It’s no secret that there is one special place in the world that, for centuries, has been the centre of attention for both positive and negative reasons. I prefer to focus on the positive reasons, and to name a few, the history, vibrant culture and amazing landscapes make Israel top on my list of places to return to at every opportunity.
A number of years ago, I took my mother with me on a visit to Israel. She hadn’t been there since the mid- 70s, and though she had fond memories, she remembered the food to be simplistic. Boy was she is for a surprise! As the country developed, including the amazing agricultural advances that turned desert landscapes into fertile lands, so too did the country’s gastronomy. The melting pot that is Israel’s dining landscape makes for an incredible muse for a cookbook.
The amazing thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it seldom includes pasta and other simple carbohydrates (no wonder all those gorgeous Israelis have such killer figures!). However, there is one pasta recipe in this entire cookbook, and obviously it was the first one I decided to try!
Being that it was the first time I made, it, I tried to stay as true to the original recipe as possible. I had to hunt down the main spice in the recipe, aleppo chile (aka aleppo pepper), which I found at a local international grocery store, but decided to cut down on it drastically (1 scant tsp instead of 2 tsp). I also bought Israeli feta cheese, which makes ALL the difference compared to the pre-packaged Tre Stelle you can find in the dairy section of the grocery store, and I cut down on the olive oil. I’ve included the original, unedited recipe below, so feel free to use it as is, or adjust it to suit you tastes, as I did. The best tip I can give you on this one is to be sure that you defrost the peas fully before blending them.
I will definitely be trying plenty more recipes from this book, so be sure to come back for more!
Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas and Chile
2 1/2 cups (500g) plain greek yogurt
2/3 cup (150ml) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1lb (500g) fresh or thawed frozen peas
1lb conchiglie pasta (I used large shells)
scant 1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tsp Turkish or Syrian chile flakes (aleppo pepper)
1 2/3 cups basil leaves, coarsely torn
8oz feta cheese, broken into chunks
salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Put the yogurt, 6 tbsp of the oil, the garlic, and 2/3 cup of the peas in a food processor. Blitz to a uniform pale green sauce and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente.
- As the pasta cooks, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and chile flakes and fry for 4 minutes, until nuts are golden and the oil is deep red.
- Heat the remaining peas in boiling water, then drain.
- Drain the cooked pasta into a colander, shake well to get rid of the water, and add the pasta gradually to the yogurt sauce; adding it all at once may cause the yogurt to split.
- Add the warm peas, basil, feta, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp white pepper. Toss gently, transfer to individual bowls, and spoon over the pine nuts and their oil.