North African Wedding Soup

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This is another one of the recipes that we decided to make this blog for… It’s one of my favorite Pinterest finds, from what’s become a favorite blog – Little Spice Jar. We always tweak our recipes a little bit and this was no different. But, per usual, we’ve forgotten the changes we made from the last few times we made it. So this time, we’ll cross our fingers that it turns out to be the best version we’ve ever made and actually write it down.

These little meatballs are so full of flavorful spices, and the meatballs actually flavor the soup broth itself. This broth has such depth, and the aromas floating through your kitchen are so enticing. The flavors build and build the more you eat. And actually, this is one of those soups that is so much better as a leftover. Do what we did and eat it for dinner, but then enjoy the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Feel free to tweak the spices based on your personal preferences, but keep it spice-heavy! It is not super spicy, so if you want it that way, go ahead and increase the spice level. You may have noticed if you’ve read our blog a lot that we love the flavors of the Middle East and Northern African. No exception here. If you’re not familiar with or unsure of the cuisine from this part of the world, please let this soup be your gateway drug. You won’t be disappointed!

Why is this called North African wedding soup? Well, every time we make it, it makes me think of Italian wedding soup – the small meatballs, couscous in place of the orzo, and of course, North African spices in place of Italian flavors. Even more confirmation for this name? Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary! North African wedding soup it is! (I have no idea if there is actually a traditional North African wedding soup – if there is, this is not it!)

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One of my favorites from our wedding ❤  Photograph by Lauren D. Rogers Photography

Mini Meatball Spiced Soup

(Adapted from Little Spice Jar)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the beef, tomato paste, and spices through nutmeg. Combine well.
  3. Then form into small meatballs and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot and top with several turns of black pepper, the Aleppo pepper, and the fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant/browning and carrots have begun to soften, ~10-12minutes.
  6. Pour beef broth into the pot and adjust heat to a light simmer.
  7. Add the meatballs and the couscous, partially cover if needed, and continue to lightly simmer for ~15 minutes, until the couscous is soft and tender.
  8. Taste and adjust for salt as needed, then serve.
Serves 6-8
Quick response to a question I’m anticipating. Why bake the meatballs, won’t they cook in the broth? Yes, they would. Baking them briefly allows for two important things in my mind – 1) it helps the meatballs hold their shape and 2) allows the meat to leech some of its fat somewhere other than your broth. Yes the fat tastes delicious and yes, you’re losing some of the spiced flavors, but it can definitely make your soup cloudy and oily. 
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Pumpkin Roll

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I’ve had this recipe pinned for a long time, because I knew Selim would like it, but I found it really intimidating. When I bake, things just never turn out as pretty as the should. {I blame my friend/old roommate Terry – she is an amazing baker/dessert wizard. I’m just assuming that when we lived together, any ounce of baking ability that Katie, our other roommate, and I might have ever possessed leeched out of us and went to her. Actually, maybe she absorbed all the potential baking ability of everyone she’s ever lived with – she’s that good. I mean, people pay her to make desserts for their special events out of our little old kitchen. She made our wedding cake! Let’s all gang up on her and peer pressure her to open a bakery; it will be for the betterment for all of humankind!} But anyway… I promised Selim I’d make him a fall treat and that I’d use real pumpkin, so here we are. Obviously, I haven’t tried this dessert with canned pumpkin puree, but I don’t think roasting your own pumpkin really added that much more work. I’m sure it’s worth it 🙂

Now, I’m not going to lie. This dessert is a little bit of a project. The active time really isn’t all that much, but there’s a lot of down time. It’s a perfect fall weekend project, while you’re around the house anyway! Pumpkin roasting in the oven = watch a quarter of football. Rolled cake cooling = rake some leaves. Entire roll chilling in the oven = go on a walk around the neighborhood.

Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty as my model from Gimme Some Oven, or as pretty as Terry would’ve made it, but it was tasty!! What can I say, I’m a baking work in progress 🤷

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Pumpkin Roll

(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 sugar/pumpkin pie pumpkin (utilizing 2/3 cup of pumpking puree)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla, divided
  • 8oz block cream cheese, softened/room temp
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar + extra for sprinkling
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice pumpkin in half and scoop out all of the seeds and strings. Roast face-up for an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in one large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients from flour through salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla.
  5. Once the pumpkins are done, scoop the flesh out and into a food processor. Blend a few times until you have a nice puree.
  6. Take 2/3 cup of the pumpkin puree and whisk in with the other wet ingredients.
  7. Now, fold the wet and dry ingredients together until you have a well-combined batter.
  8. Splash a tiny bit of water into a 10 x 15 glass baking dish. Press wax/parchment paper into the dish, with extra hanging over the edge (you’ll use this to lift the cake out of the dish).
  9. Pour the batter into the dish and then bake for 15 minutes. [When it’s done, the dough will spring back when you touch it with your finger.]
  10. Lift the cake dough out of its pan and lay on a counter-top. Trim the paper so it is just past the edges of the cake. Roll the dough from short end to short end, as tightly as you can.
  11. Set the roll, seam down, on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool.
  12. Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese filling. Using a hand-held mixer, ombine all of the remaining ingredients – cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar.
  13. If the cake has cooled to room temperature, unroll it and spread the cream cheese mixture onto it. Leave a little bit of an edge on all sides.
  14. Re-roll! Peel the wax paper away as you’re rolling. Wrap the now-completed roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  15. Prior to serving, slice off the edges (and eat them!), so you have a pretty edges to show the world!
  16. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired. Slice with a bread knife and serve those rounds.

Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Some friends of our were getting together for a Sunday evening get together, nothing fancy, but of course we wanted to bring something tasty. Since it’s technically autumn (even though it’s 85 & humid here in SC), spiced cookies sounded delicious and with chocolate, you can’t go wrong, right? Spiced desserts are fun to make because we get to bake with some of our favorite spices like cardamom & cinnamon. Cardamom is used quite often in Turkish desserts, coffee, and chai, imparting a distinctive aromatic flavor that reminds us of being in Turkey a couple of years ago. Here’s a little piece of culinary trivia: cardamom is the 3rd most expensive spice behind vanilla and saffron.

The cookies themselves aren’t super sweet, but once you put that chocolaty goodness between two of them, lookout, they’ll go fast. Consider baking these and bringing them to Thanksgiving or Christmas, we know they’ll work well for either one. Also, have fun with cookie cutters, especially for holiday cookies. We don’t have any so instead we used the rim of a small wine glass.

Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients: 
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 6oz unsalted, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 jar chocolate almond/hazelnut spread (or any other delicious spread you prefer – ie Nutella)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients, except for sugar (flour through allspice) and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Next add the vanilla, followed by the 2 egg yolks.
  5. Then slowly, add the dry ingredients.
  6. Once well combined, form into a big ball of dough. Knead briefly, then divide into four equal portions.
  7. Roll each into a ball and then flatten into a pancake, roughly 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate as a ball, but may need a little longer to cool completely.)
  8. Using a rolling pin, roll out to 1/6th of an inch thick.
  9. Using cookie cutters or the mouth of a glass, cut into individual cookies. [We made fairly small cookies, given that once they were sandwiches, you’d really be eating two cookies! Our were 2 1/4 inches in diameter, but you do you!]
  10. Bake, on a silpat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, for 7 minutes.
  11. Remove to a drying rack and allow to cool completely.
  12. While cookies are cooling, boil a few cups of water. Remove from heat once boiling and then set the jar of chocolate-almond spread (still in the jar!) into the pot. Don’t submerge the jar entirely! Let it sit for a few minutes until the spread warms a bit and is more easily spreadable.
  13. Once cookies are cooled and spread is warmed, spread a generous dollop of the chocolate almond spread in between two cookies. Set aside to cool again.
Makes 2-3 dozen sandwiches, depending on size

Braised Chicken Thighs with Middle Eastern Spices

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Given all of the turmoil in the news these days, I need a break! So let’s focus on one of my favorite and non-political aspect of the Middle East – the food! If anything can bring us all together, food just might be it. Maybe if we all get together and cook for and with each other, we’ll be more focused on delicious flavors and new friendships than differences of politics, religion, and all the rest. One of my favorite authors/bloggers is Sasha Martin, who created the site Global Table Adventure says this: “…cooking has the power to help families bond, empower, and heal. What’s more, setting a global table creates compassion and understanding – which helps the world heal…” I’ve mentioned this beautiful site before… you should all go take a look. Ever since I stumbled upon her site (years ago!), I’ve been inspired by her.

The flavors of the Middle East are amazing. This recipe isn’t based on a traditional recipe that I found, but was instead developed based on delicious spices/flavors and the ingredients I had at home. The chicken comes out nice and moist, and surprisingly, the carrots might be my favorite part of the whole thing! When you eat your chicken, spoon a little bit of the braising liquid on top so you get as much flavor as possible 🙂

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Braised Chicken Thighs with Middle Eastern Spices

Ingredients: 
  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 20+ baby carrots
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Salt & pepper the chicken thighs on both sides.
  3. In a dutch oven (or similar stove/oven-proof dish), heat the 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat.
  4. Once the oil is hot, place the thighs in the dish, skin side down. Leave to sear for ~6 minutes. Then flip and brown on the non-skin side for another 4-5 minutes. Once the chicken is browned on both sides, remove to the side briefly.
  5. Lower the heat just slightly and toss the onions and garlic into the remaining oil. Cook stirring occasionally until just beginning to brown, ~10 minutes.
  6. At this point, if there is significantly excess oil, drain it off.
  7. Add all of the spices to the onions and garlic. Cook an additional 3 minutes.
  8. Deglaze the dish with the chicken stock, scraping all the delicious brown bits from the bottom.
  9. Return the chicken and the carrots to the dish.
  10. Cover with the lid and place into the oven. The chicken will braise for 45 minutes.
Serves 4.

 

Garam Masala Spiced Lemon Loaf

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A few weeks ago, I found this post from SweetMeets BakeShop. I was so intrigued by the idea of using garam masala in a sweet dessert that I kept coming back to it. I don’t bake a whole lot, but I’m always trying to get myself to do so. Turns out reading that post was the kick in the butt I needed to turn my oven on (thank you!). It didn’t hurt either that it’s finally starting to feel like fall around here. When it’s 90+ degrees out (ie: last week), the thought of turning the oven on for any length of time just sounds terrible.

And I’m glad that I did! This is a great treat to snack on. Thus far, I’ve eaten some for breakfast, for dessert, and for an afternoon snack. Don’t be put off by the idea of the garam masala in a sweet dish. It doesn’t taste like curry in a loaf… more like a spice cake with more depth of flavor. The only thing I will say is that I think next time I might try orange instead of lemon. I think the orange would go better with the rest of the flavors of the dish.

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Garam Masala Spiced Lemon Loaf

Adapted from SweetMeets BakeShop blog
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 2 lemons (zested and juiced)
    • 2 tsp zest
    • 4 tbsp juice, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp powdered sugar
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Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, white & brown sugars, baking soda, salt, garam masala, and 1 tsp of cinnamon) in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together the wet ingredients (all of the lemon zest, 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, eggs, milk, and oil).
  4. Slowly stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture, until well combined.
  5. Grease a loaf pan and then pour the dough into your pan.
  6. Back for 30 minutes, until a toothpick can be cleanly inserted and removed.
  7. Allow the loaf to cool.
  8. Prepare the icing. Place the powdered sugar and remaining 1 tsp of cinnamon into a small bowl. Stir in the remaining lemon juice. (You may not use all of the juice.) Resulting glaze should be thick, but able to drip off the back of a spoon.
  9. Using a spoon, drizzle your glaze onto the loaf.

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