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Cookbook Spotlight: Gefiltefest


The word doesn’t really exist - it was made up by Michael Leventhal, founder and organiser of a Jewish food charity and annual Jewish food festival in London.  It’s a play on the words ‘gefilte fish' perhaps the best known Ashkenazi dish.

This engaging cookbook is a collection of recipes from well known Ashkenazi and Sephardi chefs and food writers from across the globe, with a foreword by the best known of all, Claudia Roden.  It features personal favourites that you know are charged with emotion and every recipe has a story behind it.   Every dish reveals the writer’s roots, global wanderings and modern practicalities and passions.

The book brings together old and modern, with an especially strong section on chicken, lamb and beef for everyday or festival meals.

You’ll find asparagus and biltong salad from South Africa, tabbouleh and fattoush salad from Lebanon, artichoke and cheese casserole from Syria and rhubarb tart from Alsace.

Each recipe is what Jewish food is all about: loving preparation, pleasure in feeding family and friends, passing on the skills to later generations and celebrating Shabbat and festivals.

American contributors include: Ken Albala, Florence Fabricant,Sue Fishkoff, Jamie Geller,Stan Ginsberg,Joyce Goldstein, Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray, Richard Grausman, Deborah Madison, the late Gil Marks, Helen Nash, Joan Nathan, Fred Plotkin, Steven Raichlen, Michael Ruhlman, Leah Shapira, Paula Shoyer and Tina Wasserman.

The Gefiltefest Cookbook will make a superb present and in the best of Jewish traditions, the proceeds will go to charity.

Here are just three of my favorite recipes:


Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray's  Spring Asparagus and Pickled Red Onion Salad is an excellent starter for a Shabbat or holiday dinner. There is just something so elegant about asparagus stalks, with their bright green colour and tight, floral-like tips. Asparagus is one of the vegetables that really signals the coming of spring and that our winter dependence on root vegetables is coming to an end.


The poached leeks marinated in a tangy dressing in Florence Fabricant's Leeks and Fennel in Anise Vinaigrette are elegant and appetite-whetting at the start of a meal. While creating this recipe, it occurred to Florence that the recipe could take on a different personality if fennel bulbs were combined with the leeks. She also added anise seed and tarragon to the dressing to reinforce the liquorice delicacy of the fennel.


Vanilla Cheesecake with Caramel Pecans and a Butterscotch Sauce is Rachel Davies' take on a classic baked cheesecake with some extra special topping. She loves the jewel-like broken caramel on top of this cake, and it gives a nice crunch too. Her tip for this recipe: If you love toffee sauce, double the quantities and keep a little jar in the fridge to heat as a sauce with ice cream and desserts.