Say Pesach, say prunes. And everyone laughs. Or winces. It is not as if we don't eat them any other time but, come Pesach, we all end up decking the halls with industrial quantities of dried prunes, apricots, figs and apples. Not to mention bottles of unspeakable, imported prune juice simply because they are there and they are kosher for Pesach and because you have gone into hysterical panic mode in case the entire family dies of thirst all for the want of a sip of prune juice. It is not so much a festival as a state of emergency.
Baccala is dried salt cod. Before cooking it, the dried fish needs to be soaked in cold water for two days until tender and the water needs to be changed numerous times to remove the excess saltiness. You can also buy it already soaked and ready to cook. Baccalà can be difficult to find in the UK and the de-salting procedure is time consuming, but you can also make this recipe with fresh cod - it is delicious and easy to make.
I have been busy writing a new book, 100 Top Pasta Dishes, so every night for six months if anyone asked what was for dinner, it was always pasta. If it were it any other food my children would rebel but pasta is so versatile I haven't heard a squeak from them. Here is a sneak preview from the book which is published in May.
Makes 6 portions
9 sheets, not pre-cooked or fresh lasagne
I have always loved baking bread, cakes and puddings at home. Now that I work for our family run flour mill I'm experimenting in the kitchen more than ever. Rich chocolate hazelnut shortbread is the perfect sweet treat for this time of year. Its really more-ish and will have the whole family coming back for more, but is easy to make in a food processor. These shortbread pieces are delicious at tea or coffee time.
Makes 12 pieces
● 260g plain flour
● 100g unrefined caster sugar
● 40g cocoa powder
● A pinch of sea salt
When the teenage son of Sicilian friends came to stay, he walked into the living-room and visibly paled. “Where is papa?” he asked. Papa? Well, there’s a photo of my father on the shelf. Would that do? “No, no. Papa! Il Papa!” Uh-oh. No picture of Pope here. Boy, had he come to the wrong house. Jews had not figured large in his Catholic upbringing. I don’t think it had quite registered he was coming to stay in a Jewish household amidst the exciting prospect of seeing Manchester United play at home.
This tasty recipe can be made in less than 20 minutes. Salmon is such a good food to include in your diet as it is rich in essential fatty acids, which are good for the heart, brain and your skin. I make a light cheese sauce by simply mixing together crème fraiche, vegetable stock and freshly grated Parmesan. Poach the salmon until just cooked and then toss this with the lightly sautéed colourful spring vegetables, fusilli pasta and mix with the cheese sauce. It could not be simpler and it is a dish the whole family can enjoy.
This is a simple and tasty pasta dish with a twist. That twist comes at the end with the addition of one egg and a sprinkle of lemon zest. The egg should be added raw when the pasta is ready to serve. The heat of the pasta and courgettes cooks the egg slightly, giving it a creamy texture, like a meat-free carbonara sauce. The lemon zest adds an extra kick, and plenty of Parmesan at the end helps to bind everything together.
Preparation time: 40 minutes. Serves 6 as starter or 4 as main course
This is the time of year you just cannot help getting hooked by the health bug. Your television screen is filled with celebrities jumping up and down, advising you on how to lose two stone in two minutes (Ok, JP exaggeration) and Hello! magazine is saying goodbye to festive excess and sporting the latest revolutionary diet.
Meanwhile, you are dosing yourself up with bottles of echinacea and working out if one vitamin pill can cure all ills — or if you will need to invest in several to boost your immune system.
I love baking cakes, and have made hundreds over the years for family and friends. My late mother was a professional cook and passed on many tips and recipes which I have adapted to suit today’s trend for organic and free-range food. When my two children were small, I made novelty and celebration cakes from home, and when they became more independent, I ran a coffee shop in Mill Hill making not only dozens of cakes a week, but, salads and imaginative baked potato and sandwich fillings. However, the cakes were always the talking point. This Caramel Frosted Gingerbread became a favourite.
Growing up in a middle of the road, Ashkenazi home in north Manchester, there were only two types of beans in our culinary repertoire: baked beans and butter beans (and a few has-beens, but we won’t go into that). Baked beans were a symbol of assimilation but butter beans frankly were a step too far— mealy, stodgy and unpleasantly ubiquitous in chicken soup – and so uncompromisingly large!