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Jewish; Traditional recipes from a Rich Heritage is another cookery book I picked up from the American Bookshop in Warsaw. Seeing that nearly all the Jewish restaurants have closed down and the ones that are left aren't very good I decided to buy a book and have a go at cooking my own Jewish food.
My copy looks exactly like the one on the top illustrating a plate of lamb with lentils and apricots. I like the look of the apricots and lentils but not so sure about the lamb - not one of my favourite meats. The author is Judy Jackson. Not a very Jewish name but I believe the lady is Jewish, 70 years old and a grandmother of twelve who writes for the Jewish Chronicle and is a keen blogger.
This cookery book is a paperback copy with a stiff cover made from card. In theory this should keep the pages together and stop them flapping about but it doesn't which is quite irritating. When you pick the book up it flaps, bends and the pages start to misbehave. They will not lie flat so to have two pages open at the same time you have to place something heavy on each side of the page to stop the pages from rising up and closing on you. The size is A4 ish which is okay - I like this size.
In the inside cover there are a couple of paragraphs explaining about the diversity of Jewish cuisine and how it is influenced by many culinary traditions resulting in a mixture of wholesome stews and pies from eastern Europe and plenty of Mediterranean influenced recipes using olive oil, vegetables and fruit. We also learn how much time is lavished on these recipes and that a successful dish is created through preparation and using top quality ingredients. Most of the recipes are covered are traditional stews and one pot dishes using grains and pulses and are inexpensive. These dishes can be left cooking in a slow cooker and are perfect for working families.
The contents page is simply stated - a plain white page with the name of each chapter written in italics. Only two illustrations - basil leaves at the top of the page and olives at the bottom. Very simple but in its own way quite stylish.
The Introduction comes next which I always read in cookery books but never in novels. I like the type face in this part of the book. I'm not quite sure what it is but it definitely isn't Times Roman. The print size is quite large too which is good - means I don't have to wear my reading gogs. To break the paragraphs of text up are small water coloured drawings of lemons and a glass of red wine. Again, very simple but eye catching and adds a nice touch. Throughout the four pages we learn about how Jews have moved around for centuries taking their cooking utensils with them and how there are two distinct Jewish groups: Shepardi (from the Mediterranean and far East) and the other Ashkenazi (Eastern Europe). There is also two pages of text explaining rituals and traditions. These pages are broken up with photographs of things like the different breads and crackers used as well as a selection of fresh and dried fruits and a small picture showing pulses and noodles. It's okay as far as introductions go - nothing too heavy - easy to understand and very useful for people who don't know very much about Jewish culture and food.
The first chapter as in most cookery books covers Soups and Starters. A very colourful section of the book with full coloured photographs. The page of instructions is well laid out with simple text in the same large print and each instruction numbered. There is a small paragraph at the top of the page introducing us to the dish and telling us how it can be served - hot and cold and what with. Then a list of ingredients written in italics and the number of people the dish will feed. To finish this section off there is another water colour sketch of the main ingredient of the dish. I also like the fact that there are a couple of photographs showing preparation and these are boxed off and edged in black. These stand out on the page and immediately your eyes zoom over to the photographs. At the bottom there is another box with the Cook's Tip. These are always very basic tips and I think most cooks would know these tips so they aren't anything special.
Out of the soup section the recipe I use the most is the one for barley soup. I don't know why - I used to hate anything with barley in when I was a kid and used to sit at the table waiting until my Dad went back on the farm so I could whizz the bowl of soup down the loo. I'm older and wiser now (as Ian Botham would say) and really enjoy the hearty taste of barley especially when it is cooked with beef, carrots, celery and onion as it is in this recipe. You can also use veal or lamb. An easy to follow recipe with a stunning photograph of the soup served in an earthenware dish on the opposite page. Really good photography - much better than mine. You are able to pick out all the ingredients and can see in great detail pieces of barley, carrot and lentil. I could just eat a bowl of this now with a baguette but it's only 9am and I haven't had my breakfast yet.
Other soups are Chicken Soup with Matzo Kleis Balls (that's a bit of a mouthful), Chicken Soup with Lockshen and the famous Jerulasem Artichoke Soup. Not a favourite in our house as we don't like artichokes. There's a dish in the starter section that people will turn their nose up at - Chopped Liver with Egg and Onion. It's actually very nice as the chicken livers are served separately with the boiled egg and onion mixture at the side. Add some sliced red onion and black olives as an extra topping and it's delicious. It's good for you - think of all that iron and those vitamins. Our family favourites are Hummus and Falafel. My son loves falafel as he lived in Cairo when he was younger and I bet he lived off these. Both very easy to make if you follow the instructions which again are well laid out and beautifully illustrated with photographs and little sketches.
I am not to keen on the Fish and Vegetarian section. It lacks lustre. Probably it is because of the recipes chosen but apart from the Mazo Pancakes and Aubergines with Cheese I have never tried the other recipes. They look quite boring. For example; Fried Fish, Stuffed Courgettes (I don't really need a recipe for those), Halibut in Lemon Sauce, Cucumber and Fish Salad. Both the Halibut and Fish Salad do no look at all appetising and the first recipe is a cooked whole salmon. I like salmon but the photo of the salmon doesn't really grab my attention as the poor fish looks as limp as a wet lettuce. Although the photography is clear and good this shot isn't very artistic and not attractive.
The Meat and Poultry section is a little better although the page of Lamb Cutlets might put some people off as the lamb is only just cooked and they do look bloody. It doesn't bother me but I am sure some people like my husband who don't like meat rare will be put off. Lamb and lentils are featured quite a lot, the Steak Salad looks appetising with new potatoes and French beans, slices of cold Roast Chicken aren' t inspiring as the chicken looks dried out. My favourite recipe from this section is definitely the Chicken Pie with Mushrooms. I use this one quite a lot especially when we have 4 or more people round for tea. The filling is very tasty made from dark mushrooms, olive oil, chicken stock, kosher soy sauce, egg white and black pepper. An egg yolk is used in the pastry and I guess this is what makes it crumbly and delicious.
The last two chapters cover Side Dishes and Salads and of course, Desserts. Being a fan of side dishes I love this section and do use several of the recipes. I tend to go overboard when I have friends or family round to dinner and cook too much food. Three dishes that I recommend; Roasted Pepper Salad, Tabbouleh and Spiced Rice. These always go down well with all members of the family. There are also recipes for various Potato Salads and Potato Latkes and Aubergines with a Garlic and Tomato glaze.
Finally, Desserts. Interesting to see a recipe for Coconut Pyramids. I always smile when I see this as it was one of the first recipes I learnt from my Dad and as a kid I used to make a tray of these at least twice a week. I didn't know then that they are served at Passover and you can find them on every Israeli market stall. This recipe is exactly the same as I was taught as a kid. I don't actually eat these now as they are too sweet but the male members of our family seem to like them and I will be making some for Easter. I would love to say I have tried the recipe for a Plaited Challah Loaf but I haven't got round to it yet. I will do one day soon. One recipe I have tried is noodle pudding. A very rich dessert which in some ways reminds me of the British Bread and Butter pudding. Some lovely flavours in this recipe; cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla essence, soured cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, raisins and lemon rind. It really is very rich and creamy - delicious. Cinnamon balls look appetising but this is one I still have to try.
So there you go a selection of Jewish recipes with an Index at the back. Not a bad recipe book but loses points in the middle section. Nil points for the fish and vegetable section as it was very bland and not very artistically presented. The meat and poultry chapter was also a bit hit and miss. I will give the book 3 stars - I think that's fair.
Price -wise. I think I paid about 30 zloty from the American bookshop which is about £6. It's worth £6 but no more.
Other info: ISBN 1-84476-043-X
Published by Southwater an imprint of Annes Publishing Limited
Printed in Singapore