Passover

If you live in certain areas of the country, you may have noticed that Pick n Pay Hypermarkets, in some areas, have aisles set aside with really odd foodstuffs that have ridiculous prices! This is the beginning of the madness called Pesach or Passover.

Pesach is a Jewish festival lasting 7 days in Israel and 8 days in the rest of the world.  For non-Jews, this is recognisable by the boxes of Matzos on the shelves.

Matzo, bread of our affliction
Matzo, bread of our affliction

The Jewish holiday is a remembrance of the years of slavery, the 10 plagues and the exodus from Egypt in the time of Moses and Pharaoh. The Israelite nation had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that the dough the women were preparing did not have time to rise into loaves of bread.  Since then Jews are forbidden to eat any leavened bread during Pesach. The stringency is so exact that observant Jews change everything in their entire kitchen for those 8 days.

Our kitchens during Pesach look a little bizzare with all the counters covered
Our kitchens during Pesach look a little bizzare with all the counters covered

The first 2 nights of this Jewish holiday find families sitting together for the Seder (festival dinner). There is a special order to the way the meal is eaten as well as food to represent those different aspects of that time in Egypt.

The focal points of the Seder are:

  • Eating matzah.
  • Eating bitter herbs—to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
  • Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice—a royal drink to celebrate our newfound freedom.
  • The recitation of the Haggadah which is a book that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfilment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.

A different set of crockery and cutlery is used during this time, matzo is eaten instead of bread and no products containing flour are allowed to be eaten or brought into your house!

Unusual foods are eaten at this time such as, Danish herring, matzo balls in chicken soup, horseradish and minced fish (gefilte fish), chopped herring, hardboiled eggs in warm salt water (delicious!) and much more. here are links to my recipes.

Danish HerringQuick Matzo Ball RecipeEasy Chicken soup, Horseradish- Chrain, Chopped Herring

The traditional greeting at this time is either Chag Sameach or Chag Kosher L’Pesach.  If you are celebrating Pesach, I wish you Chag Sameach.

Quick Matzo Ball Recipe

Matzo balls in soup
Matzo balls in soup

We are coming up to Pesach, and what would Pesach be without Kneidlach/ Matzo balls? Jewish or not this is a great meal, when served with the traditional chicken soup or even with a thick tomato or butternut soup.

Here is a quick and easy way to make the perfect soup accompaniment. This recipe is fast, easy and practically fail proof.

Ingredients

30 mls of oil or schmaltz (chicken fat)

2 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

a pinch of cinnamon (1/8 tsp)

3/4 cup matzo meal

 

Method

In a bowl, lightly beat your eggs, oil, seasoning and cinnamon together.  Add the matzo meal and mix well, it should form a soft dough, that you can roll into balls.

Take a teaspoonful of dough and roll into a small ball, remember the balls will double in size as they cook.

Add to rapidly boiling salt water or a large pot of soup and allow to cook for a minimum of 20 minutes, the longer they cook to softer they are.

It is very important that the soup or salt water that you will be cooking your kneidlach in, is actively boiling when you put your balls in otherwise, they break apart. Matzo balls should be soft and fluffy, and cut easily with your soup spoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrBX35Pj7KU

Jozi Blue-The coffee experience

My youngest daughter and I went to my favourite coffee place. Jozi Blue, a small unassuming coffee shop, in the heart of Glenhazel, Johannesburg.

Coffee
Jozi Blue for great coffee

I must admit, I am not a great coffee drinker at all, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you about the different beans and their flavours that are on offer for you to drink there, but the aficionado’s rave about the choices. It is not the décor that draws me to this shop either, because that is mostly plastic tables and chairs. It is the vibe, to use a much abused cliché.

Plain simple decor, because the coffee is more important
Plain simple decor, because the coffee is more important

When you walk in, you are greeted like an old friend, whether you were there yesterday, 6 months ago or it is your first time!

I have to admit that it feels like Jozi Blue has always been around, but that’s possibly because of the accolades they have already accumulated in the fairly short time they have been open. They celebrated their 3rd birthday this year.

They have certainly made their impact on the coffee world here in Johannesburg!

Pippa Rowney of Coffey and Cake blog, visited Jozi Blue on trip to Jo’burg and raved about it in her blog http://www.coffeyandcake.com/2014/08/joziblue! Listed as one of the top 10 coffee shops in Jo’burg by Travelstart http://www.travelstart.co.za/blog/10-best-johannesburg-coffee-shops/. Listed at #2 on the Tripadvisor website for coffee and tea places in Johannesburg, how can anyone not want to try their coffee?

Shmuel and his staff really seem to enjoy what they do.

The staff on duty today, really seemed to enjoy their work
The staff on duty today, really seemed to enjoy their work

One thing you can’t do is leave without eating. They are not a restaurant and do not claim to be, they are a coffee shop that offers food, and what yummy food it is too.

I absolutely love their muffins, the caramel muffin is my best, actually maybe it is the Bar One muffin, or maybe the Top Deck muffin, I can’t really tell you as I like them all, however, it usually takes me a while to finish one if I am eating it on my own as they are enormous.

Delicious top deck muffin
Delicious top deck muffin

Today I had a pizza, not a regular pizza, but a banting pizza. If you don’t know what banting is, you obviously don’t live in South Africa, it is a new phenomenon of low carb, high fat eating for weight loss developed by controversial Dr. Tim Noaks.

My daughter had an ice tea.

My Macchiato, I love the little pictures in the cups
My Macchiato, I love the little pictures in the cups

The owner, Shmuel Montrose introduced a brilliant idea, or rather 2 brilliant ideas. The first a pre-loaded card, this is basically a card that you put money into and you can then get your coffee using that, the more money you pre-load the bigger your coffee discount, so when you don’t have cash, you can still get coffee. Snapscan is also available to pay with your smartphone.

My coffee card
My coffee card

The second thing he introduced is the Whatsapp order, you order your coffee via the Whatsapp line and then he will reply to say your order was received, all you have to do is drive passed and fetch it! I’ve driven passed in the mornings and seen them bring the coffee out to the people in their cars.

Whatsapp your order and they bring it to your car!
Whatsapp your order and they bring it to your car!

Go in early and it is filled with people having meetings, mid-morning its more meetings and ladies having coffee, in fact it seems to be full most of the day. There are plenty of plugs for your computers and WiFi available too. I have actually gone to work there when my ADSL line went down for a few days.

They have spent their time investing in their main ingredient, coffee, so if you want a chic, fancy coffee shop, don’t go there, however, if you want good coffee and tasty eats, it’s the place to go.

Serving dishes already needing to be replenished and it was only 10 am
Serving dishes already needing to be replenished and it was only 10 am

They also offer a fish braai (barbecue) every Sunday, which smelled absolutely amazing when I was there today. I may have to dump the kids (they don’t like fish) and take myself out to lunch one day. I might take my husband, we’ll see.

Most Sunday's you will be able to have braaied (barbecued) fish
Most Sunday’s you will be able to have braaied (barbecued) fish

For those who want it, they also offer a non-dairy option and Chalov Yisroel.

Dairy free options and banting options are available.
Dairy free options and banting options are available.

Take yourself for a true coffee experience.

The Jozi Blue staff with owner Shmuel Montrose front left.
The Jozi Blue staff with owner Shmuel Montrose front left.

Did you know it is Chrismukah?

It is December and that means Chanukah for the Jews and Christmas for the Christians. Thank you to the person who gave me the information to write about Chistmas.

The story of Chanukah

The eight branched menorah we use to celebrate chanukah
The eight branched menorah we use to celebrate chanukah

Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of lights. It is an eight day celebration of a miracle that occurred 2000 years ago. The Jews were attacked by the Syrian-Greek Empire under the rule of Antiochus III who tried, and failed, to steal the money stored  in the Temple.  Antiochus III was killed by Antiochus IV, known as the madman; he decided that his kingdom must have only one religion and placed his own priest in the Temple to collect the money that was being paid as taxes. The Jews rebelled, and when he heard this, he attacked them and killed thousands of people.  He then forbade Jewish worship and the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. Sabbath rest, circumcision and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death.

The caves of Judea
The caves of Judea

The Jews, who did not want to convert, hid in the hills and caves of Judea and were killed. Antiochus sent a henchman to the city of Modin and tried to get an old Jewish priest named Mattitiyahu to light a sacrifice to their idols.  When he refused, a Jew who had become an Hellenic worshiper, tried to light the pagan sacrafice and was killed by Mattitiyahu.  The Syrians were then attacked and, either killed or chased away, and the alter was destroyed.  Mattitiyahu, his sons and followers then hid in the Judean hills.  Before his death he made his sons leaders of the Maccabees to defend their religion. They returned to Jerusalem and went to the Temple to clean it out and get rid of all the idols and rededicated the Temple. A Menorah was made to replace the one stolen by the Syrian army and the new 8 branched candelabra was lit  However, there was only enough pure olive oil to last for a day b but, by a miracle, the oil burned for 8 days and 8 nights, which was long enough for new olive oil to be made.  The Rabbi’s (priests) declared an 8 day celebration to commemorate this miracle.

Each member of the family gets to light their own
Each member of the family gets to light their own

It is not a religious celebration like we normally have with big meals and synagogue attendance, rather it is a celebration where we light a new and extra candle each night, sing songs and play games. Each night of the festival children are given gifts, usually of money and, what would a Jewish celebration be without food? As we are celebrating a miracle that involved the use of oil, we make special food  that is fried in oil. The two main foods that are made and eaten are sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes).

Latkes, these potato pancakes are a traditional food for Chanuakah
Latkes, these potato pancakes are a traditional food for Chanuakah

The story of Christmas

Christmas tree
Christmas tree

A few hundred years before King Herod ruled Judea. A young woman named Mary became pregnant through divine intervention.  She and her intended, whose name was Joseph, got married. At the same time Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was also pregnant and later had a baby boy named John.

The city of Nazareth Isreal
The city of Nazareth Isreal

Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Joseph came from, to comply with the Roman decree of being counted where you were born. Because so many people had come to be counted there was nowhere for them to stay. The only place they could find was where the animals where kept. This stable is where she gave birth to the boy known as Jesus. Far away 3 wise men saw a new star in the sky.  They followed the star to Jerusalem as they understood what this meant.  They started asking questions and King Herod heard this and thought that the king they were talking about was going to try and take over his kingdom. He ordered the wise men to find the baby king.  The wise men followed the star to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph with their baby, Jesus. They brought gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh and gold for the baby king and then returned home.

Nativity church in Bethlehem
Nativity church in Bethlehem

Joseph was told by an angel, in a dream, to go with his family to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died.  They then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth.

The reason we give gifts at Christmas is to symbolise the gifts given by the 3 wise men.  These gifts each had a meaning, they weren’t random (I won’t go into this as I don’t know enough about it and my blog is the wrong forum).

In my personal opinion but both Chanukah and Christmas are losing out to the commercialism of the modern world and we have forgotten their spiritual meaning.  They have, to a certain extent, become about the presents and not about why we have these two holidays.

On this note I leave you to think about why you are buying in to the practice of extravagant gifts and forgetting that no religion is about monetary or physical possession, but rather about respect and understanding and love.

So if you are going to give a gift, make it one you can afford and not one that you think the person wants.

Borscht or Beetroot soup

This is a delicious cold summer soup. Here is my instant recipe.

Beetroot soup
Beetroot soup

1 Bottle of sliced or shredded beetroot.

1/2 Bottle of water

Lemon juice to taste

1 peeled, boiled baby potato per person (or use normal potatoes and quarter them)

 

Blend everything together to make a slightly chunky soup. Chill. Add the hot potato and swirl in some cream or cream substitute just before serving.

Depending on how many people you are serving, you can use whatever size bottle of beetroot you want.

I don’t have a menu plan for the next week!

This week’s meal planning blog is actually not really about meal planning at all.

We have come out of the first set of Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and are moving into the next, which is Yom Kippur. This is a day of repentance, 25 hours to be precise.   At this time we ask G-d for another year of life, for forgiveness for past and future sins, and ask him for our livelihood (our future earnings).

As with all Jewish holidays we either feast or fast. Rosh Hashanah is 2 days of feasting followed by 8 hours of fasting. Yom Kippur is 25 hours of fasting and, for most, a festive meal to end this fast.

Here’s why I haven’t done a meal plan beforehand. As much menu planning and quantity planning as I did for the 2 days of feasting, I still have more than enough left- overs.  So except for ‘after school’ lunches, we will be eating the leftover chicken, meat and vegetables till Friday, possibly even till Monday!  On Tuesday night we begin our fast, just before sunset, and end just after sunset on Wednesday.  Jewish fasting is very intense because, unless you have diabetes, or you are on lifesaving medicine, or you had a baby in the last 3 days, or fasting will significantly harm/endanger your life, you fast. No food or drink of any kind may pass your lips for those 25 hours and then you finish your fast off with a meal!

Since my mother is catering, we will be eating her leftovers for the rest of that week.

And then, we have 2 more sets of Jewish holidays that will require more feasting.  Three weeks after these are finished there is another huge event in the world wide Jewish calendar. The Shabbos Project.  I will cover that event in a later blog, closer to the time.   I just need to get through the next set of holidays!

I want to know from my non-Jewish followers, does this also happen over the festive season and Easter? Is there enough food left over to feed an army?

I was also thinking after speaking to a few friends, do you plan in advance for the extra expense that these big events are going to cost? I don’t, but maybe it is something to look into.  A separate account into which you put money so that when these big events come up, it won’t come out of your monthly budget.  This includes food for vacations.  One friend says that she saves her smart shopper points and then uses that for vacation food.

What ideas or suggestions do you have to budget for these big events?

What are you serving?

Rosh Hashonah, it’s here. What are your plans? Have you ordered your meat? Do you know what you are making?

Yom Tov is always special, even for those who don’t keep Shabbat, as we make an extra effort with food and table settings.

For the first time ever, I know what I am making and the meat is ordered and the menu drawn up in my note book.

Here is my menu for the nights. For lunches it is usually cold meats and leftovers. I make everything myself and I have posted the recipes on the blog. My mom makes the gefilte fish balls as it is the one thing I have never managed to master!

Apples and honey

Round Challah (without raisins!)

Starter:

Chopped Herring

Danish Herring

Gefilte fish balls

Coleslaw

Soup

Chicken soup with kneidel or perogen

Main course 1st night

Green Salad

Chicken with chutney gravy

Basmati rice

Baby marrow

Sweet carrots

Main course 2nd night

Green Salad

Bollo with brown onion gravy

Potato kugel

Gem Squash

Peas

Desert

Neopolitan ice cream

Fruit Salad.

There are a few extra things I do extra for Yom Tov. One these things, when there are more guests than Susual is name places. Is there something that you do that is special?

Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year is coming up in a few weeks, the 14 September to be exact. Of course, being Jews we celebrate with food. My dad always says for Jews the traditional weapon is a knife and food and the national sport is eating! I know this applies to my Greek friends too.

Gefilte fish Balls

I remember when we first started hosting Yom Tov (literally Good Day) meals for any of the Jewish holidays, we had 3 fish to start, Gefilte fish*, chopped Herring* and Danish herring*, growing up in a non-kosher home we also had chopped liver accompanied, of course, by kichel (sweet very thin type of biscuit). The next course was of course soup and kneidel* or *perogen. The next course was the meat course, which consisted of a meat dish and a chicken dish with salads and 3 veg.  Lastly desserts, and this is usually not just ice-cream but something that took forever to make.  Then I still made more food for the 2 lunches. *(explanations at the end of the blog)

Gefilte Fish

Who knows what it cost?  We certainly weren’t budget watching in those days.

Now I am very much more aware of the cost of everything, although I still try to have an open home for anyone who needs somewhere to go for Yom Tov, though dinner is now herring and fish (my kids would leave home if my mom didn’t make her Gefilte fish balls)! This is followed by soup and kneidel (tradition is tradition after all) and meat or chicken, never both, vegetables and  salad. I do experiment with different ice-creams (non dairy and homemade) and a basic fruit salad. When we host lunches it is normally either fish or meat, not both.

   Perogen
Soup and Kneidel

So what happens when you can’t ask your guests to make something for this meal? Maybe they are not kosher, or maybe you have someone in your family who has allergies? I must admit that, aside from the kosher aspect, the main reason I don’t ask people to bring food is that I have a severe allergy, but also I think, I am a bit of a control freak for Yom Tov. So I usually ask everyone to bring drinks and if they are kosher then I ask them to bring salad.

Chopped Herring

I think this is the first year I have ever known what I am making so far in advance.  I don’t know yet know how many people we will be having but it will be a minimum of 11 for the 2 suppers and 6 for the lunches as I know my family will all be here. There is a very great chance of more as I generally have an open house.   Offering hospitality to guests is an important aspect of Jewish living and something we refer to in our morning prayers.

Danish Herring
  • Gefilte fish – literally stuffed fish if you are of German decent.  If you are Eastern European decent then it is minced fish with onion and carrot and served either as balls or in a baked loaf form.
  • Chopped Herring – minced herring with onion, boiled eggs and matzo meal served with kichel (sweet biscuits).
  • Danish Herring – bite size pieces of herring in an onion, tomato and vinegar marinade
  • Kneidel – Matzo meal balls cooked in either soup or salted water and served with soup.
  • Perogen – pastry filled with mince, almost like a mini meat pie.
Kichel

Happy cooking everyone!

The 9 days have begun

It is Tisha B’Av, the 9th Av and observant Jews are going meatless for the build up to this terrible day in Jewish history, see my previous blog post “going meatless”.

For today’s blog I decided to do a different blog post. Not on anything to do with saving money, getting organised or even cooking.

 

Today I am looking at gratitude.

 

For all of us, life offers challenges. Some challenges are harder than others and some are positive challenges.

 

For some people just getting out of bed in the morning is their challenge, for some it is meeting a deadline, whatever the challenges I believe. each of us has the strength to face them.

 

Every morning observant Jews wake up, and even before getting out of bed, thank G-d for actually waking up!  Each and every one of us can do this as we lie in our beds thinking about all the tasks we have to complete and the challenges we have to face.

 

I have worked as a nurse in some form for the past 26 years, I reminded over and over again that miracles happen all the time, we just need to pay attention.

 

I am not writing a religious post, I am writing about positivity, about being grateful every single day no matter how difficult.

 

A few years ago I watched an Oprah show about gratitude journals, and while I have never kept one, the idea behind it is brilliant.

gratitude journal

One of the concepts was writing 5 things you are grateful for in a journal everyday.

Don’t know what to write? How about these three things to start with?

 

  • I woke up
  • I can open my eyes/ I can see
  • I can take a breath

 

As I said the idea is great, but what if I don’t want to write everyday or write at all?

I don’t think you should have to write in a gratitude journal everyday to remind us to be grateful, I also think that sometimes your journal could make you focus on documenting the small things and forgetting the big things. For others writing it down helps them to focus their gratitude, especially in tough times. Writing about being grateful that someone helped you with something is great, here’s another suggestion. Just tell the person, say ‘Thank you for your help, I am grateful’.

Gratitude shouldn’t just be about writing it down, it should also be about showing your gratitude, in your behaviour and your actions.

An off the wall thought, how is taking care of yourself showing gratitude? If you don’t take care of yourself, how will you care for others? You need to be well enough to look after your family.

On an aeroplane during the safety speech, they say if the oxygen masks come down, put yours on first before helping others.

The reason is logical, if you lose consciousness due to lack of oxygen, how helpful will you be?

First responders are taught “safety first”, think about what would happen at a scene or emergency if the first responder is oblivious to danger and gets injured, how much help will they be then?

 

The ‘pay it forward’ concept is another way of showing your gratitude. Someone helped you, now show it by paying it forward and helping someone else.

The amount of people posting on media sites, showing their gratitude by doing good deeds and videoing it then posting to social media sites, smacks a little of self gratification and ego stroking. It’s almost saying ‘Look at me I did something good today’. Like a child wanting their parents praise.

I am not saying we shouldn’t post our gratitude on social media, and I am not saying stop doing those good deeds, I am grateful there are people out there who do good deeds, even on camera.  I am saying that sometimes people over do it.

 

Social media experiments have shown that those who are the most willing to help are often those with the least resources. In one video, someone walked around a park asking people eating for a bit of food, he was turned down by everyone. His accomplice then gave a meal to a homeless man, and this ‘beggar’ approached the homeless man and asks for food. The homeless promptly shared his meal.  What makes him respond differently than those who had and wouldn’t share? The answer is simple, Gratitude. He was grateful for that one meal and showed his gratitude by sharing with another person who was apparently in need.  The people who didn’t give up their food aren’t bad people nor are they necessarily ungrateful, we don’t know what they do in private, maybe they give millions to homeless shelters. Be grateful to the ones who gave but not judgemental of the ones who appear not to have given.

 

The next time that annoying car guard at the mall wants to unpack your groceries, say ‘thank you’, even when you feel pressurised into handing over that R1, R2 or R5 at least you have it to give, or even say ‘No, thank you’, you are allowed. The next time you walk across the wet floor because the lady/man mopping has mopped right in the path of the shop you want to go into, apologise or say thank you, imagine what the mall would look like if she/ he wasn’t there. The cashier and packer at the shop who have barely interrupted their conversation to ring up and pack your groceries, say thank you (although I have to admit to sometimes having said things like “sorry to have interrupted your conversation with my shopping, enjoy the rest of your day” , at least I didn’t have to pack my own parcels.

 

Reflect on how to show your gratitude, smile more, say thank you more, do small things for people, look after yourself!

Remember saying thank you even when saying no, doesn’t cost a cent. If you liked this post why don’t you share?

gratitude-rainbowspiral11