On February 14, millions of people send cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts to the ones they love, or hope to love. Restaurants make a special event of the day, linking love with food. But there is plenty of discussion as to whether Jews should join in the celebrations.
February 14 was named by Pope Gelasius 1, in 496 CE, as the day to commemorate the martyrdom of a priest called Valentine. But the story was based on legend, so much so, that in 1969, the Pope removed official recognition of the festival.
We tend to think of risotto as a comfort food. In its traditional form it is a rich affair laced with generous amounts of butter and Parmesan. Once, when I was involved in a television programme in Tuscany, the chef was horrified that I preferred my porcini risotto without the pounds of butter and cheese.
It is Friday morning and it is peak challah-buying time at Rinkoff's. Peter, who works in the legal profession, has been buying challah here for four years. He is partial to the strudel too. Next in the queue is Michelle who lives round the corner, and works as a volunteer for the area's ageing and dwindling Jewish community.
The area was once the cradle of Britain's Jewish community, with more than 150,000 Jewish immigrants. Now there are now only 2,000 or so in the East End where Rinkoff's opened 100 years ago this year. So who is buying the challah in Whitechapel these days?
I admit it - I am an addict. For me a day without coffee is a day without sunshine, without energy and without the strange palpitations that an overdose of caffeine brings on.
So what if some medics say that too much of the brown stuff can raise your blood pressure, increase anxiety and make you irritable? Other experts have found that it also protects against liver cancer and type 2 diabetes and can even be used as a beauty aid against cellulite.
For bringing Israel's favourite egg dish, shak- shuka, to north London, we have not just chef Josh Katz to thank but his parents.
When Josh told his mother and father that instead of planning to follow them into the professions, his passion lay with food, their response was not to wring their hands but to treat him to a Cordon Bleu course.
When I was a child, my father's mother - a Holocaust survivor - used to tell me stories about the delicious pretzels she ate when she was a child growing up in a small village on Germany's eastern border. She used to watch the local baker prepare the tender, chewy bites and would describe how he gently dipped the dough in a bath of lye - a form of caustic soda - and afterwards baked it with a sprinkling of crushed rock salt and sesame seeds.
Now is the season for fresh cranberries - the bright red berries with a unique tart flavour. Although they grow wild as a shrub, they are grown commercially on low trailing vines in many parts of the world, although not in the UK.
Their medicinal use was first recognised by the Pilgrim Fathers, who shortly after their arrival in America, started to mix berries into a dried meat mixture in order to extend its life.
Don't turn up your nose at that ultimate comfort food, the humble bread pudding. Invented when bread was expensive and few could afford to waste a crumb, it remains as popular as ever. Described as the poor man's pudding, it has come a long way since the recipe called just for stale bread baked with whatever butter, fruit and spices were available.
By Tracey Fine and Geordie Tarn, December 10, 2010
The special Friday feeling when preparing for Shabbat would not be the same without a visit to your favourite bakery - standing in line, sharing conversation with fellow shoppers and sniffing the amazing, intoxicating aroma of freshly baked challah.
The ritual of challah not only consists of choosing from large, medium or small, with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. There is huge history and meaning behind this iconic bread.