3 Amazing Jewish recipes you need to try

We dip into Leah Koenig's gorgeous Jewish Cookbook and try these three delicious recipes, including Hungarian-Jewish and North African-Jewish cuisines... 

Bean, Herb and Noodle Stew 

Serves: 8
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus soaking

Cooking time: 1 1⁄2 hours

For the soup:
1 cup (175 g) dried brown or green lentils
1⁄2 cup (90 g) dried chickpeas
1⁄2 cup (90 g) dried pinto beans
2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
21⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
8 oz (225 g) reshteh noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb (455 g) spinach, fresh or frozen, chopped
3 bunches scallions (spring onions), white and green parts, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup (25 g) finely chopped fresh dill

11⁄2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

For the toppings:
1⁄2 cup (120 ml/4 fl oz) vegetable or olive oil
2 large onions, halved through the root and thinly sliced
1⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Kosher salt
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1⁄4 cup (10 g) dried mint
Labneh or whole-milk Greek yogurt, for serving

Thick, hearty, and filled with beans and legumes, this stew is a rib-sticking delight. Called aash-e reshteh, it is traditionally served for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Jewish families also serve it on Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah, and some families make it to celebrate a baby’s first tooth. Wheat-based reshteh noodles can be found in specialty stores and online, but cooks can also substitute linguine in a pinch. The toppings—browned onions and garlic, fried mint, and thick yogurt—make the dish special, so don’t skip them.

Make the soup: Place the lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, and baking soda (bicarb) in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 2 inches (5 cm). Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let soak at room temperature overnight. Drain and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 8 minutes (or use the times on the package). Reserving the cooking water, drain the noodles. Set both aside.

In the same large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Add the soaked lentils, chickpeas, and pinto beans along with the spinach, scallions (spring onions), dill, and turmeric.

Gently pour enough of the reserved noodle cooking water over the top to cover the ingredients. If there isn’t enough, add a bit of water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft and creamy and the mixture thickens, about 11⁄2 hours. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

While the soup is simmering, make the toppings:
In a large frying pan, heat 1⁄4 cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until softened and browned, 15–20 minutes. Transfer the onions and their oil to a serving bowl.

Add the remaining 1⁄4 cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) oil to the pan and set it back over the heat. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns crispy, about 10 minutes. (Watch carefully so it does not burn.) Transfer the garlic to a second serving bowl, leaving a few tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add the mint to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a third serving bowl.

To serve, divide the cooked noodles into bowls and spoon the stew on top. Top with the cooked onions, garlic, and mint, and a generous dollop of labneh.

 

Chraime 

North African Jews commonly serve fish cooked in a spicy sauce as a first course on Shabbat and Passover—but it also makes a show­stopping standalone main dish. The sauce’s components change depending on whether it is being cooked by a Moroccan, Tunisian, or Libyan cook. In Israel, a tomato­ based sauce spiced with paprika, cumin, and chilies, has become popular. Measure out the spices before starting to cook so that they can be added all at once. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the table elevates the dish’s bright flavour.

Serves: 6 as a first course, 4 as a main course
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

• 1⁄4 cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
• 1 large onion, halved through the root and thinly sliced
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1⁄2­inch (1.25 cm) pieces
• 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes, plus more as needed
• 1 can (141⁄2 oz/411g) diced (chopped) tomatoes
• 4 tablespoons tomato paste (purée)
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 bay leaf
• 11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 4 salmon, red snapper, or halibut fillets (6 oz/170 g each), patted dry
• Finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) and lemon wedges, for serving

In a large, wide frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 10–15 minutes. Add the sweet paprika, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the diced (chopped) tomatoes, 11⁄4 cups (295 ml/10 fl oz) water, tomato paste (purée), sugar, bay leaf, salt, and black pepper. Increase the heat slightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if desired.

Nestle the fish fillets in the sauce, spooning sauce on
top of the fillets to cover. Reduce the heat to medium­ low, cover, and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and serve directly from the pan. (Or, carefully transfer fillets to a serving platter, then spoon the sauce on top.) Serve hot or warm, topped with cilantro (coriander) and with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.

 

Sour Cherry Cake 

Petite, vibrantly red sour cherries grow abundantly in Hungary in the summer months—and just like their non- Jewish neighbours, Hungarian Jews make the most of the season. This buttery cake, called meggy lepeny, is an annual warm -weather favourite. You can use either fresh or frozen cherries, but do not use canned or bottled varieties, which do not have great flavour. If starting with frozen cherries, thaw them completely before using.

Serves: 8
Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

3 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose (plain) flour

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
11⁄2 sticks (6 oz/170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11⁄4 cups (250 g) sugar
2 eggs
11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1⁄4 cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) milk
11⁄2 cups (285 g) fresh or thawed frozen sour cherries, pitted

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan or springform pan and sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumbs.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a stand mixer (or using a handheld electric mixer and a large bowl), beat together the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add half of the flour mixture and beat at low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until just incorporated. Beat in the milk, followed by the remaining flour mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth gently with a rubber spatula. Top with the cherries and use a knife to gently poke some of them about halfway down into the batter. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40– 45 minutes. Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack to cool.

 

The Jewish Cookbook by Leah Koenig published by Phaidon (Phaidon.com)

 

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