Gefiltefest has the right recipe for foodies

By Jessica Elgot, May 26, 2011
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Silvia Nacamulli cooking up a Shavout feast — to the appreciation of a large Gefiltefest audience at the London Jewish Cultural Centre

Silvia Nacamulli cooking up a Shavout feast — to the appreciation of a large Gefiltefest audience at the London Jewish Cultural Centre

The second Gefiltefest attracted more than 400 foodies to the London Jewish Cultural Centre on Sunday to sample kosher cuisine, learn about culinary traditions and observe cookery demonstrations of dishes from shakshuka to sushi. There were also challah and bagel tastings and food was served in the LJCC garden.

Demand for places at the food festival, organised by Michael Leventhal, necessitated a move to larger premises from its original home, Moishe House in Willesden Green.

On the day, the LJCC was decorated with tongue-in-cheek posters by Alastair Frank using food plays on famous novels - for example, "Lady Chatterley's Liver" and "Captain Corelli's Mandeln".

The programme included workshops on apple wine and beer brewing, running an allotment and, for children, making cupcakes. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner led a session on the halachic perspectives of uprooting Palestinian olive trees and Lea Muhlstein discussed the Jewish perspectives on GM food.

Josh Katz has the right ingredients

Josh Katz has the right ingredients

Unsurprisingly, the biggest crowds were drawn to the cookery demonstrations, among them "Jewpanese" with Hana Birks, who prepared miso infused mackerel. Rose Prince led a demonstration on kosher flatbreads - passing around the pieces for the audience to try - and Tunisian and Italian Jewish cooking.

A number of audience debates included the final session, where a panel of experts was asked: "Are all kosher restaurants rubbish?"

Visitors expressed amazement that a large-scale Jewish food festival was a relatively new concept in the UK. "It's an awesome idea," said Scarlett Tamar. "We had an excellent session with Linda Dangoor and Rachel Lasserson on flavours of Babylon, which was extremely evocative."

Teacher Mark Cohen pointed out that "Jews love food and it's something that unites us, even if we have different ways of preparing it. It's good to learn about the different traditions of Jewish families all over the world."

Alexei Charkham, allotment blogger for the Big Green Jewish website, led two sessions. He hailed Gefiltefest as "a tremendous idea. People are really interested in these issues."

Money was raised for causes including Leket Israel, Gift, Bet Shean's Food Bank and Camp Simcha.

"We wanted this to be a fun, educational experience and this is an exciting way of learning," Mr Leventhal reflected.

He is now planning other food and fundraising activities, such as running a "Kosher Masterchef".

For LJCC, deputy chief executive Louise Jacobs was "really pleased and proud to see the house so full of people of all ages. I'd like to think we'll be doing it again next year."

    Last updated: 2:41pm, May 26 2011