Evelyn Rose blossoms again

As a new edition of the cook's seminal receipe book hits the shelves, we look at her enduring popularity.


Rabbi Lionel Blue tucks into one of Evelyn Rose’s dishes as the cook looks on in 1989

Rabbi Lionel Blue tucks into one of Evelyn Rose’s dishes as the cook looks on in 1989

Know anyone getting married this summer? Look no further for the perfect gift - the third edition of Evelyn Rose's The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook is published this month.

Dressed in (not overly practical) glamorous white and gold, it even looks the part. With a word count of more than 365,000 words, it is a weighty tome, tipping the scales further than the happy couple's first-born is likely to. It is also certain to remain their reliable kitchen friend long past the day their offspring has upped and left. It has been said that no Jewish home is complete without a copy of one of Rose's books. But is that still the case?

Rose wrote weekly for the JC for over 40 years. As well as her food writing, she gave cookery demonstrations, consulted and made television appearances. She was the first woman commissioner of the meat and livestock commission, a chairwoman of the Guild of Food Writers and received an MBE.

Her recipes were kosher, haimishe and reliable but more than that, imaginative and, at times, obviously inspired by her foreign travels. Many readers still have clippings taken from the paper by their mother or even grandmother. An equal number will have at least one of her books. Although it was not her first, The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook, published in 1976, is her most influential. To Jewish mothers almost everywhere it was a bible.

This third edition of the book has been revised by Rose's daughter, Judi. She worked with her mother and co-wrote two books with her. Judi expected the revision process to take a week or two. She was still working on it six months later, and says "it turned out to be quite an undertaking". The new edition is finally being published two years after the publishers first approached her to produce a revised version updated for the 21st century.

"My mother already has a hugely loyal following," says Judi. "We just wanted to make it more accessible to a new generation." There are the same reliable recipes, but with changes made to fill in the gaps Judi worried may exist in today's readers' know-how. "The book assumed a level of knowledge which may not now exist," she explains.

A glossary helpfully interprets some less commonly used Jewish cooking terms and tools such as tepel (pot) and others more common such as "parev". Judi also felt certain recipes would be dated, leaving younger readers mystified, for example, as to where to find an "outhouse" in which to leave their cucumbers to pickle.

Other changes were made where ingredients once ubiquitous, such as frozen concentrated orange juice, have long vanished from supermarket shelves. Judi also wielded the red pen where presentation styles such as "dotted with glace cherries" would now be deemed passé, but says she left some culprits intact as "they provide period charm".

The section outlining basic assumptions made when writing the book has been extended to explain more comprehensively some basic ingredients, and the very helpful section on how to adapt general recipes for a kosher kitchen remains. The 70 new photos mix modern with traditional food shots providing the haimshe cook with something to aspire to.

There was no need to test recipes, as they have always been famously reliable. Judi recalls that "she would test dishes 15 or 20 times before passing them to dad, who would then comb through the text to ensure that it was not open to literal misunderstandings". Nonetheless, time and a lack of exposure by the reader to traditional Jewish food, laid some recipes open to misinterpretation. "When we were doing the photography for the book," Judi recalls, "the person cooking, who was unfamiliar with the recipe, prepared the old-fashioned pickled herrings with the heads on. I was horrified, but realised the recipe needed changing. It was only when things came up like that did I realise tweaks were needed."

How would Evelyn have viewed this new version of her magnum opus? Judi's view is that "she would have been thrilled. I feel it would be exactly what she would have done. She would have said herself it needs updating and I very much had her voice in my ear as I was editing".

'The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook' is published is published by Pavilion Books at £35

    Last updated: 10:37am, July 22 2011