Gefiltefest, the UK's Jewish food festival, is now in its sixth year. As well as a marketplace of tasty treats, it had an outstanding line-up of presenters and demonstrators that I couldn’t wait to check out.
Sessions covered everything from salads, cheeses, herbs & spices, challah baking, humous, parve desserts, and fermentation. Discussions and lectures explored the resurgence of Ashkenazi dishes, food & spirituality, and how to declutter your kitchen. All this plus an "Ask the Rabbi: Food Special" and a wine tasting!
Nicki Tifenbrun (Executive Director of Gefiltefest) and Chef Emma Spitzer
My highlights were the amazing demonstrations: Claudia Roden spoke about her culinary journey and prepared her mother's dukkah spice mix. UK MasterChef finalist Emma Spitzer made fish falafel with harissa mayonnaise. But my favourite demo was by London-based Israelis Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, whose restaurant Honey & Co has been delighting diners and critics with flavoursome Middle-Eastern dishes and delectable baked goods.
The husband and wife divide their food preparation between them - Itamar cooks, while Sarit takes charge of baking. And so it was for their demonstration, with each referring to the other as "my lovely assistant" whenever help was required. Sarit made chocolate & pistachio cookies and knafeh, while Itamar cooked up a shakshuka so fragrant that even at the back of the crowded hall, mouths were watering.
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co.
The most interesting dish was knafeh, a syrup-soaked, salty-cheese-filled Middle Eastern pastry. I've eaten this in Israel and it's divine, but would never have considered making it prior to watching Sarit's demonstration, which made it look simple and achievable. First she made a syrup, flavoured with cardamom and orange zest, while Itamar mixed three cheeses for the filling. Then came the pastry - knafeh uses finely shredded kadaif pastry which is bought ready-made and 'massaged' with melted butter to separate the strands.
Sarit pressed half the buttered pastry into a skillet, spread over the cheese, then topped with the remaining kadaif. It was fried briefly, then flipped to colour the other side. After 7-10 minutes in the oven, she poured the warm syrup over and topped with chopped nuts. It looked, smelled, and tasted heavenly!
Having worked up an appetite, it was time for lunch! I chose a North African specialty, brick a l'oeuf - a deep fried, pastry-wrapped egg with cheese & onions. Wonderful!
Refuelled, I browsed the beer brewing, sushi-making, dough kneading and more. I also bumped into friends whose children had been learning to make sourdough, pickled cucumbers and cake pops as part of the kid's programme. There were plenty of children about, and it was lovely to see the next generation of Jewish food enthusiasts being inspired.
Having come away with jars, pots and packets filled with all manner of goodies, I think my cooking is likely to be influenced by Gefiltefest for a while yet. Please visit my blog at family-friends-food.com to see how!