Posts Tagged ‘Harkola’

The lovely Barbara runs the dried fruits and nuts counter at Harkola.

I love shopping when she’s there – apart from being great fun, she’s also an extremely kind soul who will often teach me new recipes as she’s weighing up our purchases.  She called this one out over the counter to me, and I noted it down on my iPhone.

Like most experienced cooks, Barbara’s instructions can sometimes be a little vague…

“What temperature is the oven?”

“Usual oven temperature..”

“How much milk do I need to add?”

“Just whatever you need..”

As always, her recipes result in a mountain of food, so feel free to scale the quantities down.  I made it as I was instructed – and took a sample back to Harkola for Barbara to try.  She advised me that the cookies are traditionally baked a bit harder than mine were (to ensure a longer keeping time), but I was pretty happy with how they turned out.

The cookies are known as Kaak, and they’re flavoured with mahlep – a spice made from the ground kernels of the St Lucie cherry tree.  It’s wonderfully aromatic and often used in baklava…

  • 1kg (6¾ cups) self-raising flour
  • 440g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 3 large (59g) free range eggs
  • 250g (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 160g (2/3 cup) milk, or as needed
  • 1 – 1½ teaspoons ground mahlep (or try vanilla or ground aniseed)
  • sesame seeds for topping

Barbara’s instructions were simply to “mix everything together”. Here’s a workable method I came up with after a little trial and error…

1. Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) with fan.  Line as many oven trays as you can with parchment paper (you’ll need lots!).

2. Pulse the flour, sugar and butter in the food processor until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. I had to do this in two batches, as the quantities are enormous, even for the Magimix!

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir the mahlep through the flour-butter mixture.

4. In a small jug, whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour this into the flour mixture, and work the ingredients together with your hands to form a stiff dough.

5. Roll the dough into smooth, walnut sized balls.  Flatten them out, dip them in sesame seed and lay them on the parchment lined trays, allowing a little room for spreading.  The sesame seeds are optional, and the cookies are also quite nice without them.  I bought decorative moulds at Harkola, and pressed some of the dough balls against them to form a patterned top – although a lot of the detail is lost as the dough bakes…

6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through the baking time, until the cookies are well browned.  Store in an airtight container. Any excess can be frozen quite successfully.

These chunky cookies have a texture reminiscent of both shortbread and rock cakes, and they’ve been surprisingly popular. Which is just as well, as Barbara’s quantities make a huge batch. I’m off to deliver some to the neighbours now!

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I found this Turkish apple tea during my last visit to Harkola.

Unlike the powdered version, this tea is unsweetened, and a gloriously bright red.  It contains apple, hibiscus, blackberry leaves, apple flavour, lemon peel and cinnamon.  The packet of 20 tea bags cost me just $2.80.

I was particularly taken with the lovely wrappers…

…and, loathe to waste them, I turned them into a little red lantern, using the instructions I posted here.  It’s now hanging in the kitchen doorway.

If you’d like to play around with some pretty tea bag wrappers, my friend Mazza the Toymaker has several to print out on her website.  They’re gorgeous, and come complete with a Wind in the Willows quote!

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It seems we’re the only ones who weren’t able to grow zucchinis this year!

Diana grew giant yellow ones, my friend Becca was over-run with them, and last week Pete’s baby sister Penny sent down the doozy of them all!  For a couple of days, the “monster” just sat on the kitchen bench (it was too large to fit in the fridge), but by Saturday morning I’d built up my chi enough to tackle it.

Not a single bit of the zucchini went to waste!  The top and tail, plus all the seeds, were eaten with relish by the chooks.   The bottom half was sliced into large chunks and roasted with potatoes, turnips and capsicums as an accompaniment to our Saturday night roast.

And on Sunday, the top half was turned into two large zucchini slices, enough to feed the neighbourhood!

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One of the foodie treats that I always buy from Harkola is this Lebanese fig marmalade – a delicious chunky paste of figs, sesame seeds, anise and sugar.  It’s ridiculously cheap ($4.95 for 800g) and packed to the brim with large pieces of fruit.  The sesame seeds give the marmalade an unusual flavour, and make it perfect for incorporating into savoury dishes.

Last weekend I had a jar of this to use up, plus a bag of turkey breast offcuts from Paesanella, so I made a filled focaccia.  The basic recipe is here, and my add-ins for this batch were:

  • 200g turkey offcuts, chopped
  • 200g fig marmalade
  • 65g Picasso sheeps’ cheese

It could have used a little more cheese, but this recipe is always made with whatever I have leftover in the fridge, and that was all I had.

The resultant loaf was a seductive blend of sweet and salty flavours – Pete and Uncle Steve loved it!

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“Barbara!  Barbara!”

During any visit to the Lebanese wholesaler Harkola, we’re likely to hear someone calling for Barbara.  And that’s because she’s wonderful – she knows how much the dates are, she knows where to find the pearl barley and, as we found out on our last visit, she knows a great recipe for moghrabieh.

Moghrabieh is Lebanese couscous – an unusually firm pasta which needs to be boiled in water for up to half an hour before it can be eaten.  Harkola are the Australian importers, which means a kilo packet from them costs $4, as opposed to the $11 I’ve seen it on sale for in local foodie stores.

When Barbara saw me putting a packet of moghrabieh into our trolley, she offered me her recipe, commonly eaten in the Lebanese community as a  late breakfast.  Here are the instructions as they were told to me..

1. Soak a large quantity of dried chick peas overnight, then boil them in a large pot with plenty of salted water until just tender. (I added salt at the end, as I didn’t want to toughen the skins).  Drain well.  Tinned chick peas can also be used, drain them well, but don’t rinse them.

2.  Bring another large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the moghrabieh until soft (this took about 25 minutes), but not mushy.  Drain well and sprinkle over with a good pinch each of ground caraway, ground cinnamon and ground allspice.

3. In a large frying pan or saute pan, fry a large quantity of sliced onion  until soft in plenty of oil, then add both the chick peas and moghrabieh and toss to combine and heat through.  Season with more salt to taste. Serve warm with pita bread.

One thing I should mention – Barbara’s instruction was to use the whole packet of moghrabieh. Now, that’s probably fine if you’re feeding a large extended family, but in our case, it resulted in an enormous quantity of food which needed to be shared out to friends and neighbours.  The flavour of the dish is subtle and delicious, with a lovely sweetness from the fried onions. I added more of the ground spices during the frying process, but they didn’t seemed to overpower the dish.  This is definitely a recipe we’ll make again!

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We discovered Harkola Foods a couple of years ago, when we first started buying flour in bulk, and have been regular customers ever since.  This wonderful food wholesaler is based in the western Sydney suburb of Auburn and we’ll visit several times a year to stock up on supplies.

They offer an enormous range of nuts, flours, dried fruits, spices and Middle Eastern specialities.  You can also buy packaging materials, baking supplies, rice and oils there, all at amazing prices.

To give you an idea of their range, here are some of our purchases from today:

  • Parchment paper – as the standard width is too narrow for our 90cm oven,  we purchased a 120m roll of 40cm wide paper for $30.  The narrower size is also available, as are foil and clingfilm in huge rolls.
  • The gorgeous mint tea glasses above were a tiny 82c each!
  • We picked up two bags of Manildra bakers flour for friends.  These were $11.50 per 12kg sack and, because Harkola sell a  pallet load of this flour every week, the stock is always fresh.
  • Dried yeast, which I stock up on about once a year, is available vacuumed packed at $3.50 per 500g.
  • They have a huge range of nuts available – we bought almond meal at $12/kg and whole roasted macadamias for $20/kg.  There was also a wide variety of dried and glace fruits on display.
  • Legumes galore – red lentils and white beans were $2.80/kg and popcorn was just $1.80/kg.
  • Spices are plentiful, and I bought some ground cumin ($10.25/kg) and ground coriander ($7/kg).  Again, the rapid turnover of these  items ensures their freshness.

In addition to the staples, we picked up some more unusual food items.

These Lebanese sweets are made from pistaccio nuts, apricot paste, nougat and date paste.  This entire box of individually wrapped treats was on sale at $6.50.

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There is, of course, lots of couscous on offer, including the medium sized Israeli couscous as well as this larger variety from Lebanon, known as Moghrabieh.  These small balls of semolina swell up to the size of miniature peas when cooked!

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A new find for me – fig marmalade from Lebanon.  This has a deliciously interesting flavour, as the jam includes both sesame and anise, as well as the usual sugar and acid.  Imagine sweet figs with a hint of tahini.  I suspect this was the secret ingredient in an Egyptian chicken and harissa dish we tried recently.

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Given how expensive fresh figs are here, it’s hard to believe this 800g jar stuffed with delicious fig paste was just $4.99!

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Harkola Food Worldwide
3 – 7 Highgate Street
Auburn   NSW  2144
02 9737 5888


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