. Cover and let balls rise for 15 more minutes.
Sift a little flour on each one and roll out into a flat circle.
To prepare fish, cover with marinade ingredients.
Heat a pan in a taboun that has been heated to 300° for two minutes. Put olive oil, peppers and garlic in the pan and roast for two minutes until slightly seared. Add the tomatoes and roast for another five minutes. Season and stir so that the vegetables don’t burn.
Bake the pita in a taboun that has been preheated to 300° for two minutes. The pita should be ready 60 seconds after it expands and forms an air pocket.
Put the pita on a platter. On top of it, place a bit of the roasted vegetables and on top place the fish. Roast in the taboun for four minutes until the fish is cooked and the pita has turned golden brown. Prepare the rest in the same way. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.