Let's Eat

From the heart of her kitchen

Lockdown and a love of entertaining, led Sally-Ann Thwaites to publish a fund-raising cookbook


Sally-Ann Thwaites had no aspirations to see her name in print. “It was never my dream to produce a cookbook” she admits, speaking from Israel, her home since she made aliyah in 2013. “I never thought I was known for my amazing desserts or any dish in particular, but I think I am for my presentation, and for creating a lovely atmosphere.”

Creativity is abundant in the beautifully presented cookery book, Cooking from the Heart, which the self-effacing Thwaites produced last year in aid of charity Beit Halochem. She must have done something right, because the first print run of 800 books sold out in four weeks — with sales raising more than £22,000 from copies sold in Israel, the UK, South Africa, Australia and the US.

Beit Halochem supports war veterans who have suffered mental and/or physical traumas or PTSD and terror victims. “They have four centres where they provide facilities and activities and the Beit Kay Convalescence Centre in Nahariya. I actually nearly worked for them years ago when they were trying to set up a London office, so I’d been to the Tel Aviv Beit Halochem centre.”

Thwaites had worked in charitable fundraising for many years, having switched career from dispensing optician to fundraiser when she was in her 30s. She went on to work for a range of different charities over the next 15 years and continued to do voluntary work when she moved to Israel — “I like to keep myself busy.”

She is clearly not someone to sit still. When forced to self-isolate for several periods during the early months of the pandemic — having returning home from a series of family visits to London — she decided to start collating her recipe collection.

Ordinarily, she would have been busy organising an It’s a Knockout tournament for children — an annual summer fundraiser she has run for the last 17 years.

The cataloguing project was initially purely practical. “I love to cook different recipes, which I may look up on Google; but on Shabbat, I can’t use my phone, so it made more sense to have them all printed off to read.” A friend suggested she turn the collection into a book and the idea was born to create a charity cookbook.

The 75 recipes she’d envisaged grew to 130 recipes — each with its own image — over 250 pages. “I got quite into it. It’s become a far bigger project than I ever imagined it to be.”

The cookbook was partly inspired by her late mother, Monica Slater, and is dedicated to her memory: “I did it in her honour because she loved entertaining, and was known as a great hostess and I think I got that from her. I watched her entertain and everything was done beautifully. You would never see a plastic bottle on her table — it would always be put into a nice glass one!”

She recalls a house full of dinner parties, a resplendent buffet table, and wonderful desserts as a child. “I grew up with stuffed chicken, florentines, chocolate refrigerator cake and mandelbrot, that my nana often made. I think my mother was one of the first of her friends to make sticky toffee pudding.”

Not having married before her mother’s death, she admits she’d had less interest in entertaining then so hadn’t gathered her mother’s recipes. It was only when she met her husband that she began to regularly invite people into her home and collect recipes. Over the past few years she has built up an impressive repertoire.

The book is compiled from a variety of sources. “I found some of my mother’s recipes — she had them on pieces of paper and I asked her friends. Most of the dishes have some sort of connection to her — whether it was something she made or enjoyed. ”

Several Israeli celebrity chefs including Moshiko Gamlieli (Bar 51 Tel Aviv and Mona, Jerusalem) and Ilan Garousi (Satya, Jerusalem) have also donated recipes as have JC contributors, Lisa Roukin and Silvia Nacamulli, who also advised her on the book.

“It became a community project, with recipes being donated, props being lent for the pictures and friends and family sharing their expertise to keep costs down.”

At the back of the book is a charming section on table setting: “It’s as important to me that the presentation of the food is as good as its taste.

“I love how Malka restaurant in Tel-Aviv serve the food on rustic brown paper, and even sometimes dollop the chocolate mousse directly on the paper, or a tip I learnt from my dear friend Rinat to use old-fashioned weighing scales to serve food. It’s about creating an atmosphere, making food fun and different.”

Her tips include enhancing the table with props — meadow flowers in small bud vases, a variety of tablecloths, napkin ring holders, fresh herbs in woven baskets, hand candles. Everything is picture perfect.

Many of the recipes come with an anecdote about how it made its way into her life, like this spicy, meaty Adeni soup: “My dear friend Sima’s family are originally from Aden. When she stayed with us in Jerusalem Sima made this traditional Adeni soup for Friday night dinner. Everyone loved it! Sima tells me Adenis eat this soup with green schug (minced green chilli) and on Shabbat they use challah to mop up the soup. Of course, some people love to suck on the marrow bone when no one’s looking!”

The book is now on a second print run, and profits will go to Jewish Care as well as Beit Halochem.

To order a copy or donate to either charity visit: bhuk or jewishcare 


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