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.
The taste of freshly baked sunflower seeds and roasted nuts, typically bought in 100g brown paper bags from kiosks, provides one of the greatest pleasures of Israeli street cuisine.
It is Jerusalem’s version of the hot chestnut men who used to ply their wares in the streets of London. Such is the demand among Israeli ex-pats in the UK that kosher stores and some supermarkets are now stocking seeds, known in Hebrew as garinim.
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.