Shabbat meals are changing. No longer uniformly brown and beige, our Friday night feasts are likely to be laden with the vibrant, popping colours of ruby pomegranate seeds; emerald chopped herbs and the reds, yellows and greens of Israeli salad.
Flavours have also changed. The onion, parsley and white pepper our grandmas used to season everything are often now replaced with Middle Eastern spices like za’atar, sumac and chilli.
Anne Shooter has tapped into this change in her new book, Cherish, Food to make for the people you love. The food writer, who is also head of commercial partnerships at MailOnline, feels her book reflects a new generation of balaboostas.
“We all have hummus in our fridges now. Middle Eastern foods are part of our menu. Foods like bulgar wheat, quinoa, aubergine and pomegranate molasses weren’t part of my mother’s repertoire; and in turn, the ingredients she used were different to what my grandmother cooked with” says the Pinner United Synagogue member, whose first book, Sesame and Spice, focused on Jewish baking.
Her new book includes plenty of classic haimishe recipes like salt beef, gefilte fish and chopped liver, plus some Sephardi dishes. Many of these, including shakshuka, Israeli salad and tahini sauce, are fast becoming part of the modern Jewish repertoire.
Shooter, who took a career break in 2010 to train as a chef at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, says her mother and grandmothers’ cooking has provided plenty of inspiration: “They were outstanding cooks and used recipes passed from generation to generation.” The recipes are just served a bit differently now.
“I serve chopped liver like my grandma always did, but it’s part of a Middle Eastern mezze, with other dips like hummus.”
Her family background is Ashkenazi — grandfather, Teddy Gold was a well-known East End kosher poulterer. “The Krays were customers as well as actors like Miriam Margolyes, who used to give us tickets to West End shows. We called them the wurst tickets!”.
Sephardi culinary influences come from husband, Daniel Levy’s family, many based in Israel, where she and Levy (a solicitor) and their daughters, 14-year-old Charlotte, and Jessica, who is 12, are regular visitors.
Shooter says these recipes were mostly dishes she’d been cooking for a long time — “it is totally how my family eats so it was just a matter of writing them down”. She added to those family staples after a week’s research with her Israeli in-laws looking for the most up-to-date dishes. “My recipes for aubergine baked whole (like a jacket potato ) and served with tahini, date syrup and pomegranates were inspired by that trip.”
“The first time I cooked a whole aubergine this way I almost laughed out loud. It must be the easiest supper of all time.”
A meal at Tel Aviv restaurant Meat and Eat inspired her Middle Eastern meat pie, which combines spiced lamb mince with chickpeas and parsley. Puff pastry is spread generously with hummus then placed over the top — hummus-side down — before baking. “It’s delicious, and so quick and easy — you can bake it in an oven proof frying pan. It’s also lighter than a traditional stodgy meat pie.”
Traditional Ashkenazi food is not forgotten, with recipes for chopped liver, chraine and other staples. Her grandma’s beef tzimmes gets an overhaul, keeping the “meltingly sweet carrots” she remembers from her childhood, but changing the matzah meal dumplings. “When I was growing up this was a big, heavy dumpling, but I’ve made lighter, smaller matzah balls.”
Despite having to squeeze the writing into evenings and weekends, while she worked full-time, the book was written in a speedy six months. “Recipes had to be quick and easy.”
As a working mother, she’s all too aware of the limited time many of us have to prepare meals. “The role of Jewish women has changed so much. Our lives aren’t about cooking all day.”
A chapter is dedicated to main courses that can be prepared in one roasting tin. “My favourite is chicken cooked with pomegranate molasses, aubergines and walnuts. I’m proud that it takes ten minutes to prepare but is smart enough to serve for Shabbat or entertaining on a Saturday night. All it needs is a green salad.”
She’d like the book to be on the shelves of Jewish and non-Jewish families and dreams of it becoming a go-to for Jewish cooks. “I hope it’s an accessible book with all the classics as well as recipes they can adapt for their own kitchens; something for people to buy for newlyweds setting up their first Jewish home.”
Cherish is published by Headline Home, £28