Mix­ing nostal­gia with a big help­ing

Si­mon­round tells how he and Ruth Joseph were in­spired to cre­ate the recipes for their new kosher cook­book

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/food -

JEWISH IS food is seen by many of us as a con­stant in an ever-chang­ing world — a warm, nos­tal­gic re­minder of days gone by. But while most of us still lovesta­p­lessuchaschopped liver, chicken soup and lock­shen pud­ding, things have shifted per­cep­ti­bly. Four decades ago the de­fault mode for Bri­tish Jews would have been the Ashke­nazi clas­sics, but since then our per­cep­tion of what is Jewish h has changed. Now, Is­raeli dishes have e been in­cor­po­rated into our reper­toire and im­ported into our su­per­mar­kets. Open the fridge in a typ­i­cal house­hold and you might well see chopped her­ring but there is also likely to be a tub of hum­mus, per­haps some aubergine caviar, a spicy Ye­meni-in­flu­enced tomato salsa, most prob­a­bly a bag of pitta. And when Jewish fam­i­lies go out to eat kosher, they are just as likely to or­der a lamb shawarma as a salt beef sand­wich.

Some years ago, thanks largely to the mas­sive con­tri­bu­tion of Clau­dia Ro­den’s en­cy­clopaedic Book of Jewish Food, we cooks be­gan to look be­yond the ob­vi­ous in­gre­di­ents and spices that our fam­i­lies brought over with them from east­ern Europe.

So the chal­lenge, when JC food writer Ruth Joseph and I de­cided to cre­ate a new Jewish recipe book, was how to fuse the nos­tal­gic dishes we all yearn for with some of the new flavours and cook­ing tech­niques which have seeped into our con­scious­ness since the days of Florence Green­berg, as well as re­vamp­ing and up­dat­ing the old clas­sics for the 21st cen­tury.

R u t h ’ s mo­tiva mo­ti­va­tion was n o t only to pro­vide new and ex­cit­ing in­spi­ra­tion for Shab­bat and the High Holy Days, but also to re­pro­duce the recipes of her late mother and grand­mother — some beau­ti­fully hand­writ­ten. She was pleased to cap­ture lega­cies from the past but she worked hard to test and re-test those recipes un­til they worked per­fectly.

There could be no Jewish cook­book with­out a recipe for cholent. But while we fol­low the long-slow cook­ing method which has been used for hun­dreds of years, our ox­tail cholent is spiked with Moroc­can in­gre­di­ents like co­rian­der, cumin and chick­peas. A bland and com­fort­ing poached chicken and rice is served with a zesty, hot Ye­menite sauce called zhug. And fish is roasted Sephardi style with a Moroc­can cher­moula rub and pre­served lemons.

Our bak­ing hori­zons have been ex­panded as well. This means that as well as the tra­di­tional rye bread and car­away and, of course, bagels, there are also recipes for pitta bread and pret­zels. Even the most tra­di­tional dish can stand a lit­tle adap­ta­tion, so for ad­ven­tur­ous bak­ers there is a recipe for chal­lah, made with olive oil — its golden colour sup­plied by egg rather than saf­fron.

Whereas Sun­day brunch 20 years ago might have con­sisted of bagels, smoked salmon and cream-cheese (still pretty pop­u­lar at my place), now there are al­ter­na­tives. For ex­am­ple, many of us have be­come afi­ciona­dos of the ul­ti­mate Is­raeli hang­over cure — shak­shuka — a zingy tomato stew topped with an egg. It can be part­nered by flat­bread and, if you are feel­ing vir­tu­ous, an Is­raeli salad — an­other item which re­quires no ex­pla­na­tion these days.

Then there are the dishes you prob­a­bly never re­alised were Jewish. By now most of you will have come across that gas­tropub stan­dard, but­ter­nut squash risotto, but what is less known is that this dish is 100 per cent haimishe in its ori­gins, cre­ated by the Ital­ian Jewish com­mu­nity and pop­u­larised in the north of the coun­try.

(And talk­ing of risotto, there is a dish we have con­cocted us­ing the in­gre­di­ents of the shtetl — chicken, bar­ley and mush­rooms, with an Ital­ian makeover.)

Of course, we will­ingly sub­mit­ted to the com­fort­ing ap­peal of some old favourites. Kugel is there, as is lock­shen pud­ding, al­beit in health­ier form, but also a car­rot, orange and olive oil cake and, for Pe­sach, a spinach and cheesy leek roulade

Oh, and if you were won­der­ing, of course there is a chicken soup — but this one is Viet­namese style, so stock up on star anise, mint and co­rian­der. ‘Warm Bagels and Ap­ple Strudel’ is pub­lished by Kyle Books, priced £25. Readers can buy the book at the spe­cial price of £20 inc free p&p (UK main­land only). Call: 01903 828503, or email: mailorders@ lb­sltd.co.uk. quot­ing ref KB WBAS/JC

Joseph and Round

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