Food

Slow food? We've been cooking it for centuries

By Bernard Josephs, November 5, 2009

Few dishes are more deeply rooted in the traditions of Jewish cuisine than stew. From the frozen wastes of Russia to the deserts of the Middle East, cooks have for centuries perfected the art of slow cooking, using a variety of vegetables, spices and meat.

To find the origins of the hearty kosher stew it is probably necessary to go back to the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, when a plate of stewed lentils changed the course of Jewish history.

As the story goes, Jacob offered him a bowl full in exchange for his birthright, making it one of the most expensive meals in history.

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The future's orange

By Ruth Joseph, October 28, 2009

The red/golden pumpkin is a glorious sight and now farmer’s market stalls are laden with these wonderful squashes. Of course they are not mentioned in the Bible because they arrived as galleon treasures from the New World, originally transported by Spanish conquistadors but distributed by Jewish merchants in exchange for silks and spices from the Orient.

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The fish that's not fishy

By Anthea Gerrie, October 22, 2009

Blame it on Nobu, that Japanese chef so beloved of fashionable diners.

Within a decade of him taking a humble, inexpensive and, some would say, unremarkable fatty fish and giving it an extraordinary treatment, he has single-handedly created a world market for black cod.

And it is not just for the sushi crowd — this new addition to top fishmongers’ slabs is now making an appearance at simchahs.

“When we serve it as part of a mixed starter, it’s always the star of the plate,” says Sarah Taylor of kosher caterers Tony Page.

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Packed lunch gets taste-lift

By Denise Phillips, October 15, 2009

It is all too easy for both parents and children to get into a routine of having the same packed lunch day in and day out. Nutritional content becomes limited and the children are not encouraged to experiment with new flavours, textures and experiences. The fussy eater is not exposed to new foods or new ingredients, as might be the case with a cooked school lunch, and may end up following the eating habits of their parents, who may only buy specific brands and eat a narrow range of foods.

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Shakshuka: Israel’s hottest breakfast dish

By Bernard Josephs, October 8, 2009

What is the best way to prepare shakshuka, the spicy, warming, vegetable and egg dish that is a regular part of the Israeli diet and is usually served as a cooked breakfast or a light lunch?

The answer to this vexing question is a huge bone of contention around many kitchen tables in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israelis of course love to argue, particularly about food, and the debate about what constitutes a “genuine” shakshuka is at the centre of many a furious debate.

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What to do with your second-hand citron

By Ruth Joseph, October 1, 2009

It’s a fascinating fact that in the Middle Ages, the humble etrog became part of a peace treaty. After fighting and losing yet another war, the Republic of Pisa was banned from trading in etrogim in 1329 by the Guelph League of Tuscany, headed by Florence. Etrogim or citrons had always been valuable, in fact, the Spanier merchants, from Frankfurt, became famous for trading in them. And this is strange when one considers the etrog’s sourness and thick skin, in comparison with other citrus fruits. They also need more water than other fruit trees, so their value lies purely in prayer.

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Why ambiguity is key to kosher cooking

By Denise Phillips, September 24, 2009

Cooking and good food are central to Jewish life. Our calendar is studded with a glorious variety of festivals and holidays. Some of them are serious occasions; others are more fun. But they all have one thing in common — a celebratory shared meal with a signature dish chosen for its religious connections. And behind each one is a Jewish mother, a matriarch capable of creating classic, delicious meals at a moment’s notice on a regular, almost daily basis.

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Rosh Hashanah: it’s crunch time for apples

By Ruth Joseph, September 17, 2009

The song of Songs says “comfort me with apples”, and surely has resonance for all of us. There is nothing like walking through an orchard when ripe fruit hangs heavy off the tree. The thing to do is to cook some of the apples straight away, simply stewing them, maybe with fresh blackberries. Or choose the largest, fattest Bramleys and hollow out their cores, cutting their skins and stuffing them with mixed spice, dried fruit and marmalade. Then bake them in a little water until the tops are golden and the centres puffy and fragrant — that is certainly comforting.

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Why children should play with their food

By Judy Jackson, September 9, 2009

Can you imagine a seven-year-old asking you to buy beetroot or red cabbage? Or a 12-year-old offering you a soothing cup of fresh ginger tea while he makes dinner?

When you think of children’s cookbooks the images that come to mind are of cakes studded with Smarties or chocolate Rice Krispies. The writers seem to think children can only be enticed into the kitchen with a promise of sugar-laden treats.

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The legal grass that is actually good for you

By Ruth Joseph, September 2, 2009

Buckwheat, part of our Eastern European food heritage, is a living anomaly. For it bears no relation to wheat and although it’s considered a grain, it isn’t really — rather, it is a type of grass-seed called an achene.

It began its history in South East Asia around 6000 BCE, quickly spreading to Central Asia, Tibet and finally to Europe in about 4000 BCE.

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