Don’t be plagued by Pesach prep!

Here at Gefiltefest, we’ve been slaving away over a hot programme and cooking up some delicious treats for you. Very excited to welcome some fantastic overseas guests, both old and new.

Food writer and author of Jewish Holiday Cooking Jayne Cohen will be returning to Gefiltefest from New York with a fascinating history of African-American culinary influences on Jewish food in the deep South. We also welcome for the first time Laurina Todesaite, Lithuanian food blogger and creator of the Cook Jewish Be Jewishproject in Vilnius who will be leading a hands-on workshop making farschmak (that’s chopped herring to you and me). Can hardly get more authentic Ashkenazi than that!

Jayne and Laurina have each shared a Passover recipe below, as well as one from Emma Spitzer who’ll be bringing copies of her new book Fress, launched this week, to sign at Gefiltefest.

Meanwhile, we wish you and your families a Chag Kasher V’Sameach – a happy and healthy Passover!

– Praline coconut macaroons –

From the kitchen of Jayne Cohen

Jews who settled in the American South embraced and creatively adapted the new foods they found there, pairing collard greens with their griebenes and grits with their herring. On Purim and especially Passover, pecans, native to the southern United States, lent extra richness and depth to their traditional macaroon recipes. This easy version is “pralinized” Southern-style: almonds and white sugar are swapped out, replaced by local favorites, pecans and brown sugar. To avoid disappointment, taste the pecans before you start the recipe to make sure they are fresh.
Ingredients (30-35 macaroons)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole pecans (about 250 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup (about 134 grams) plus 1 tablespoon granulated light brown sugar (fine Demerara sugar can be substituted)
  • 1 cup (about 100 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto or 1/2 teaspoon  almond extract
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (gas mark 4; 180 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the pecans with the dark brown sugar and spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Toast until very fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (gas mark 3; 170 degrees C).

In a food processor, grind the cooled pecans with half of the light brown sugar, using the pulse motion, until finely ground. Combine the ground nuts, coconut, and amaretto or almond extract in a bowl.

Beat the egg whites in another bowl with the salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the pecan-coconut mixture.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (You will probably need either to use 2 cookie sheets or work in batches.) Drop heaping tablespoons of batter on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten the tops slightly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until just dry to the touch and light golden with pale brown edges. This will produce macaroons that are light and moist; if you prefer a crunchier texture, increase the baking time. Remove the sheet from the oven anJd transfer to a rack to cool or slide the parchment paper off. Don’t remove the macaroons until they have cooled completely, then carefully separate them. They store well in airtight containers for at least 5 days.

See more of Jayne’s recipes in her latest cookbook 

– Caramelized Butternut Squash with Whipped Feta & Zhoug –

From the kitchen of Emma Spitzer

Sweet, salty and spicy all on one plate; this dish is a great hit of powerful flavours that all mesh really well together. Zhoug is a fiery Middle Eastern relish that works as a condiment for all manner of dishes, so store any leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 30g butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 30g unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 100g whipped feta

For the zhoug

  • 1 bunch of coriander, including stalks
  • ½ bunch of flat leaf parsley, stalks removed
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 100ml rapeseed oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Place the butternut squash in a bowl and toss with the melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Spread out on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes or until cooked through and the sugar is starting to caramelize.

While the squash is roasting, add the pistachios to a separate baking tray and roast for 8 minutes or until they begin to brown and smell nutty.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then chop roughly with a knife.

For the zhoug, place all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until it forms a loose green sauce. Stir in the lemon juice.

Once cooked, transfer the butternut squash to a serving dish and dot over tablespoonfuls of the whipped feta before drizzling over the spicy zhoug and scattering with the chopped nuts.

Emma’s debut cookbook Fress is now available to pre-order!

– Imberlach –

From the kitchen of Laurina Todesaite

Joy and panic, anticipation and fear – that’s probably what many balabustot feel before Pesach. Beautiful and meaningful holiday, yeh yeh, but what shall we eat? Maror, Charoset, Hillel sandwich, beitza…but what’s for dessert?? As a child I was perfectly happy to live on matza with Nutella, but it doesn’t fit with a festive Seder night atmosphere (I was told).

How is it possible to survive 8 days with no regular food? And nobody is thinking how it was for 40 years in the desert…!

We have family and friends coming who need feeding. The dinner part is much easier even if you don’t eat kitniyot. Dessert, for many of us the most important part of dinner, that’s more of a challenge. Many sweets can be prepared without regular flour and of course there can be some limitations to keep it dairy free – no Seder feels complete without chicken soup with kneidlach!

So straight out of grandma’s pantry comes a dessert called IMBERLACH, that’s good both for Pesach and Rosh Hashana. Imberlach is Yiddish for ‘ginger’ and can be prepared in advance of the holidays, which sounds about right, doesn’t it? Imberlach is also vegan, gluten free and relatively healthy.

1kg of carrots, peeled and boiled but still hard
1kg of sugar (cheat and use 800g next time)
1 orange – zest and juice
½ lemon juice
10cm of fresh ginger
3 spoons of ground dry ginger
100g toasted nuts – optional but tasty

Put the sugar into a thick bottomed pot and add the orange and lemon juice. On a medium heat, make it into a syrup. Meanwhile, grate the carrots (on a medium blade, not too fine) and fresh ginger and add them to the boiling syrup.

Now be patient and occasionally stir while all the moisture from the juice and carrots are absorbed. Use a silicon spatula to keep the sides of the pot clear. Add the ground ginger (the more you add, the spicier an Imberlach you’ll get) and also the toasted nuts (optional).

Then when no moisture is left in the pot, spread the mixture onto a silicon mat. When a little drier, cut traditional almond shapes into the spreaded mixture (use a plastic knife to save the mat). Put into an airtight container and over a period of a few days, turn over each day for even drying. It gets better every day while it gets drier and can be stored for a long time until it becomes hard as a rock (but can still be used even then).

Great with tea or coffee or as a “healthy” nosh. It’s an acquired taste – wonder if your kids will like it? Have a great holiday!

Laurina Todesaite

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