62 posts categorized "Kosher"

01 December 2010

Chanukah 2010

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. I want to wish everyone a very Happy Chanukah, full of as many deep fried things and presents as you could possible consume.

Given that it is that time of year of unbridled consumerism and gluttony, can I point to you to my very own shop, kindly hosted by Amazon.  I've listed some of my favourite books and kitchen equipment.  If you're particularly looking for bookish inspiration, I've got more listed in what I've pompously named my library.

If you just want a bit of schmaltz, then watch the video below.  Take it away Harrison Avenue School 2007 Kindergarten.


10 November 2010

The SsLuT

I haven't always kept kosher.  It was a rash decision I took before my barmitzvah.  As I was learning more about my religion, I realised it was something I wanted to do.  My decision may also have been influenced by my brother who made a very similar decision some years earlier.

I've only wavered once, when I was at university and increasingly getting into food in a slightly obsessive way.  I couldn't see the point of keeping kosher.  I then met a very special lady, who got me back on track.

This is a long way of saying I know not of a BLT, but I understand from all who partake that they're tasty.  And it is from the insistence of others that the SsLuT was born: smoked salmon, lettuce and tomato.

Some years ago, I got to thinking that there was an odd similarity between bacon and smoked salmon.  Obviously, there is the issue of one coming from a land based mammal and the other a fish.  One being a cheap product and the other until recently, being quite expensive.  BUT they're both quite fatty.  They're often served in strips (tenuous I know), they err towards pink (I know, I know) and their respective flavour profiles are relatively earthy.  Ok look, maybe I'm pushing my luck, but stay with me because the resulting sandwich is a stunna. 

Get some smoked salmon.  Heat your frying pan until it gets very hot, turn on the extractor (it all gets rather fishy) and place your fish in the pan.  Stand back as it sizzles and let it cook until it turns brown at the edges - shouldn't take too long at all - turn the salmon over and repeat.

This is a sandwich best eaten in either an onion platzel or a sesame bagel.  It needs mayo, preferably homemade so it's not too claggy.  Lettuce and tomato are to taste.

It's really very good.  It's the SsLuT.

Just to finish, a (useful) bit of trivia.  There is a fish that is kosher (not all of them are) that is called shibuta that supposedly tastes of pork.  It sounds pretty gross to me, I'm not sure I want my fish tasting of pork.  Nonetheless, if anyone happens to catch one as you're fishing in the Euphrates, do let me know, I'm intrigued to try it.

11 October 2010

Passion at last: Gefiltefest

Most of the time I cannot help but feel despondent about kosher food.  External threats, in particular to shechita are a regular occurence, but appear to be gaining a particular head of steam at the moment with some illogical legislation that is passing through the European Parliament. 

The really depressing thing though is the attitude of the community itself.  There is a saying, ask two Jews a question and you'll get three opinions.  Yet, it seems to me that when it comes to food, this argumentative community goes mute and loses its critical faculties.

Consumers don't seem to care what they're eating.  Producers, regulators and suppliers are seemingly happy with the status quo given the lack of dynamism.  As a result, when we face a threat like we are currently doing from the European Parliament, there are very few knowledagable advocates for kashrut. 

Lots of people can tell you the laws of kashrut and the religious reasons for keeping them.  Very few can defend it in a wider context, can argue against the incorrect view that shechita is cruel or that stunning animals is humane.  Very few are willing to fight to be heard that some of the inherent rules of kashrut do mean that animals are better cared for than in many secular abattoirs.  Equally, there are very few people who walk into a kosher supermarket and balk at the unseemly quantity of over-processed foods that weigh down the aisles.

And then Gefiltefest happens and my hope starts to be restored.  On a soggy Sunday almost 300 people gathered to discuss Jewish food.

Yes, calling something Gefiltefest is meshugah, but come on it is a brilliant name and I for one am ever so slightly peeved I didn't think of it first.  I suppose I could always start a rival, Schmaltzfest. 

Anyway, whilst the name may have got my attention initially, what warmed my heart was seeing so many people in one place, passionate about Jewish food.  True, there were a lot of eccentrics, but I've come to realise that all too often campaigners are denigrated for what makes them so interesting.

It wasn't just an opportunity to fress, although there was plenty of that.  It was also an opportunity to learn, discuss and think about what next.  And as you might gather from the adage above, there were a lot of opinions, but in my view, now is exactly the time we need some vigorous debate.

The talks I went to were diverse and pretty fascinating:  Maureen Kendler on the history of Jewish cookbooks; Kevin Sefton on the attempt for making the Jewish community self-sufficient in Rosh Hashanah honey or Leon Pein on organic kosher food.  I didn't agree with everything I heard, some of it was pretty wacky, but everyone cared deeply.

I was delighted to hear from organiser Michael Leventhal that Gefiltefest 2011 is already booked for May 22nd.  My wishlist for that event would be for it to have kosher food, but delicious, interesting and exciting food provided by someone passionate with what they're serving.  This is not a plea for the same old viennas and latkes (however tasty they may be).  I'd like to discover small kosher producers and suppliers, again people with a passion.  I'd love to hear a debate between a kosher caterer, a butcher, a kosher shop owner and someone from the London Beth Din to discuss regulation and food pricing.  Organising the programme is not my thing, I'll leave that to Michael.  I'll just offer up another opinion.

22 September 2010

Gefiltefest 2010, 3 October

image from www.silverbrowonfood.com
It's a bloody brilliant name.  It's informative and amusing at the same time.  It's catchy and I'd guess trademarkeable. Gefiltefest 2010.  You know what it's about.  There's going to be fressing and kibbitzing about nosh.

Receiving the email from indomitable organiser Michael Leventhal I'd assumed this was going to be another New York based event that I could only wish to attend.  But no, this is taking place in London on 3 October. 

The programme looks interesting and varied and a great start. I'm particularly pleased to see the involvement of Hazon, a US based organisation focused on improving the food we eat.  There are other elements I'd like to see in the future, such as orthodox rabbis attending.  I also think that these sorts of events should be under kosher supervision, but I appreciate that is a logistical and financial nightmare - again maybe something for next time.

I'm hoping to go along.  If you want to as well, then let Michael know if you're interested [email protected].

One important point: if you do go, you should try to take along any kosher (i.e. with a hechsher) sealed  products that you have spare.  Something like tuna, soup packets, crackers, barley, rice, pasta, cereals, tea, coffee, to leave in a collection box that will be distributed on the day.  The food collected will be given to www.jgift.org, which will then distribute the food to the needy.

31 August 2010

Rosh Hashanah 2010

That nip in the air this morning means only one thing: Rosh Hashanah is around the corner and that means time to think of large quantities of food to feed the masses.

Actually, this year the masses are a bit depleted, so I reckon bollito misto is a bit too full on.  Perhaps time to reprise salt beef or pot au feu?  Certainly an opportunity for chopped liver and chicken soup is a given.  I'm not sure I'm in the mood for kreplach (which I now see I've never written about, something else to add to the to do list), but they are very good, so they might make the cut.

I think I will delve into one of the Ottolenghi books for some salad inspiration.  With the lunar calendar dictating that Rosh Hashanah falls relatively early this year, I might just still be able to take advantage of some late summer bounty.  It also means that I'm late in the game thinking about my menus a week and a half in advance.

I always get a bit stumped on desserts although my apple and pepper sorbet tends to be quite popular and family can always be trusted to bring cake, fruit and other delights.  Maybe I should make a second sorbet, something berry related might work well.

Time to get thinking and ordering.

12 July 2010


As with Sima, I'd heard about Lilith, a French influenced restaurant in Tel Aviv, on Daniel Rogov's food forum and had read with interest his review.  He clearly enjoys the place and regularly refers to it as an excellent restaurant that happens to be kosher.

I appreciate some might be a bit perplexed at this. It is fair to assume that in Israel, given the sheer quantity of kosher restaurants, many must be excellent.  Sadly making such an assumption is incorrect.  There are many good kosher restaurants in the bottom and mid-range but the country's cup does not overflow at the top.  I'm not sure why, other than Tel Aviv is at the forefront of the country's dining scene where it's easier to find something porcine than it is to find a kosher restaurant.  I am absuing only a modicum of poetic license.

Which is why I was excited at the prospect of eating at Lilith, I want more than anything to find a really good restaurant that just happens to be kosher.  Unfortunately, my expectations were not met.

The room is lovely (once you walk through the office block to reach it) the service was impeccable. But the food was generally a real let down.

It started well enough with some deliciously smooth babaganoush and a stunning fruity olive oil. But those high notes were short lived.

I started with the chicken's livers.  I was intrigued to see what a supposedly very good kosher restaurant would do with an ingredient at the (stereotypical) heart of Jewish cooking. 

It was quite amazing.  They managed to both overcook and undercook it.  The overcooked lobes were chalky, the undercooked ones were slimy and made me feel rather queasy. The toast the livers were sitting on was burnt.  The accompanying caramelised banana was quite a pleasant touch, but not sufficiently so to rescue the dish.

For main course I could not ignore the special of duck confit. I cannot remember ever having eaten it and assuming the starter was an aberration I figured this was going to be special.  I've heard so many people wax lyrical about this gallic speciality and have read recipes avidly.  I find it hard to believe it's meant to be as uttlery tasteless as the version I tried.

In addition to the confited leg, other bits duck were on the plate, including a lobe of something doing a poor impression of foie gras.  The meat sat on top of two asaparagus spears that were beaten into submission by overly sweet purees of various fruits and pumpkin. The asparagus vs sauce concept underscored some wide-of-the-mark thinking in the kitchen. 

Mrs S had pasta.  It wasn't bad, it was as I recall perfectly fine.  But it was vegetarian, the ingredients were good.  I don't really have a lot else to add.

Dessert of sorbets was similarly dull.  Which is a bit of a disgrace, along the lines of the chicken liver massacre, because with the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy, desserts are the hardest course for kosher meat restaurants.  Sorbets should be their ideal dessert, it should be simple for them to take some beautiful fruit, make a syrup, combine, churn and freeze.  Instead we received some mildly flavoured crushed ice.

And I'm gutted, because I wanted to enjoy this meal and revel in its deliciousness. Yes the room is beautiful, the service was good and the clientele were glamorous.  But none of that makes up for disappointing food. 

Google Maps

Lilith, 4 Weizman, Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel: +972 (03) 6091331

What others think

Daniel Rogov - All of which gives no cause whatsoever for complaint as Lilith remains the very best kosher restaurant in the country and certainly of interest to sophisticated diners even when kashrut is not important. (UPDATE I've amended this reference and link following RotemAR's comment below.)
Frommer's - Lilith combines quality ingredients with a kitchen that's always interesting but not overblown with forced inventiveness.

02 July 2010


Gizzard is not a lovely word.  There's an onomatopoeic quality to it: it sounds gristly, surely it's not going to be good eating.  The same must be true of spleen. I'm no anatomist but doesn't the spleen do something fairly important with blood? So again, not something you crave to see on your plate.

But what if you fry them, maybe add some hearts (depends whose heart of course), a bit of liver, some diced lamb.  That's sounding a bit better.  And then fried onion, the sine qua non of Jewish anti-cardio/Ashkenazi cooking.  And then, and then some spices that no-one can ever quite pin down.  Well then you have a dish that makes for great eating.  And so it was when we had dinner at Sima.

Silverbrowess is not as obsessed with food as I am and frankly finds my 'hobby' more than a little frustrating at times.  Especially when we are on holiday and I plan entire trips of several thousand miles around meals I would like to eat.  So for the sake of marital peace I've calmed down a bit. I've got wise to the fact that she wasn't delighted to spend her 30th birthday in a car driving down to Cornwall for lunch that we were two hours late for - but that was fantastic

Now, I do it all surreptitiously.  I plan and organise where I want to eat (Google Maps' My Maps feature is perfect for anal restaurant planning) and forget to mention it to Mrs S.  Then when the inevitable question of breakfast, lunch or dinner rolls around, I can nonchalantly suggest somewhere, as though I've just picked it out of thin air.  Whereas the truth is that my anticipation at eating there has been building for weeks, I'm about to pop and here's my chance to get my way.

It was during such planning, in particular on Daniel Rogov's Israeli focused food & wine forum, that I had been alerted to Sima and the restaurant's particular speciality, the Jerusalem Grill. 

Although Rogov advocates eating the grill in a pita with chips out on the street, being with Mrs S and Silverbrowlette meant sitting in the back of the restaurant, with other families out for some reasonably priced grilled meat. 

Instead of chips we had mujadarah, a Middle Eastern rice dish laden with lentils and fried onions (again).  We also had some sides of salads.  You need a little bit of fresh stuff to cut through the fat of the food.

The Jerusalem Grill was sublime, easily as good as billed.  There was a depth of flavour I'm having trouble describing in words.  People think that offal is an acquired taste and the ferrous, bloody quality of this offal overload is thankfully a long way from bland.  The meat was balanced with the sweetness of the onions and some subtle heat from the spices.  Mrs S is not the generally drawn to offal but had little difficulty helping me seeing off the very large plate of food.  Which reminds me, the portions are massive and with the obligatory salads that all restaurants in Israel serve when you sit down, plus a couple more we ordered, one main course between two really is enough.

A word on Sima's location.  It is next to Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem's main food market.  On a Friday the place is brilliant bedlam.  As the increasingly religious city of Jerusalem prepares itself for Sabbath, a day when shopping, cooking and much besides is forbidden, Mahane Yehuda is where Jerusalem comes to prepare.  I imagine an early lunch at Sima on a Friday would be pretty special.  I say early because everything shuts down just after lunch in preparation for Shabbat. 

Google Maps

Sima, 82 Agrippas Street, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972 (0) 2 623 3002

What others think

Daniel Rogov - ...this is marvelous fare and a huge portion of the truly excellent me'urav yerushalmi packed into a pita, and served with small but adequate side-dishes of really good coleslaw, pickles, olives, Turkish salad and a soft drink or beer will cost well under ten dollars, surely one of the best values for money to be found anywhere on the planet.