Today I was proud to be invited to conduct a Jewish cooking class with my friend and colleague, Saatchi, at Nosh Food Market, in Auckland. Under the lights and cameras of a TV3 production team, and as a part of a journey into understanding minorities within our country, Saatchi and I took our audience on a mini journey into Jewish food, customs and culture. With Saatchi able to discuss her life as a young Jewish woman living in Auckland, I was able to help recreate her favourite significant foods, including the Sabbath bread, Challah (pronounced Hallah) and Apple Brandy Latkes.
Our challah was rustic and home style. An eggy bread sweetened with honey, and shaped into an elaborate braid. Washed with egg before baking, it has a shiny crust and smells divine as you pull it fresh from the oven. In some homes, the bread is pulled apart, and in others it is sliced. At times dipped in honey and in Saatchi’s home served with mashed soft boiled egg, I can also vouch for this bread turning into the most luscious French toast the following morning!
We used a recipe that creates enough dough for two large loaves, but the tricks of holding back on the rising process means you could create one loaf each day across two different days. The dough needs to be elastic and a little stiff – but not too stiff or it will take too long to rise! Whilst even the stiffest dough will eventually double in volume, using the Waitrose Organic Plain Flour, which seems to absorb just the right amount of liquid, creates a smooth and elastic dough, set to rise easily in the 1 1/2 hour allotted period. You can make your plaiting perfect and smooth, but don’t take it too seriously – keep it lovely and home-made, the less polished – the prettier the end product 🙂
The latkes are a significant part of the meal at Hanukkah. Whilst they are traditionally made with cheese, onions, potatoes and other vegetables, today we decided to raise the bar a little and create a delicious Claudia Roden recipe, taken from her “The Book of Jewish Food”. Thickly sliced discs of apple, macerated in sweetened brandy and fried in a batter until the apple is softened and the discs are crispy and golden – the scrumptious latkes can be served as they are, or tossed in sugar and cinnamon.
The afternoon was fun, inspiring, educational and thought provoking. Another moment for me of the life long journey I am taking into the world of cuisine and culture colliding and opening up a path of understanding and enquiry of others. For me this was a stimulating and uplifting experience, and one that I was truly thrilled to be a part of.