Israel: A proper Jewish mom’s cook up

When I moved to Joburg in 2011 I met Kim. She was studying with me and one day I gave her  a lift home, and the rest is history. We became friends very quickly and effortlessly and nearly 6 years on, I feel like I’ve known her forever. Kim is Jewish, and through her I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve mainly learnt some Yiddish words or phrases like ‘Bobbemyseh’ (Old Wive’s Tale), ‘Mazel Tov’, ‘Oy’, ‘Shnorrer’ (like a cheapskate), ‘Shvitz’ (to sweat – this one if my favourite and my non-Jewish friends say it all the time now too) and ‘Shloof’ (to sleep). There are of course many others but these are my favourites. I’ve also learnt about different traditions, which sink to put certain dishes in (so as to not mix meat and milk), and what the kosher symbol looks like on food. I’ve learnt about ‘Jewish Geography’ (where all Jewish people just seem to know everybody), and last but not least I have learnt about a Jewish mother. Typically a Jewish mother is thought to be overbearing – I’m not referring to this aspect, but more the very caring nature, and the insistence on eating food (worse than the Irish!). A Jewish mother in this instance is not only somebody who is an actual mother, but has the characteristics. When I go to Kim’s mom’s house for dinner (I get invited to their Monday night family dinners), Nades puts up the best selection of food every time. We have soup, and then usually fish, and an entire selection of salads, bread, pates etc. It’s really quite incredible. I always leave there certain I am going to explode, but well fed physically and emotionally from my Joburg family.

Anyway, on to the food. In true Jewish mom style I created a spread from a selection of Israeli treats. It wouldn’t be an Israel cook with just one food. I decided to combine a Cheese and Wine evening (hanging a little as I write this) with the Israeli cook. It was only at the end stages that I was worried I had bitten off WAY more than I could chew. I had decided to make Cheese Bourekas, Falafels, Tzatziki, a Soup, Challah and Pitas.

The day before I prepared the dough for the Challah and Pitas, and then the rest was done on the day. Thank heavens I had my dear friend Laura at my house before the event to assist me. I went through stages of standing in the kitchen, frozen with fear, and she was able to step in and take charge. I don’t have many before or process photos because everything was so hectic, but there are end product pictures (Except of the falafels and tzatziki unfortunately). There was so much food that I decided not to make the pitas.

Bourekas are made of puff pastry and are filled with a variety of toppings. The ones I made were filled with  cheese – Ricotta, Kashkaval (my new favourite cheese) and Feta. They’re covered with sesame seeds and then baked. I was super excited to see the finished product – they looked amazing. I enjoyed the taste (not too strong), but think they need to be served warm for them to be super tasty and melted.

As I’ve mentioned, making bread is one of my most favourite things to do, and this Challah was no exception to the rule. I told Laura that making it was the most exciting part, but I allowed her to braid the pieces. We made a 6 braid Challah, which is basically where you take the right rope, over 2 next to it, under one, and then over 2. And you repeat the process until the end. The Challah was absolutely phenomenal if I do say so myself (and according to my guests). We initially sliced pieces but then somebody asked if we could just pull it off, and I realised that’s actually what you’re meant to do, so I was grateful for the suggestion.

The soup was a red kidney bean and tomato soup. I admittedly didn’t have a bowl full, but dipped some Challah in and it was tasty. I received good reports about it. It was pretty easy to make too and Laura even told me I was quite creative in the way I just ‘threw’ ingredients into the pot (I was following the recipe though!)

I’ve made falafels a few time in my life, and only once have they been fully successful (the first time!). I changed the recipe this time, which had incredible flavours, and they were green (I was asked numerous times in the evening why this was the case – Coriander and Parsley!). I was initially going to bake them but with only one level in my oven it was already working over time with the bread and bourekas, so we decided to fry them. The first lot struggled (like the first pancake), but the rest worked out quite well. They still weren’t as firm as I would have liked, but really tasty! I served these with hummus (store bought by Skead, not made this time).

Lastly, the Tzatziki. You’re supposed to use Greek yoghurt or else strain ‘normal’ yoghurt, but I didn’t really have time and it actually wasn’t necessary. Grating a cucumber was probably the most difficult part of the process, but it worked out well and was pretty tasty. I didn’t add garlic, but you didn’t really need it.

I did make a dessert, but that was for Finland, so I won’t speak about it right now (although here is a link to it).

All in all it was an exceptionally successful and fun evening. My house looks like a bomb hit it (thanks to all the dishes, and Peter Smith for the salt on the floor – see the picture), and I’m struggling with a small headache, but it was such a stunning evening. The purpose was to have a fun wine tasting for Laura and Pete to choose wines for their wedding. Our amazing friends wrote beautiful words, and really knocked their socks off (literally – the wine was a blind tasting and the bottles were covered with socks!). Would I cook these again? Yes, yes, 1000 times, yes!

PicMonkey Collage

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