Faithful fare

Faithful fare

Faithful fare

First published in Lifestyle

Discover the joys of traditional Jewish dishes, with new cookbook Warm Bagels And Apple Strudel.

By Kate Whiting.

Families around the country will be sitting down at the dinner table this weekend to celebrate for all kinds of reasons.

In Jewish households, the festival of Passover or Pesach, from April 7 to 13, is a time to remember when the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.

The Seder meal is rich with symbolism, as each item of food, from bitter horseradish to hard-boiled eggs, represents an aspect of the story.

Wine is drunk and scripture read, while there are lively songs which help the little ones to learn the tale of their ancestors.

For Jewish people, life and food are inseparable and the cliche of the Jewish mother keen to feed her guests abounds.

"Food has always played a vital role in Jewish lives," says Ruth Joseph, co-author of a new cookbook, Warm Bagels & Apple Strudel.

"It possesses a certain magic that brings different classes together to celebrate or commiserate.

"My mother was the virtuoso of her kitchen, but in every Jewish memory there's a grandmother, aunt or mother who cooked the recipes of the past."

Here are some traditional Jewish recipes for you to try at home at any time of the year...

Baba ganoush (Serves 4-6) 1 large aubergine or 8 baby aubergines (about 300g) Olive oil, for drizzling Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling 2 large onions, cut into quarters 2 garlic cloves, skins left on 25g fresh coriander, finely chopped 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon tahini paste A pinch of paprika, to garnish Toasted pitta bread, to serve Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Smear the aubergine(s) with a little olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. If you have a gas hob, place the aubergine(s) directly over the flame and chargrill the skins to blacken them. Pop the aubergines in a roasting tin, spear a few times to prevent explosion, then add the onions and garlic, and drizzle over a little olive oil. Roast in the oven for 1 hour until soft and tender. If you wish, you can peel the aubergine at this stage, although I prefer to leave the skins on to maximise the roasted flavour. Discard the stalk(s) and place the aubergine flesh in the bowl of a food processor. Add the skinned roasted onion, squeeze in the juicy nuggets of garlic and add the fresh coriander, ground cumin and tahini paste. Blitz to a smooth (or coarse, if you prefer) paste, taste for seasoning and then spoon into a serving dish. Garnish with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika. Serve with toasted pitta bread for a light lunch or pre-dinner dip.

Meat borscht (Serves 8-10) 6 large beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped 1 large onion, finely chopped 3 garlic cloves, peeled, green centre removed and finely chopped 3 celery stalks, trimmed and roughly chopped 1kg beef brisket, whole 1kg beef bones 1 lemon 2 tablespoons raisins 25g fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 25g fresh dill, finely chopped 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan to release their aroma 2 organic free-range eggs Place the beetroot in a large pan with the onion, garlic, celery, beef and beef bones. Pour over 3.6 litres water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for about 2 hours.

Take out the beef brisket with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler and squeeze the juice. Add the lemon peel to the pan with the lemon juice, raisins, herbs and caraway seeds. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat and discard the lemon peel and bones.

Break the eggs into a small bowl, whisk in a ladleful of the soup and then tip the mixture back into the pan, whisking all the time.

Cut the cooked brisket into bite-sized pieces and place some in the base of each soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the meat and accompany with dark rye bread and pickled cucumbers.

Coulibiac of smoked and fresh salmon (Serves 8-10) 200g responsibly sourced fresh salmon slices 350g responsibly sourced hot smoked salmon fillets Juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon 1 tablespoon butter 2 organic free-range eggs 2 large spring onions, finely chopped 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 450g wild or chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped 100g cooked rice of your choice 75g frozen peas - not strictly traditional but they look pretty!

25g fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 15g fresh dill, finely chopped Freshly ground salt and black pepper 2 x 425g packs ready-rolled puff pastry Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Spread a large sheet of foil on your work surface. Cut the fresh salmon into large chunks and place on the foil. Add the hot smoked salmon, squeeze over the lemon juice and add the butter. Wrap up the fish to form a little parcel and lift onto a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, and then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes; drain, cool and roughly chop.

In a large frying pan, gently fry the spring onion in the vegetable oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly coloured. Add the rice, peas, lemon zest and herbs and stir well so that everything is combined. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Turn up the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7. Roll out one pack of pastry to fit a baking sheet, 21 x 31cm. Cut the pastry into a large fish shape and carefully lift it onto a baking sheet. Pile half of the cooked salmon mixture on top, leaving a border all around the edges. Heap the rice and mushroom mixture on top of the fish and scatter over the chopped eggs. Top with the remaining fish.

Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry with water. Roll out the remaining block of pastry and carefully lay it over the fish. Press down carefully around the edges to seal, and then decorate with scales using the pastry trimmings. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt to form an egg wash and brush over the pastry. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown. (If the pastry is browning too quickly, turn down the oven once the pastry has puffed up.) Serve and enjoy.

Easy delicious peach cobbler (Serves 6) 6-8 fresh peaches or nectarines 1 x 200g tin peaches in juice 1 tablespoon cornflour 275g self-raising flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 25g fairtrade soft light brown sugar Pinch of salt 10g vanilla sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) 50g butter (or dairy-free margarine) 85ml milk (or soya milk) 1 organic free-range egg, beaten Grated zest of 1 lemon A dusting of caster sugar Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Stone (and peel, if desired) the fresh peaches or nectarines and combine them with the tinned peaches and juice in a glass bowl. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, or until the fruit is just tender. Leave to cool slightly. Strain the peaches through a nylon sieve set over a measuring jug to catch the juice. Blend the cornflour with 2 tablespoons cold water in a separate bowl. Gradually pour in the hot peach juice, whisking all the time to prevent lumps. Pour into a 1.5-litre oven-to-table dish and stir in the cooked peaches.

To make the cobbler topping, sift the self-raising flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the sugar (brown sugar often has lumps), salt, vanilla sugar and cinnamon (if using). Rub in the butter or margarine with your fingertips to form breadcrumbs. In a measuring jug, combine the milk with half the beaten egg and the lemon zest. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the milk and egg mixture and combine carefully to form a soft, sticky dough. You may need a little more flour if the mixture is very sticky.

Gently roll out the dough on a floured work surface to about 3-4cm thick, and cut into circles using a 4-5cm fluted cutter. Layer the pastry circles over the peach mixture to form a decorative pattern and brush with the reserved beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Vanilla and almond kipferl (Makes 30) 110g margarine (I use cholesterol-lowering spread) or butter 20g caster sugar 20g vanilla sugar 60g icing sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 120g plain flour 70g ground almonds Icing sugar, to dust Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Cream the margarine with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, flour and almonds and combine to a soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls, and then roll each ball out to form a sausage shape 5cm long. Curve the ends to make a horseshoe shape and arrange on your prepared baking sheets.

Bake in the oven for 40-60 minutes, or until firm but not coloured. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and then dust with icing sugar.

Variation: Flavour the biscuit dough with a few drops of almond extract or some grated lemon or orange zest. For a completely different flavour, substitute the ground almonds for ground hazelnuts or walnuts.

:: Warm Bagels & Apple Strudel by Ruth Joseph and Simon Round is published by Kyle Books, priced £25. Available April 5

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