Kosher Cooking by Marlena Spieler – review

Kosher Cooking You might, at first glance, think this book isn’t for you unless you happen to be Jewish. Well, think again! You don’t have to be Italian to cook Italian food. You don’t have to be Indian to enjoy Indian food, and you don’t have to be Jewish to love Jewish dishes. No need to find your local synagogue to ask the Rabbi if it’s OK for a gentile to make Bagels. He will be most pleased that you are interested and might even advise you to serve your bagels with his own favourite topping.

Marlena Spieler has written more than 50 cookbooks and contributes to many publications including The New York Times and Bon Appetite, and she has twice won awards from the Association of Food Writers (USA). Marlena is Jewish and so has a personal interest in kosher cooking and all it signifies to her and her family.

Kosher Cooking has a three-fold appeal. Firstly to Jewish home cooks who want to respect the food laws of Kashrut, secondly to Jewish cooks who want to add to their repertoire of kosher recipes, and thirdly to those of us non-Jews who love good home cooking.

Ask anyone what they think of as traditional Jewish food and you’ll receive an array of alternatives. A Londoner’s Jewish food will be different from a Californian’s. An Indian Jew will tell you of his grandmother’s dishes, which will be a world apart from foods served in a kosher home in North Africa. Wherever the Jewish communities have moved they have adapted and adopted regional ingredients. This has made for an amazingly diverse cuisine.

The author has given lots of advice on keeping Kosher, and it’s fascinating reading. The historic notes on the Jewish Diaspora help us understand exactly why Jewish food is so multi-ethnic and complex. There are dishes that are vibrant with colour and spice, those that are comforting and rich, many that are sweet and exotic. Lots of dishes are classics but there are others that might be new to you, whether you are Jewish or not.

I have been trying to find the recipe (I guess it’s more of a method) for deep-fried Artichokes. Here it is. Simple to prepare but totally different from any other artichoke dish you will ever try. The vegetables (or are they flowers?) are transformed into bronzed crysanthemums. I would serve these as anti-pasti or mezze. Stunning.

Sweet and Sour Tongue is a “must try”. Offal is not exactly overlooked by the population in general, it’s actively turned away from. Tongue is the least offaly of offal and is a childhood teatime memory for me. This recipe is particularly flavourful and a perfect choice for those lazy days when slow cooked food and a good book are what’s needed

It’s no surprise to find Cheesecake here and what Jewish cookbook could be without a version. Strudel is another favourite, but Buttered Challah Pudding with Pears, Cherries and Almonds is the dessert that will become familiar to my guests. It’s a take on regular Bread and Butter Pudding but this version is elevated in both texture and taste.

Kosher Cooking has 70 or so lovely recipes with a wealth of step-by-step photographs to give even the inexperienced cook some confidence. Marlena Spieler has thoughtfully selected recipes that give an overview of Jewish cuisine. It’s a tapestry of flavour embroidered with threads of heritage, continuity and pride. A real good read.

Kosher Cooking
Author: Marlena Spieler
Published by: Apple Press
Price: £8.99
ISBN 978-1-84543-285-0


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018


See more books by Marlena Spieler here