Let's Eat

Make room for the tastiest day of the year


Gefiltefest, now a fixture in the diaries of many Jewish foodies, celebrates its sixth birthday this year with a number of changes.

The first is the arrival of new director, Nicki Tiefenbrun, replacing founder Michael Leventhal who stepped down last year from running the show. Tiefenbrun brings 20 years of event management experience in the not-for-profit sector, two of them running the family provision at Limmud.

"I want the festival to reach an even more diverse audience, to welcome in Jewish, non-Jewish, young and old and to expand it to a wider community of foodies," says Tiefenbrun, herself a passionate cook.

Also new this year is the location, a now short jog down the Finchley Road from one Jewish community centre to another - the sparkly JW3. According to Tiefenbrun rejigging the festival's format to fit into the different layout of this building was a challenge, but she and her team have managed a huge schedule of planned speakers, demonstrators and interactive events.

In keeping with last year's international flavour, presenters have been invited from around the world.

"Jayne Cohen, a US blogger will be coming to talk about Latin American food, and we have two exciting Israeli guests - Janna Gur, publisher of Al Hashulchan (At the Table) one of Israel's top food magazines, and a lynchpin in Israel's foodie movement; plus Moshe Basson, the chef proprietor of Jerusalem's Eucalyptus restaurant and an authority on biblical and foraged foods."

Local girl Lisa Roukin - JC contributor and author of My Relationship with Food - will be demonstrating healthy recipes using spiralised vegetables; and journalist and food writer Anne Shooter will be cooking up some of her favourite cakes and bakes from her recent book, Sesame and Spice.

Long time patron of the festival, Claudia Roden, will be talking about her life and career in food.

"She's going to be sharing with us how particular dishes are evocative for her of different times in her life. She will take us through the flavours of her childhood in Egypt, her schooling in France and times here in the UK with her friends and family who had come out of Aleppo.

There will be tasters along the way of the foods she's describing to give the audience an interactive flavour.

Other events will feed the brain as well as the belly.

"We'll be doing an 'Ask the Rabbi' food special as well as our own version of the Radio 4 programme The Kitchen Cabinet, in which a culinary panel - including Honey & Co's Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer and JC contributor Silvia Nacamulli - will answer questions and discuss food, cooking and other areas of Jewish gastronomy."

Srulovich and Packer will also be demonstrating recipes - hopefully from Honey & Co, the baking book, due out in the first week of July.

This year a room will be devoted to ecologically-influenced events: "In the Green Room, there will be a rolling programme of Jewish food from a sustainable and ethical point of view plus some fun things to do. Early that morning, Rabbi Natan Levy will lead a group on a forage on Hampstead Heath. They'll cook up the spoils later. There will also be urban seed planting, which will teach you how to grow your own in a town setting, using things like lengths of old guttering to cultivate plants in."

There will be a 'Literary Salon' with books to flick through and buy, signings and question-and-answer sessions with various authors. And no arts event would be complete without an artist in residence.

"Artist Sophie Herxheimer will be making food memories. Describe your favourite food or food memory and Sophie will draw and write something around it. The drawings will together create a gallery of food."

Tiefenbrun will also be using the day to bring an interfaith dimension to the Jewish cultural centre. She has invited members of the Dialogue Society to come along to make Noah's Pudding.

This rice pudding-style dessert is dairy-free as it is made with rice, chickpeas, white beans, pearl barley, water, sugar, dried and fresh fruits, nuts and rosewater. It is made by Muslims and shared with family and friends on the festival of Ashure. "Over the last six years, the Dialogue Society has facilitated the giving away of 10,000 bowls of Noah's Pudding. One of their teams of volunteers will be making it at Gefiltefest."

Children will be catered for with food-related craft activities for pre-schoolers upwards, as well as a series of pre-bookable workshops for the five-plus age group.

And Tiefenbrun assures us there will be plenty of food to eat during the day, from demonstrations and workshop tasters or at JW3's in-house restaurant, Zest. Out in the piazza food stalls will include Hansen Lydersen (smoked salmon), the Biltong Factory, the Shakshukerie, Soyo, Antonio Russo ice cream, and Providence Deli chutneys and pickles. JC contributor Fabienne Viner-Luzzato will be cooking up traditional Tunisian Briques à l'oeufs - delicious paper-thin pastry parcels filled with a fried egg with a soft melting yolk, on its own or with fillings like tuna, harissa and capers or spinach, caramelised onions and feta, while fellow JC contributor Denise Phillips will be cooking up tasty treats with a steam oven from one of the show's sponsors - Neil Lerner kitchens.

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