Tag Archives: Food

Krim Spinach

So, you vant to know how to mek krim spinatch?

Nothing says the Double Bay of old to me more than creamed spinach. Twenty-One, Georges, the Double Bay Steakhouse …
Well, many years ago I found this recipe in the Canberra Times (I was working for a press clipping agency at the time), and cut it out so I could try to emulate the delicious memories.

For years I was a purist. Nothing but English spinach would suffice. Silverbeet? The very mention of the word would cast a pall over my face. I didn’t even consider chard as an option. Well, I’m glad to say that my snobbery has been put to rest: in the past year I’ve experimented with English spinach OR Silverbeet, and in this latest version I was brave enough to go with a beautiful bunch of organic rainbow chard. Save the red stems and use as part of a gratin recipe (see Stephanie Alexander for a great gratin recipe, under the Silverbeet section).

Here’s the general principles if you’re kosher. If it’s a milkhig meal, use milk instead of chicken stock. Although it’s called creamed spinach, you do NOT need to use cream. If it’s a fleyshig/pareve meal, use chicken stock (or vegetarian stock) instead of milk.  Vegetarians can eat this with impunity if you use either vegetarian stock or milk.

Step 1: Wash leaves thoroughly. Grit is disgusting and gets in your teeth. Then boil a kettle, put your leaves in a large bowl or the sink, and pour the boiling water over them. This will cook them perfectly, and save washing up a saucepan.

Step 2: Soak a bread-roll in stock or milk. Don’t make creamed spinach without the bread roll. Don’t make creamed spinach at Pesakh, you shmendrik! Squeeze some of the liquid out of the bread roll once it is nice and soft.

Step 3: Place the drained leaves and bread roll in a food processer, and blend. Now you are ready to make the roux.

Step 4: Cut up 3 garlic cloves, and cook them incredibly slowly in 3 tablespoons of neutral oil (I use light olive oil). Do not let them colour or burn!
Step 5: Then add 3 good tablespoons of flour to the mix, incorporate and stir constantly, and wait until the flour is ‘cooked out’, that is, turns a nice blond shade. This is called a blond roux. See? I told you not to cook this on Pesakh!
Step 6: Add the spinach/bread mixture into the roux. Stir well. Add stock/milk to make a sauce-like consistency, and continue cooking on a low heat until you get a nice coating on the back of the spoon.

Enjoy! Krim Spinatch. MMM.


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Festival of the Quince

I really love quinces. They undergo an incredible transformation over the process of about 8 hours. Although they have a delicious fragrance, they also have a strange furry coating, and after being cut open they oxidize immediately. Baking them is the easiest treatment, and you need not worry about oxidization. I washed the quinces, peeled the skin, cut the cores out of the slices and placed them in a cast-iron pot, with a heavy sugar syrup (flavoured with vanilla pod and the juice of a lemon). The cores also went into the pot, in a muslin bag. Then they were baked slowly for 8 hours in a low oven (about 150º C).  Then they were ready to use.

But I’m all about utilising ingredients to the fullest extent. So I made part of the cooking syrup into a beautiful pink custard, with the addition of egg yolks and cream.


I boiled the rest down into a thick, incredibly rich glaze, and used spoonfuls of that on top of the dessert.


Here it is in its final iteration, assembled in some brandy snap baskets, and later on with a scoop of ice-cream on top.  I must say that it was VERY sweet – next time I would use a pastry shell, or even just have the quinces with the custard and ice-cream, and leave the brandy snap out of the equation.  But it was still very delicious!

Huge credits to the one and only Stephanie Alexander for her quince recipes.

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Best. Matseh Klays. [Thus Far]

Some people call them kneydlakh  … but in my family, my parents always referred to Matzoh balls as “Matseh Klays (Matzah Kleis)”. Some like them small and floaty, others like them huge and heavy. One of the strongest food memories of my childhood was going to 21 Restaurant in Double Bay in the 1970s, having my cheeks squeezed by the owner Janczi, receiving a packet of chewing gum, and waiting for my father to order Matzah Ball soup.

Back to the present:  I have been experimenting with recipes for matseh klays for some years now.  As a novice, I started using the instant Osem brand of Matza balls.  They are extremely consistent, but fairly bland in character.  And having made them, I figured out that it was probably just as easy to make from scratch.

First rule: I use coarse matseh meal. Fine matseh meal will produce a much more dense dumpling, if that’s what you want (bleh).  Vary the meal (coarse+fine) if you like.  I prefer Snider’s coarse matseh meal, but the Australian Solomons brand is just fine.

Second rule: separate the eggs, and beat the whites to stiff peaks. This will give you a  lightness to the dumplings, even if you want the heavy sinker types. Oh, and use the BEST eggs you can possibly get. Free range, organic, biodynamic – this will make a huge difference to the taste.

Third rule: you may add any spices that you like … but the most traditional besides the regular salt and pepper is ground (powdered) ginger.  I used white pepper this time instead of black, and also grated in some nutmeg.  Finely chopped fresh parsley is often added.

Fourth rule: you need to add a fat to bind them more thoroughly. Shmalts (chicken fat) is traditional); but olive oil is perfectly acceptable. You can fry a chopped onion in either, and add that to the mixture if you like.  I didn’t add the onions this time, but I did add a slug of oil. I think it gives a lighter feel to the dumplings than shmalts.

Fifth and most important rule: after having beaten the whites until stiff, you beat the yolks lightly with the spices, and then fold together with a large metal spoon. Then add the matseh meal, and mix extremely sparingly (i.e. only barely combine).  Put the mixture into the fridge, and let it rest for 30 minutes minimum.

Sixth rule: boil a light stock (using powder will be fine); when it comes to a rolling boil, take the mixture out of the fridge, wet your hands, and form the balls into the size of a 20c piece (US – size of a quarter; UK – size of a 50p coin). Drop them straight into the stock, turn the flame down.  Roll the dumplings around so they absorb the stock evenly. They will take 30 minutes to cook.

Once the klays have been made, they can be refridgerated and then heated in the boiling chicken soup (goldene yoykh) before being served.  Klays take up a lot of liquid in the initial stage, so if you have an excess of stock then by all means, use that during the initial stage … but if not, instant stock will do just as well.  It won’t take long to reheat the klays in the fresh stock.

Special credits and thanks to the great Claudia Roden, upon whose recipe I based my own matseh klays (Roden uses the term kneydlakh). Her work, “The Book of Jewish Food” (Penguin, 1996) is one of the greatest cultural resources: a comprehensive history of the Jewish diaspora as well as a superb cooking book.

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Risk it for the Brisket

Okay, I don’t usually blog about meat-based recipes, because my partner A and I have a mostly vegetarian or fish-based diet, supplemented by the occasional free range chook (that’s chicken in Australian).  But on Pesakh (Passover) I usually become a bit of a backslider, and cook a brisket for 1st and 2nd night Seder.  It’s probably the most traditional Passover meat to eat in Ashkenaz households. This year’s brisket worked rather well.  I had about a 6 lb. piece (about 2.5kg), and started at about 9:30am on Erev Pesakh by rubbing the meat with a dry herb rub: chinese five-spice powder, a spice rub from Tasmania which included ginseng and bush pepper, some olive oil to bind and a bit of golden syrup.  Then after leaving it to rest for about 20 minutes, I sealed the brisket in our outdoor barbeque.  Brisket is a cut of meat that barbeque devotees in the United States consider very highly, but here in Australia we don’t tend to use it in the same way. Butchers usually chop it up for stewing meat.


Having sealed the meat all over, I brought it back inside and added more eastern spices: whole cinnamon sticks, star anise, some grated nutmeg and some green (spring) onions. Then I added root vegetables: carrots, fennel (instead of celery – I hate celery), red sweet potato (kumera), spanish (red) onions.  I also added about a punnet of baby tomatoes.               After this, I made up a weak stock with some kosher stock powder; then also added about half a bottle of red wine, and a bit more salt and pepper.  I covered with tin-foil,  and put it in a slow oven (140°) for 2 hours.  Then I turned the oven fan on, and baked for another 1.5 hours.  Finally I took the cover off and cooked it for a final 30 minutes. I took the meat out to rest in silver foil.





I also removed the vegetables carefully, and put them in a roasting pan along with par-boiled Dutch Cream potatoes (a particularly good roasting spud) that had been roughed up, tossed with olive oil and salt, and some thin cut parsnip pieces.  The vegetables would go in later to crisp up, and they were a treat!


Meanwhile, we had this enormous amount of really fine braising stock at the bottom of the pan … what to do?  Well, I decided to put it on the heat and just reduce it to about one quarter of its original volume.  You can’t use thickening agents on Passover except matzo meal, and it’s pretty yuk to use in such circumstances. The reducing method worked a treat.  The sauce was like a classic demi-glace, without all the irritation and labour of preparation.  And the proof of the pudding was in the eating – it was, beyond doubt, the best brisket I had ever cooked.  You could taste the spices in all their complexity, thanks to the sauce.  All this goes to prove that sometimes, you really need to risk it for the brisket.

p.s.  If you want to see les décorations séduisante and A’s haute couture for the evening, visit his blog:


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Raie Rosenberg’s Egg Salad

“So, you vant to know how to mek Ek Seled?”

Some years ago a group of friends (known by the arcane name of “the Mordies”) initiated our own Pesakh Seder – held usually between 2nd and 5th night. It was based on a traditional Seder, with some fairly queer sensibility thrown into the mix. As well as the usual fare, egg salad was de rigeur for all others sitting around the table, but not for me!

Oy – let me explain something about our regular fare at Pesakh.  Pesakh (Passover) in our family involves the formal food of the Seder (hard boiled eggs, salt water, green vegetable like parsley or rocket, horseradish, matza) and then elements of the traditional Ashkenaz meal.  We begin with gehakte leber (chopped chicken liver with onions) and gehakte beytse (chopped egg and onions) to accompany the extra matza.  Then we have goldene yoykh mit kneydlekh (clear chicken soup with matza balls).  We avoid gefilte fish.  After this is the main meal: usually roast chicken or brisket, roast vegetables, salad, etc.  And then a pareve dessert – usually a fruit based dessert.

So how is egg salad different to chopped egg and onions, and what makes this egg salad different from all other egg salads?  In the context of our family, my mother doesn’t like it very much – I don’t know whether it’s the onion, or the mayonnaise, or something else.  So she just minced eggs with spring (green) onions, and that was it.  Fairly simple.

HOWEVER: this egg salad, brought by Sue-Ellen Rosenberg, has particularly special meaning. First, it’s pretty much the nicest one I’ve ever eaten. Second, it has yikhes (lineage) – passed to Sue-Ellen from her mum Raie.  Third, it reminds me of those special Seders. So here is Raie’s recipe as interpreted by me, with extra input from Sue-Ellen’s great instructions.


  • 12-18 eggs (I used 15)
  • Good quality mayonnaise (I made my own quirky one with egg yolks, tarragon mustard, lemon juice, rice bran oil, salt and fennel fronds, but you can buy a good quality whole-egg commercial variety – at Passover time I would replace the rice bran oil with a light olive or sunflower oil)
  • 1 spanish (red) onion
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • Sea salt


Sue Ellen’s instructions: Boil the eggs.. Not too long.. You don’t want them to turn grey. Like 8 to ten minutes.  Mum used to go off at me if I did and she would force me to work with soft eggs. Once she made me do this with two dozen eggs and it was a nightmare! Soft eggs…. Urggggghhhh

My input: I used this method to boil the eggs – it was perfect!  Use this link below:



Sue Ellen continues: Finely chop spring onions by hand.
Chop Spanish onions finely in magimix and squeeze out excess moisture with your hands. Fun!  I always leave this step out. It’s entirely up to you.


My comment: I did this – actually it was a very good addition.  A helluva lot of moisture comes out of the Spanish onions when you squeeze them – see pic 2 and pic 3 above.

Sue Ellen continues: Chop eggs in your magimix too. I don’t have one so I use an egg slicer and mash with the fork. I think you get a better texture that way to be honest. My comment: I would agree about texture – the hand-chopped is better, but the magimix does a serviceable (albeit a bit uniform) job.

Sue Ellen: Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Add mayo and fold in. Avoid too much stirring. Mum used to go spack at me if I did, so it has stuck in my head! Season with sea salt and garnish with some more spring onions. Dead easy … The worst part is peeling the eggs really!










So that is it.  Simple things are almost ALWAYS the best.  And I used this on sandwiches for my niece’s 1st birthday party today.  Within 5 minutes they were all gone.  You snooze … you lose.


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Zucchini and Corn Fritters

“Zucchini Fritters.  THEY’RE vegetarian. You know how to cook them.”

That was the pronouncement from my mother when we were discussing the celebratory lunch to be held at my aunt’s house, just after my graduation.  The truth was, I had never cooked zucchini fritters.  Corn fritters, yes, but not zucchini ones.  Moreover, mum cannot eat gluten, so this needed to be taken into account.

Cooking for vegetarians and also for those intolerant to gluten may appear to be a challenge on paper, but really there are many options available if one thinks outside the box.  This time, I based my recipe on a classic fritter from Bill Granger’s first cookbook, but changed fundamental ingredients, and added flavourings.  These would be delicious with sour cream or by themselves, and served as a de-facto latke around Chanukah time.


  • 1.5 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 heaped teaspoons Spanish paprika (the good hot stuff, from the tin)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 80g Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • Kernels removed from two fresh cobs of corn
  • 6 zucchinis, grated
  • 4 spring onions, chopped finely

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, celery salt, paprika, cumin and sugar together.

Beat eggs until they emulsify, and add milk.  Make a well in the middle of the large mixing bowl, and gradually pour in the wet egg/milk mixture.  Beat well, making sure that there are no visible lumps.  The batter should look like it is holding together fairly well – somewhat like pancake batter.

Place corn, spring onions, pecorino cheese and zucchini in a large bowl, and stir well so that there is an even distribution.  Pour the batter into the dry mixture, and stir.

Heat some light olive oil in a frypan on medium-high heat, and add a large spoonful of the vegetable batter mixture.  Depending on the size of your frypan, you should be able to cook 4-5 at a time.  Cook until the underside of each fritter is golden (basically, cook until it is cooked – about 2-3 minutes per side).  Flip and repeat.  Drain on a paper towel, and keep in a warm place until the entire batch is done.

I think this made a huge amount of fritters … something in the order of 35.  But they were all eaten fairly rapidly!


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A spring vegetarian risotto

It’s been a while since my last post – what can I say?  Life takes over sometimes …

Anyway, my English family is in town to celebrate the conferral of my PhD, and my brother-in-law is vegetarian.  We eat mostly vegetarian these days, but I thought I would invent a new risotto recipe in his honour, so here it is, step-by-step.  It is based on the classic Milanese recipe as espoused by the inimitable Stephanie Alexander, but with enough significant alterations for me to claim originality.  Here’s a step-by-step guide for making it, and indeed, making any risotto.  You can replace the spring vegetables listed with anything else.  Just make sure you use complementary flavours.  A list of suggested variations are at the end of the post.


  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • A few strands saffron (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of tarragon, finely chopped
  • 90g best-quality parmesan, grated finely
  • 1.5L good quality vegetable stock (you can make this if you have time)
  • 2 small onions, finely diced
  • 2 x 60g of butter, splash of olive oil
  • 600g carnaroli rice (believe me, buy the carnaroli – it’s so much better than arborio)
  • 1/2 cup vermouth (I use Noilly Prat, but you can use white wine if you wish)
  • 200g shelled peas (frozen are acceptable, fresh are better)
  • 1 packet samphire (sea asparagus), if available
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • Freshly milled black pepper

First, zest and juice your lemon(s), and then steep the tarragon and/or saffron in the liquid:

Place your stock in a separate pot close to your risotto pot, and heat slowly.  I used a very good quality commercial stock because I ran out of time.  If I was making a classic risotto, I would use home made chicken stock, and in the past I have made my own vegetable stock.  This time it was a bit of a compromise.  Avoid using a tetra-pack stock unless you know it is of exceptional quality.  You get what you pay for.  The stock must be hot, but don’t let it boil.

Then heat the first 60g butter in a pan slowly with a splash of olive oil (the latter will stop the butter going brown too quickly).  Throw the onions in and fry gently – do not let them colour, as this will carry through the entire dish and make it bitter:

After the onions have softened and turned translucent, throw the rice in, turn the mixture to coat all the rice in the buttery-oily goodness, and keep turning until the rice is toasted, or as the Italians say, ‘until it screams’.  You will hear the sizzle and see a slight change in the colour – it’s not dramatic, and for goodness sake do NOT burn it!

Once the rice is at this point, turn up the heat to absolute highest point and add the vermouth.  You will want it to evaporate as quickly as possible, and burn off all alcohol.  Turn the heat down at this stage to the minimum flame.

Okay, now is the boring part – it will take 20 minutes or so, but this is what makes a risotto truly creamy and proper.  Ladle the hot stock into the rice whilst stirring, constantly.  Is your arm tired?  Get your beloved to stir for 5 minutes or so whilst you prepare the vegetables.  In this case, I had a pack of samphire, or sea asparagus, which just needed a wash under cold water.  The land asparagus was snapped off at the ends and then cut into 1.5 inch pieces on the diagonal.  I shelled the peas and added them too.  Here they all are:

Okay, you’ve prepped your vegetables. Meanwhile, your beloved will have incorporated the rest of the stock into the risotto, and it should be looking delicious and creamy now.  If this is the case and the rice is just cooked (a tiny bit of give left in the centre is perfect), then turn the heat off, drop in the butter and parmesan, give a good stir, and let that incorporate into the risotto.  Then add the lemon juice and zest.  Give yourself a good grind of pepper at this stage if you so desire.

The vegetables will need only a modicum of cooking.  Bring a pan of salted water to a rolling boil, drop the vegetables in, bring back to the boil, turn to medium and leave for 3 minutes maximum.  Drain.

Drain the vegetables, and add to the risotto.  Enjoy!

Serves at least 6 people.


Alternatives: if you are a vegan, omit the butter and just use olive oil for the frying; and use a vegan cheese instead of Parmesan.  If you are kosher, then you will use kosher Parmesan – this is a milkhig meal, so don’t try and modify it to be pareve – it won’t be as good without the butter.

Other alternative spring vegetables to add could include haricots verts (green beans), mange-touts (sugar-snap peas), and broad beans (I would double peel them).  I will put up other vegetarian risotto recipes in the future.  Enjoy!

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Testimony comes with delightful morsels …

Recently I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Edgar and Hanka Krasa, two remarkable survivors from Terezín living in the Boston area.

Edgar sang in all the performances of the Verdi Requiem that Rafi Schächter staged in the ghetto, and he is a major contributor to the dialogue and presentation of Defiant Requiem, a work incorporating the Verdi Requiem and Terezín testimony written by Murry Sidlin, resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. [Disclaimer: I haven’t seen this production].  Edgar was asked to join the first group of the Aufbaukommando, 342 young men sent in late 1941 to set up Terezín as a ghetto for the Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia.  Because of his training, Edgar assisted in the setting up of the kitchens in Terezín. Hanka worked in the Landwirtschaft (agricultural labour force) and escaped deportation to the East because of this work. The initial meeting with Edgar and Hanka took place at the home of their friends, Ralf and Basia Gawlick.  Ralf works at Boston College with my dear friend Michael Noone, hence the introduction. It was a very meaningful afternoon, but I felt we needed to talk in more detail one-on-one, so we arranged another meeting with Edgar and Hanka, this time at their home.

Together with Michael we sat around the Krasa’s dining room table and talked about features of musical life in the ghetto, both formal and informal.  We discussed all different aspects of society in the ghetto.  And of course, being a Jewish home, we were offered an abundance of food – all traditional Czech biscuits (cookies, known as vánocní cukrový) and a seriously delicious plum cake (švestkový kolác). Hopefully I will get some of the recipes from Hanka in coming months.

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Greek lentil stew

Ah, the joys of running out of money … it prompts one to reach for the tried, true and economical in the cooking repertoire.  Here’s a delicious soup/stew that I make during winter, but you can eat it all year round.  I got the recipe on the web some years ago, but have modified it enough to feel confident about claiming it as my own take on the traditional faki or lentil stew.  It’s incredibly cheap to make, all the ingredients are vegan/pareve, and it uses a very different technique to a traditional soup/stew method, starting off with boiling stock rather than building a base on a mirepoix.


1.5 cups brown lentils (dried)

2 L vegetable stock

1 medium bulb fennel, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 bottle of tomato sugo (pureed tomato – 750ml – buy the italian brand from the supermarket, or puréed tomatoes, or blend canned tomatoes to a purée with a stick blender)

2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs thyme

Rinse the lentils thoroughly.  Now here’s the strange part.  Start by boiling the stock – must be a good rolling boil.  Then add all the vegetables (fennel, carrot, garlic, onion) along with the lentils, oil, sugo and herbs.  Bring back to the boil, take down to a simmer.  Cover partially with a lid, and cook for just under an hour, stirring occasionally.  If you like, you may add some greens towards the end – beetroot greens, silverbeet or spinach about 10 minutes before the hour is up, heavier greens like kale or chard maybe 20 minutes before.  Once the hour is up, check for seasoning (it will definitely need salt and pepper).  This should make up to 6 servings, and costs well under $10 to make.  I like to garnish with a bit of crumbled feta – but any cheese would be nice.

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