Let's Eat

Meet Micah Siva, the Instagrammer reinventing Jewish nosh

Siva’s new book offers plant-forward recipes for all our staples


Photo: Hannah Lozano

Can you be vegetarian or vegan and enjoy time-honoured Jewish nosh? Or are roast chicken, challah and fish balls non-negotiable? 

While some social media chefs across the globe, including Jewish and Israeli ones, are embracing plant-based versions of their cultures’ and countries’ classics, Canadian dietician and food Instagrammer Micah Siva felt there there was room on the shelves for a vegetarian cookbook featuring haimishe favourites — for vegetarians and veggie-lovers who want to connect with Jewish culinary history, or indeed anyone trying to convince their bubbe that Friday night dinner can be done without the meat.

One of the 80-plus recipes in her cookery book, Nosh: Plant-Forward Recipes Celebrating Modern Jewish Cuisine is for vegan matzah balls. There were no fewer than 20 forerunners to the final recipe that made it into the book — published on 5th March.

Siva’s challenge was coming up with matzah balls that didn’t collapse upon cooking without the all-important egg to bind them. The secret, it turned out, was was to steam the spheres (formed from matzah meal, chickpea flour and aquafab plus a host of spices) before popping them into the soup. 

“I cried so many tears over them — Manischewitz should have sponsored me!” she laughs.

Siva, who gave up meat some years ago, says one of her main reasons for writing the book was so she could eat the same food as her family on Jewish holidays. 

“This is the book that I’ve been wanting to write since I became vegetarian, and I couldn’t find,” she tells me. “It doesn’t tell anyone they should be vegan or vegetarian, but it does offer vegetable alternatives. I have so many friends who are eating less meat, or who are trying to eat more healthily by looking to add more vegetables into their diet but who still want to honour Jewish traditions at holidays.

“It’s important that no matter what they eat people feel included at the dinner or holiday table. I wanted to bring everyone together through food, whether they were eating traditional beef brisket or brisket made from mushrooms and tofu.”

Her own reason for going vegan was to feel better.  “I was having gut-related issues,” she explains from her home in San Francisco where she lives with husband Josh and their three-month old baby, Ari. Having trained and practised as a dietician in Canada, she knew what she was doing on the nutrition front.

However, when she and Josh moved to the UK for his work, she struggled to find work in her field. So she pivoted to recipe-writing and writing food-related material for companies’ websites and social media accounts.

She also wrote about and created Jewish food videos for her own vegetarian and vegan Instagram account and blog Nosh with Micah, a project about which was where her heart was. Which dishes, I ask, would she serve for a meat-free Friday night dinner from her new book, a delicious compendium of sexy spins on Ashkenazi and Sephardi staples.

“An eggless challah, enriched with tahini, followed by a bowl of turmeric soup with kreplach stuffed with sweet, caramelised onions and potatoes,” she says.

For main course, she’d serve a “brisket” made from mushroom and tofu and a fattoush salad made with bagel croutons and mini za’atar cheese balls.

For dessert there’d be an almond flour-based version of the New York Jewish black and white cookie. And there would be cocktails to pep up the new mum: “If I was looking to stay up past 9pm, I’d start with a date syrup and hawaj spice espresso Martini.”

The book also includes a veganised version of the Marmite Pesach staple that is gefilte fish. “I use cashew nuts, cauliflower, matzah meal and fry and bake, rather than boiling them. It’s more appetising.”

They are topped, of course, with a slice of carrot.

Nosh: Plant-Forward Recipes Celebrating Modern Jewish Cuisine is out now.

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