When I was a small child, I was always told by my grandmother to “Eat your fish — it gives brains”. My imagination would run riot as I visualised small pieces of fish somehow forcing themselves into my head. As I grew older, I still tried to heed her advice, but with an air of teenage scepticism. Now with grandchildren of my own and a nutrition qualification under my belt, I am able re-examine that old wives’ tale.
The height of summer has to be the time for drinking the best white wines you can get you hands on.
Trying to find a fine white wine — one that would fit a formal and elegant setting — is much more difficult than finding a comparable red.
In the kosher market, where inferior whites abound, the search can be wearying. Part of the reason is that many of the better whites made in Israel are produced in relatively small quantities and are rarely exported to the UK.
Falafel can be controversial — there is dispute over where it came from, whether it should be made from chickpeas or in the Egyptian way with broad beans, and there is even a simmering argument between Israelis and Palestinians over its ownership — both claim it as their national dish.
She may be the only Jew in the village. But that hasn’t stopped Elizabeth Weisberg creating a voracious appetite for challah, bagels and hamantaschen in the very English rural hinterland of East Sussex.
Many merely buy the ethnic goodies made at the Lighthouse Bakery from local food shops in Lewes, Winchelsea and Rye, but others shlep to the tucked-away hamlet of Bodiam to bake the bread themselves. Hundreds of gentiles, as well as Jews, it seems, have been driven to discover why you need to boil a bagel to get the authentic shine and chew, and how to plait a Shabbat loaf.
Diced cucumber, tomatoes and peppers — the ingredients that conjure up the classic Israeli salad. And if anywhere is known for its love of munching on raw vegetables, it is Israel. Tel Aviv’s cafes serve up huge bowls of lettuce accompanied by cheese, fish or pulses, and the kibbutzim across the country have always provided a fully stocked salad bar in their dining rooms.
And while the rest of the world may enjoy cereals and toast in the morning, Israelis opt for a melange of raw vegetables for breakfast — with the obligatory cottage cheese.
There can be few more depressing aspects of the great British summer than that moment when you settle down to a meagre picnic of sardine sandwiches and warm Diet Coke only to be confronted by a family tucking into their luxury Fortnum & Mason hamper, complete with fine china, Champagne flutes and linen napkins.
It is at that moment you realise that eating al fresco is not simply a way to curb hunger pangs after a bracing stroll in the sun. Indeed, it is an undertaking to be taken seriously.
Think of custard. To many, it symbolises perfect comfort food, fragrant with childhood memories. Yet the history of the vanilla pod is far from comfortable. Vanilla began to surface in Europe at a time when Jews and Jewish merchants were being persecuted. But it was Jews who brought it to our shores.
There is nothing like a summer weekend spent relaxing in the garden with a barbecue. Follow my tips below and you will be surprised how easy it is. It’s a wonderfully informal way of eating and you can enjoy tasty morsels spread across the afternoon as different dishes are cooked.
If you are cooking a large amount of food, you will need a good depth of coals in your barbecue to keep the heat going long enough.
Farmers around the world all claim that their strawberries are the best. In Wepion, Belgium, for instance, proud growers have built a museum dedicated to the berries whose Latin name, frugaria, means fragrance. In America competing farms have declared themselves to be situated in the strawberry capital of the world, while in Israel, the halachic implications of eating strawberries were recently the subject of a rabbinical rumpus.