Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Modern Jewish Table: A Cookbook Review

"So no excuses, get out your Kitchenaid, plug in your vibrator, we mean your blender, and sharpen your tools, because we are Zumba-ing into your life with wonderful foods plus a pinch of chutzpah!"
Tracey Fine and Georgie Tarn, The Jewish Princesses.
Cover design by Jenny Zemanek.
Cover photo credit by Rupa Photography London.

I wanted to title this article "Lessons on cooking and life from a Jewish Princess to an Atheist Overeater" but for obvious reasons I decided that might be too divisive. I didn't want to bring religion or my lack thereof into what is essentially a tale of two fabulously outrageous women and their food. This book is completely unlike any other cookbook I own, and I own a lot of them. It is especially different from any other Jewish cookbook I own, I don't own many Jewish cookbooks but I am pretty sure this is different to all of them on the market.

Just think of it, close your eyes and conjure up an image of Jewish food, who cooks it and who eats it. Now scrap that image because I am certain you are way off track. Now think of The Nanny (Fran Fine in case you weren't a child of the 90's), drop the nasal New York accent, add a British accent, lower the hairdo 5 inches and pretend you have ever seen the nanny in a kitchen actually cooking and you are part way there. Tracey Fine (no relation to Fran I am sure) and Georgie Tarn are two self proclaimed Jewish Princesses whose personalities come screaming out of this book. Full of jokes, innuendo and puns this is Jewish cooking with a side serving of Princess flair and a big glass of pink lemonade. They are the sort of women you wish you knew and more importantly you wish would cook for you. But as that is never going to happen at least they divulge all of their cooking secrets and best recipes in book form for the whole world to enjoy.

The first thing you will notice about this book is the cover...and I am going to tell you now that you can't judge the book by it. Whilst a lovely bowl of salad, great food styling and beautiful crockery might be enough for any ordinary book on Jewish cooking, the type you want to appeal to Jewish housewives who like to cook the tried and true traditional recipes, this is no ordinary Jewish cookbook. The cover mutes the voices of these ladies and that is a crime.

The second thing you will notice is that this is not a book of traditional Jewish recipes. It is 100 recipes from around the world that happen to be kosher and this is genius. This is where the lines between religious practices and plain old good cooking is blurred. This is a book for everyone. If you practice kosher eating then you are safe in the hands of Tracey and Georgie or if you just want recipes that are designed with the home cook in mind, are easy to follow and high on the taste-o-meter then this book is also for you. Of course it appealed to me as it is not only Jewish recipes and I love cooking other cultures but it is also recipes from around the world, a tick in all my boxes.

Apart from the cookability of this book I have also learnt all of the secrets to becoming a Jewish Princess, or maybe an honorary one if they will have me (minus the aspect of actually being Jewish I think I can embody all other traits of a Jewish Princess). Here is what I have gleaned on the topic:

  • Anything Princess Pink= GOOD. Think Taramasalata, yum.
  • Feel Princess proud when you present beautiful food to friends and family. Good food = LOVE.
  • Never shy away from a good pun. Easy Hors d' oeuvres = HORS D' EASY of course.
  • Make the old new again with some Princess magic. Think Gefilte fish done street food style. So good.
  • A Jewish Princess knows how to set the scene. Theming is the perfect way to bring a whole new level to your dinner parties. Princess Tea Parlor or Rustic Fantastic. These ladies know how to bring a touch of hollywood to a meal.
  • Any kitchen gizmo that can lighten the load of the Jewish Princess is a welcome addition. Blenders, Coffee machines, pre-boiled water tap. All the modern luxuries a princess deserves.
  • A makeover of any kind is befitting the Jewish Princess. These gals want you to forget 70's canned peaches, 80's mango chutneys or 90's coca cola marinade. They want you to get with the 21st century and try their Za'atar chicken with couscous stuffing.
  • You can never over-use the word Princess. Own it.

The first recipe I tried from this book was the Sephardi Saffron Chicken Soup With Fragrant Matzo Balls. For me Matzo Balls only existed on American television and always in the context of who's mother made the best ones. The soup itself is a rich chicken and vegetable broth made even better with the addition of Saffron. The balls were not like I expected, I thought they would be more doughy like dumplings but the matzo meal made them more bready and hearty. The perfect match to a broth.

I then had to try the modern take on Gefilte fish. To be totally honest I had heard the term Gefilte fish but had no idea what it actually was. I am delighted to find out it is a fish paste type mixture much like the one used in Thai fish cakes and I am a big fan of fish cakes. Fried up into battered street food style bites and accompanied with a yoghurt dressing to cut through the heaviness of the fried batter the balls were crunchy and delicious.

For a super easy weeknight whip up I would recommend the Steak Shawarma, it is amazing what a quick blend of the right spices can do for a piece of meat. We just finished up a large serve of it for dinner wrapped up in tortillas and smeared with sour cream and chives. This recipe had dinner on the table in 10 minutes, I think we can all celebrate that.

All of the recipes are written in an easy to ready fashion for the home cook by home cooks. You don't need fancy equipment but you might need to hunt down the odd Jewish ingredient if you want to stay kosher e.g. matzo meal. But hey that is what the internet is for isn't it? With a diverse range of recipes covering all courses I am looking forward to cooking more recipes from these Jewish Princesses.

I can't finish this review without mention of the sex toy in the room. There is a first time for everything and firsts are memorable. Your first kiss, your first car, your first job and this my friends is the first time I have ever seen a reference to a vibrator in a cookbook. I'll leave you with that thought and the following picture, is there anything more stunning than the colour of Saffron.

My version of the Sephardi Saffron Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls. A dish that popped my Matzo Ball Cherry

A review copy of this book was generously supplied by Skyhorse Publishing. It now has a treasured place in my cookbook collection.

Originally posted on Thursday, 24 August 2017 by


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