A very Jewish Christmas

So the big question this week is clearly, what will you eat at Christmas? Apparently it’s unfashionable to cook turkey at Christmas, we should be all Neil Perry with poached salmon and prawns, sorry that’s salmon sous vide, with avocado and mango salsa.

And it’s too late to start looking for a goose – the highlight of a Christmas when my stepson Illya showed us what the Brits can do in the kitchen.

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Here he is doing a bomb alaska.

But I love turkey and each year I wonder why we don’t have it more often. It can be cooked and served cold after all and the seafood, well that’s nice for an entree.

Here’s what I’m expecting my bath will look like on Wednesday.DSC02842

So while Chanukah is still going strong I’m busy planning Christmas lunch, I’m really not a great Jew. Apparently good Jews ignore Christmas – see http://http://www.jewfaq.org/Christmas.htm for details.

I grew up in a family that always celebrated Christmas, though never with pork or ham. Mum always cooked a turkey and she usually bought extra legs, which helped to avoid conflict but may have confused the kiddies.

I was the youngest of 4 children and when I turned 13 Mum declared that the Christmas lark was over. I was old enough to accept we were Jewish. So I asked if I would get Chanukah presents, but since clearly we weren’t observant Jews, mum pointed out that Chanukah is a minor holiday and I could forget that angle too. I protested loudly, but Mum insisted. We would do lunch and we would get small gifts only. This was really depressing given that we hadn’t ever got lavish gifts.

Then I grew up and fate directed me to the kitchen for a living. Eventually I became a caterer and my first gig was doing a wedding buffet. Amongst the dishes I served was mango-glazed breast of turkey. I wasn’t sure what glazed really meant but I liked the sound of it. It was a resounding success and rather cutting edge for 1983. Stop laughing!!IMG_0174 2

I don’t get to spend many Christmas’s with my Sydney family these days but my niece Sammy has taken up the mantle and my brother likes to tell me hers is better. He thinks I’ll be put be out! But I am a foodista and now a senior female. It’s all about passing the baton and recipes are only a starting point, you can take them where you like so I’m very proud.

Nobody misses out on ChristmasIMG_0190 2

Here’s my recipe for the mango sauce – cook your turkey (goose, duck or chicken) as you will – you can baste the turkey with or without the sauce and then serve remaining sauce on the side. This would go well with any fruit you like, but mangos are in season and are the perfect complement for poultry.

You will need a small bunch of fresh coriander – chop the stalks for sauce and keep leaves for garnish



1 Tbs chopped ginger

3 cloves garlic

1small finely diced salad onion

then add 2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp paprika

then add

finely chopped coriander stalks

when its all bubbling nicely add

2 tsp honey and a slurp of wine

the chopped flesh of a very ripe large mango

No I can’t suggest the wine – I use what ever is available – sweet kosher wine is ideal. When you’re satisfied it’s well-cooked blend and serve with your turkey – coriander leaves to garnish.

I will serve latkes on the side and a crisp salad. http://www.smartfoodmama.com/festive-frying/

I’m thinking pavlova for dessert since I’ve never made one. My mother used to make a cheat’s cassata for Christmas – you’ve probably seen some recipes – let the icecream soften and then stir through mixed fruits and nuts – refreeze. But my Mum soaked the fruit in rum for about a month so this was not a dessert for the children, but a fab and boozy Antipodean way to avoid steamed pudding overload.

Whatever you do for Christmas I hope it’s delicious, even if it’s a sous-vide salmon.

Another Xmas – with Christine Bond!



Always ready to give thanks

I was very excited to be invited to my first ever Thanksgiving lunch, even though traditional Thanksgiving foods were eschewed. I thought I’d better contribute so I baked a peach küchen. What is a küchen? Küchen is German and also Yiddish for cake. Why would I bake a traditional Jewish cake for Thanksgiving, well why not? Or maybe because it’s quick easy and delicious.10846435_883206265037099_2910108964616618607_n

And it was, yes those are little bits of mango as well.

I got this recipe from Judy Jackson’s The Jewish Cookbook. I’ve only used a couple of recipes from this book but they’ve been great.


This recipe is a one mix-bowl number – then you top with fruit and brown sugar. I used 2 large duck eggs, from my mate Emma. They were huge so I tinkered with quantities. This isn’t usually recommended but I’ve messed with this recipe before as the first time I made it seemed not to be as runny as the illustration so I added more milk, I also tend to reduce the sugar. Judy Jackson tells us to peel the peaches, but in this day and age I leave the skin on and it makes it more colourful. You could do this with any fruit you like, and this will make pretty muffins too.

Beat till smooth:

¾ softened butter (unsalted)

2 eggs

3 cups SR flour

½ cup milk (I probably used 1 cup)

Pour into baking tin (20cmx20cm) lined with baking paper

Top with peach slices then sprinkle over ½ cup soft brown sugar mixed with ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Bake for 40 mins @ 180 °. Baking times are always dicey I find. Ovens have a mind (or at least a temperature of their own) so do the skewer test – I find it takes closer to an hour in my oven.

This cake really deserves whipped cream and so do you.




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“There is only baked cheesecake, everything else is pudding”.

Invited out for dinner and asked to bring dessert I decided to reprise the “classic cheesecake” I used to bake in my old café days. This really is a great cheesecake. On receipt of this cake my friend said “ Oh wow is it a baked cheesecake”. To which I replied, “There is only baked cheesecake, everything else is pudding”.

Cheesecake is a staple of the European Jewish repertoire, along with blintzes, nudel kugel, high cholesterol and heart disease. And while the fridge versions may be tasty and certainly quick, they aren’t really cakes, because cakes, as we know, are baked.DSC04923 2

My childhood in Sydney was enhanced by the fact that my one of my father’s customers had a fabulous patisserie in Kings Cross, the Croissant D’Or – and it still exists, though who runs it I don’t know. One or the other of my brothers would deliver orders to him, and it always seemed to be on a Friday afternoon. My dad never charged for this service but Karl Schader always handed over a cheesecake for the Shabbbos (Sabbath) table.

I’m not going to claim that mine is as good as Mr Schader’s – nothing will ever taste as good as such a memory, but this is a recipe for a very fine “classic” cheesecake. I have just popped cheesecake MK 2 (gluten free) in the oven for a special friend and coeliac sufferer. Just substituted gluten free flour and made the base with GF rice cookies.

GF Version
GF Version

So if you want to throw caution to the winds and eat likes it’s 1970, this is for you.

This recipe came without a base – a very basic cheesecake but I make a base with biscuits, Marie or arrowroot:

In a food processor blend ½ packet plain biscuit with 1 T butter.

I use a spring-form baking pan – and just press the mixture down evenly with your knuckles.


225 g cream cheese

225g ricotta cheese

2 lg eggs

½ cup white sugar

till very smooth


2T melted butter

1 ½ T sifted SR flour

1 ½ T cornflour

1t vanilla essence

Best till smooth then fold in

1 cup sour cream

Pour it onto the base – don’t grease the tin – into preheated oven @ 160°

Bake for about an hour till golden.

Then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 2 hours.

Remove it and when cool it goes in the fridge – and don’t worry about any cracks that appear – part of the charm (although the ones from the Croissant D’Or weren’t split.

I recommend eating this as is – whipped cream is always nice but is it too much? I think so. Now all you need is a good cup of coffee to go with it – oh Vienna!!




Barley Soup for David

I should be sharing the joys of my week in tropical Darwin, but it’s cold and raining and I’ve just had a great chat with my brother regarding soup. His household in the cold Blue Mountains have feasted on a batch of homemade minestrone for some days. He suddenly realised that soup had been a missing ingredient in his past life.

No, I don’t believe Mothers should be the only providers of nurture, but his ex did have “domestic goddess” aspirations, unfortunately they did not extend to comfort food. So when I told David I’d just made barley soup he requested the recipe. My barley soup tastes somewhat like my mother’s, except that being a lazy baby boomer if I make a pot of barley soup, that’s dinner. Not for my Mum who regularly provided three course dinners, midweek, and yes, she went out to work. Here she is with her grandchildren and one great grandchild – she’s looking pretty good from 90 years of homemade soup, as are her descendants.


So, some years ago, driven by nostalgia I figured this would work – and it does, though I doubt Mum used lamb shanks, though they were so cheap back in the day, damn our new found cosmopolitanism! Back then my father couldn’t give away the massive tuna he caught. But those were the days, when men were men and squid was bait.

Now be warned I have no accurate measurements for this soup– only estimates and you will add or subtract whatever you do or don’t like, beef bones can be used instead of lamb, but for me the soup should be thick with cabbage. I blame it on my Eastern European ancestry but recognise that not everyone likes cabbage.

In a large pot sauté:

Olive oil as needed (not that my Mum would have used olive oil)

A few bay leaves

2 lamb shanks

1 large chopped onion

2 cloves chopped garlic

*½ large diced capsicum

*2 celery sticks finely sliced

then add

2T ground coriander

2t ground paprika

Then add ¾ cup of barley that has been soaking at least 2 hours

Cover with water or stock of your choice and ½ cup of wine.

Add 2 diced carrots

*2 diced potatoes

Bring to the boil reduce to simmer and cook for approx. 2 hours till barley is tender and lamb is falling from the bone.

At this point I season with salt and pepper.

Finally I add half a coarsely chopped cabbage, I like big hunks and just submerge it in the soup till cooked through, I like to keep the crunch.

You may remove the lamb from the bone if you like or provide a shank in bowl, obviously more shanks can be used.


*these are optional and to taste, any vegetable can be used really but I try and avoid cauliflower when using cabbage, because sometimes you can have too much roughage!


Time for chicken soup

Monday night is the beginning of Passover, what we Jews call Pesach. The festival commemorates the hasty flight from Egypt, the Exodus.Pesach is a celebration of some duration — eight days in fact and as such preparations begin long before. There are various tasks which are performed even in a secular home such as mine. For me these involve mainly extended shopping expeditions, but it is not so easy for Orthodox Jewish women. In Orthodox homes preparations begin with the removal of all chametz or leaven, from the home. Leaven is literally the substance that makes bread rise, yeast most commonly.

Everyone looks forward to the meal eaten on the first night – the seder, the central set piece of the celebration of Passover.  “Seder”, comes from a Hebrew root word meaning “order”, and indeed the meal will progress in an orderly fashion, each piece of the story represented by a food item.

There was no time to allow the bread to rise and so we eat matzo, flatbread. Tracey Rich adds that: “It is also a symbolic way of removing the ‘puffiness’ (arrogance, pride) from our souls”

So the flattened matzo sheets are used instead of bread. After 8 days there may be uncomfortable digestive repercussions. Matzo is also ground and rendered into flour (matzo meal), fine medium or coarse. The finest matzo meal is used for baking cakes and biscuits. I use coarse ground for my kneidlach, (matzo meal dumplings) since fine meal would make the kneidlach too solid. There are many families who like them that way, I’m told.

As Oded Schwartz has observed:

There are two opposing schools of thought about the making of these simple, delicious dumplings: one maintains that they have to be ‘as light as a feather and quiver under their own weight’ and the other, which is almost as popular, insists on a heavy, substantial kneidlach ‘which will sink to the bottom of the plate’. (94)

My mother’s recipe should produce “light as a feather” dumplings.

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Mum’s Kneidlach

Beat well:

2 eggs

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons cold water

pinch of cinnamon

salt and pepper

Then add coarse matzo meal, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture drops from the spoon, loose but not runny, should make a ‘bloop’ sound as it drops. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Roll into little balls (use about a teaspoon of mixture) with wet hands, drop into rapidly boiling, salted water and cook for thirty minutes, or until cooked through. This quantity will make 12- 15 kneidlach.Felicty Food (58 of 110)

Serve with clear chicken broth and cooked carrot rings. Add shredded chicken if you want to make it a meal.Felicty Food (80 of 110)



Festive Frying

I’m rather shamed to admit I’ve been busy eating rather than writing – poor show. But what a month December was! December always begins early for me with the simchafreo Chanukah party, which I usually host. So, simchafreo is the Fremantle Jewish community group Ari Antonovsky. Anne-Marie Medcalf, Mark and Lea Zweir, and I established five years ago with help from all sorts of sundry “freojews”. More of that another time.


Chanukah is probably the best-known Jewish festival – at least amongst non-Jews. On the Jewish calendar it doesn’t qualify as a “High Holy Day”,  but with increased secularisation, i.e., the pressure of Christmas, Chanukah has become more important.

Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil. The story goes that having overcome their oppressive Greek conquerors the Jews found only one jar of oil to relight the candles in the Temple, that is, enough for one day. Miraculously it burnt for the 8 days required to produce fresh olive oil.

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Jews commemorate the occasion with games, small gifts, lighting the candles over 8 nights, and…eating fried food. What’s not to like?

We meet each year, serenaded by local klezmer band Gems, we eat our share of fried food – in this case – latkes (see below) and terrific donuts (sufganiyot) provided by Abhi’s organic bakery – delicious donuts, fried but not greasy. I ate too many.

Latkes are a very typical Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) food. Very much like a potato rosti they are potato cakes.

So you grate about 1 med onion and 2 med potatoes. You will need to strain the potato in a tea towel to remove the starchy liquid – but you should always keep a little liquid in case your mixture gets too dry and claggy.

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The potato and onion is added to 2 beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Mix it well and then add about 2 tablespoons of flour (self raising or not..)

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Just enough to bring it all together.

Then you heat your oil – and don’t bother with olive oil – you need peanut or safflower oil. Drop a tablespoon in and flatten it with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Cook them till they’re brown and then drain  on paper towels. Latkes are such a treat that in my family the word signifies anything rather good. So for example, my Dad’s winning cards in a bridge game would be referred to as “these little latkes”.

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They don’t look elegant, but then Ashkenazi food has little to do with elegance and everything to do with taste. Potato, onion and oil, what can go wrong?

I have served them up with turkey for an interfaith Xmas. So how was my Xmas? Delicious thanks, but perhaps a little less of that from this Jewish Mama!