Let's Eat

Evelyn Rose: still simply the best

A new volume of the cook's recipes has been published to introduce Evelyn Rose to a new generation


Lemon drizzle cake is one of the UK's favourite bakes. According to Judi Rose, we have her mother, Evelyn, to thank for this sweet, yet tangy treat.

"She introduced it to the UK as her Luscious Lemon Cake," explains daughter, Judi. "And now there's a version on every supermarket or snack bar shelf."

The recipe appears in the latest collection of Evelyn Rose's recipes, 100 Best Jewish Recipes published last month.

"The book is a curated collection of favourite recipes from her catalogue, chosen mostly by her publishers with a bit of help from me," says Judi. "They didn't originally have the Luscious Lemon Cake in there, but I said they couldn't leave it out as it's a classic."

The recipes last had an outing in the New Complete International Jewish Cookbook - published in July 2011. The 2016 collection has a funky design and modern photos of some of the dishes.

"The time just seemed right for a collection of Jewish recipes. This volume is rooted in tradition, but is carrying her kind of cooking into the 21st century. I wanted to reflect her adventurousness with recipes like Indonesian corn fritters and Imam Bayeldi (Turkish stuffed aubergine). She was so ahead of her time that her recipes don't even seem dated now."

Judi sees this book as a more manageable volume than the previous tome.

"A whole generation have grown up not seeing her on television or reading her writing, so we wanted to introduce her to a younger audience and also to non-Jewish cooks. We also wanted to make the most of the trend towards Jewish food that is happening now."

Judi believes her mother was way ahead of the curve, when it comes to the current move from bland Ashkenazi nosh to brighter, more colourful Sephardi influenced flavours. A contemporary of Mary Berry's, her recipes took Jewish food away from chicken soup, lockshen pudding and schmaltz and brought in new flavours from regular trips abroad.

"Whenever she travelled she would bring home new ideas and try to recreate them. Wherever we went, whether the south of France, Turkey or Crete, or countries like China and Hong Kong, she would meet members of the local Jewish community and find out about their food. She'd say Jewish food is what Jewish people eat - she redefined Jewish cooking."

She even could have given modern Israeli chefs a run for their money.

"She was equally happy cooking Ashkenazi or Sephardi food and making twists on tradition, taking recipes to the next level and she really had this sense that Jewish cooking could be so much more. She was making Moroccan chermoula sauce long before Yotam Ottolenghi was even born. On one trip she had tasted pomegranate molasses; you couldn't get it here, so when she came back, she took it upon herself to make it. I see her like a Jewish food prophetess," says Judi.

Judi also believes that her mother's status as the patron balabusta of Jewish food is helped by the fact that her recipes were so utterly reliable. "She would test, retest and retest some more until she was happy that her recipes worked. That meant her recipes were 100 per cent foolproof - one of her trademarks and why people are still such devotees."

According to Judi, Evelyn was also an early adopter of technology, using kitchen gadgets with no reservations, taking the view that anything that made a woman's life in the kitchen easier had to be a good thing. "She was a real pioneer, using Magimixes and halogen hobs as soon as they came out. If she'd been around now she'd definitely have been using steam ovens and flex induction hobs."

Judi, who has just returned to the UK after living and working in New York with her husband and son for the past 20 years, has inherited her mother's fondness for food ethnography.

"I have a passion for taking cuisine from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia and making their recipes work for a Jewish diet. Why should Jews who keep kosher not enjoy Vietnamese food?"

She will be demonstrating some of these dishes at this year's Gefiltefest. The exact dishes are not yet confirmed but may include dishes from the Bene Israel community from India and the Kai Feng Chinese Jews.

Her mother would be proud.

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