I suspect the tradition of Friday night nash* is pretty widespread. Sometime after dinner, out of the sideboard come all the mini-munchies: choccy bars, sucky sweets and fondant fancies. My tastes in post-bensching relaxation, aka slobbing, have moved on to the likes of halva and bittermints (so much more grown-up), although I still confess a weakness for The Purple One in Quality Street.
At the weekend, when my eight-year-old and six year-old children come to stay with me, we always have the same conversation. I ask them what I should cook them for lunch. Would they perhaps like roast chicken? A nice piece of salmon? A Chinese stir fry?
This is a great, easy recipe with an intense Mediterranean flavour. I grew up with this dish and I always enjoyed it. My parents have a wonderful vegetable garden and peppers are one of their favourite vegetables to grow. In the summer they pick hundreds of peppers and cook them in every possible way, including stuffed peppers with meat. My mum makes several trays of it and then freezes them for the winter. I usually use beef for the filling but I sometimes mix it with lamb to give an even richer flavour.
Well, it had to be a chocolate recipe this week. We might not as a community celebrate the martyrdom of an obscure saint, but I do not think too many of us are going to refuse a service station red rose, heart card or chocolates. Unless it's that box of After Eight that has reputedly been in constant circulation since the mid-'60s.
Crumbles are one of my favourite desserts and they are very easy and quick to prepare. You can make the topping in advance and if you want to plan ahead you can make double and freeze one. I find the best crumbles include slightly tart fruits like blackberries or rhubarb as these compliment the crumble topping. You can whizz the ingredients for the topping together in a food processor or you can mix them by hand. This makes one large crumble or you can prepare individual crumbles in ramekin dishes.
One of the best things about a holiday in Spain is the opportunity to eat plenty of freshly made tortillas -the famous Spanish omelette made simply from onion, potatoes and egg, served at every cafe and tapas bar in the country - hot, cold, as a side dish or in a roll.
Over Christmas I went to the Limmud Conference. The last time I was there was three years ago when I gave a lecture on the Jews of Italy while cooking a pumpkin risotto, and more importantly I met my husband to be, who came to my lecture, introduced himself afterwards and charmed me - as they say the rest is history. So this year we went back together and found it, as always, very interesting.
Gedempte is a word that has fallen from favour in the modern Jewish kitchen. Today, it is all about char-grilling, wok-stirring and pan-frying (er, like, where else are you going to fry that piece of fish?). It is understandable, perhaps. Long, slow-simmered cooking was once a useful cover-up for kitchen crimes and misdemeanours: a way of rendering cheap cuts edible.
Most children turn their noses up at anything with green bits or visible onions and it can be a real struggle to get them to eat their veggies. For some time, I have been working on developing the ultimate vegetable burger and the recipe below should convert even confirmed vegetable haters. I make them often for my children and the whole family loves them. It is a good idea to make extra and once they are cooked and cool, you can freeze them on an open tray and when frozen you can transfer them to a plastic container and separate the layers with greaseproof paper.
We Jews think we have the monopoly on chicken soup - that warming and reviving broth which is reputed to have medicinal properties. But other cultures do chicken soup too - some of them surprisingly similar to our own.
I am a great fan of the far eastern take on chicken noodle soup which can be found in varying forms in China, Vietnam and Thailand. The great thing about the soup at this time of year, when everybody is trying to lose a few extra pounds after the seasonal binge, is that it is comforting but also healthy and naturally low in calories.