We start celebrating Pesach with the Seder meal where matzo makes its debut and 'Baron de Luria' , our own homemade vintage, takes centre stage. Seder means 'order' and isn't it ironic that on this night of freedom, we still have to follow an ordered 15-step Seder! But thank G-d it has an order, otherwise we'd still be arguing at the Red Sea: 'You go first!' 'no,no, after you.' 'Okay I'll go.' 'Why you?'
Pesach is an eight-day festival, but this is where I beg to differ (sorry, but it's in the blood). For me Pesach is anything but eight days. It's an intense five weeks of hard labor, scrubbing and cleaning like an obsessive-compulsive maniac! When I start scrubbing those curtains and carpets, believe me, I'm one with my Matriarchs. I must have worked in the launderette of Pharaoh's palace!
As parents, we have the capacity to ensure that the page our children take out of our Hagaddahs are filled with beautiful warm memories of this special Chag. Involving our children and grandchildren in all the Pesach preparations is certainly an investment in their futures and ours.
Some of my warmest childhood memories are those borne out of the strict preparations for Pesach.
The 'searchical scrub' as we called it, (never mind the search for chometz, no Surgeon could 'scrub up' the way my mother did for Pesach) would happen every year around about now. Only once every pot, pan and plate used during the year had been packed away in cupboards and sealed so that not even Houdini's plates could escape, could we bring down the Pesach kitchenware. Up would go the ladders and down from the cupboards would come the crockery and cutlery, unpacked to the beat of a military drum!
All this for just eight days of the year and the cooking hadn't even begun!
So let's begin...................
Celebrating a chag doesn't just 'happen' on the day, it's all about the build up! For me, getting into the Pesach mood means getting into the kitchen! Many people have a separate Pesach kitchen which makes life a lot easier. However, I turn my patio into a Pesach kitchen and you wouldn't believe what a two plate stove produces in the form of soups and sauces. My husband always says I'm a bit OTT (over the top) when it comes to Pesach but I like to do a 'dish a day' starting about 2 - 3 weeks in advance. It's so much easier, as there are always last-minute things to do, such as taking your daughter shopping because she has 'nothing to wear'!
Tradition doesn’t have to mean ‘old fashioned’. Traditional food can be as trendy, tasty and stylish as we want it to be. Food channels on Radio and TV, websites and cookery magazines have certainly awakened peoples desires to be more creative when cooking.
Just as you prepare your meals for a week's holiday away, so too must you prepare for Pesach. A menu planner works so well. The more you plan and prepare, the more time you'll have on your hands to relax and enjoy Pesach. Every year I promise myself I'm going to make a list of what and how much I used that year, then refer to it when purchasing for the following year, but never do! And, while on the subject of lists write down the popular dishes as well. This really helps when planning a smooth sailing Pesach, note to self, promise to do it this year!
With the ever-increasing variety of new kosher products available, twists on traditional foods have enabled us to follow food trends, while keeping within tradition. Each festival brings its own unique customs and traditions with regards to food and this certainly doesn't mean 'old fashioned' foods. Who would have thought we would ever eat Thai fishcakes on Pesach?
When you've had your fill of gefilte fish and need a little change, try these Thai Fish Cakes.
Mexican Matzo Salad
Of all the festivals Pesach is probably the one where our family have the most fun. My nieces and grandchildren get together at our house and paint pictures symbolic of Pesach onto a large white cloth which we use as an overlay on the Seder table. Of course, I only provide paint that tones in with my color scheme and table decor, that's the only boundaries they have! The excitement on their faces when they see it on the Seder table is something to behold. As the family are at home for every meal, and everybody’s starving 24/7 here's a little 'filler' for those forever-hungry teenagers over Pesach, Mexican Matzo Salad.
I can just hear you saying, 'mmm.... fennel, now that sounds interesting. ' Because that's what I said when I first tried it and what everybody says whenever I serve it! Fennel is crunchy and sweet, with a refreshing taste that blends so well in this Fennel and Cucumber Salad with minted dressing.
Don't look at this recipe and go: 'Oy vey, more than three ingredients, I'm not going to risk it!' Make it - you won't regret it. Risk it Brisket.
This delicious chocolate ice cream is so close to the real thing that an Italian friend of ours, Adriano Benjamino, asked me how I managed to get his mother's secret recipe! And it's Pesachdik too! Serve Gelato with Pesach Almond Snaps.