Traditional Jewish food can sometimes seem a bit meat-centric, so I was giddy with delight when I discovered this beautiful new recipe book by Paola Gavin, which is stuffed to the gills with delectable Jewish vegetarian recipes from around the world.
The first thing I noticed about Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking, is that it is a beautiful object, as well as a useful and well-researched recipe book. The cover is decorated with stylish illustrations of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, and these striking drawings also appear throughout the book, at the start of each new chapter, alongside Jewish proverbs and interesting introductory comments. The pages are thick, matt paper which has a lovely feel as you leaf through, browsing the recipes, and the whole book is weighty and impressive.
The chapters cover appetisers and salads, soups, pasta and dumplings, grains, main courses, eggs, vegetables, and desserts. There are also lengthy and highly informative sections about Jewish holidays and festivities, and Jewish history and culture, which help to give the recipes context and also provide a valuable background for readers/cooks without much knowledge of Judaism or the Jewish people.
There are of course many familiar Jewish vegetarian dishes in this book, although perhaps not as many as I anticipated, and a great deal of new (to me!) and interesting ones. On my ‘to make’ list are Algerian tomato, onion and egg salad (Slata tomatem), Russian potato dumplings stuffed with curd cheese and chives (Pampushki), and a fantastic sounding Moroccan dish – artichoke and broad bean tajine with green olives and ginger (Tajine d’artichauts et de feves).
As well as the gorgeous drawings, Hazana is also illustrated with mouth-watering photographs of some of the dishes, all of which entice the reader to get into the kitchen and get busy cooking up something delicious! The recipes are generally straightforward and have modest lists of ingredients, although some call for speciality items such as regional cheeses or slightly unusual seasonings like caraway or pomegranate molasses. With the exception of some of the cheeses, I doubt it would be too hard to find any of the ingredients, assuming you live in or near a modern, diverse city.
Many of the recipes in Hazana call for eggs and dairy products, so while this is a great book for vegetarians, it would be less useful for vegans. And while the author notes the prohibition in kosher cooking of serving milk and meat dishes togtether, she has missed the opportunity to offer parve substitutions in some of the more obvious candidates – for instance a potato and carrot kugel lists butter as one of the ingredients, but I suspect that many readers might want to serve this at a meaty meal. I doubt that figuring out modifications would be beyond the abilities of any competent cook, however.
Hazana means feeding, nourishment or nutrition in Hebrew, which seems like a highly appropriate name for this lovely book of Jewish vegetarian recipes. All the dishes – even the desserts – are bursting with vegetables and fruits, seasoned with fresh and dried herbs and exotic and familiar spices. The country of origin of each recipe is given, and often its name in the local language alongside its English title.
Overall, Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking is a gorgeous, inspiring book, that would be a terrific addition to the kitchen library of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike – and regardless of their religion or ethnicity! It is published by Quadrille and is available from Amazon and all good bookshops, RRP £25.
I tested out the recipe for kasha with mushrooms (kasha met schveml) which originates in Poland and Russia. Despite my Ashkenazi heritage, kasha was not something I grew up eating, so this recipe was new to me. It was easy to prepare and the results were nutty, buttery, savoury and delicious! I was bracing myself for resistance from Kipper, who can be a bit funny sometimes about both mushrooms and grains, but it even got a thumbs up from her. Result!
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Kasha with mushrooms (Kasha mit schveml)
- 180 g kasha (roasted buckwheat groats) (1 cup)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 450 ml hot water (2 cups)
- grating of nutmeg
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 250 g small white (button) mushrooms, thinly sliced (9oz)
- sour cream or smetana to serve
Place the kasha in a heavy saucepan and add the beaten egg. Stir well, so each grain is well coated, then cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes or until the egg is set.
Pour in the hot water and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the kasha is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the onions. Cook over a gentle heat until they start to turn golden. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they are tender and any liquid has evaporated.
Stir the onions and mushrooms into the cooked kasha and simmer for 1–2 minutes.
Serve at once, with sour cream on the side.
Recipe reproduced with permission from Hazana by Paola Gavin (Quadrille, £25)