Fress by Emma Spitzer – book review

“Fress” is a word that takes me straight back to childhood. It’s a word my grandparents used – one of the handful of Yiddish words that remained in their everyday vocabularies. There was only one kind of fress, and that was a good fress. A generous, convivial, delicious meal. Or perhaps a snack, a social gathering with food, friends, and plenty of crumbs. Those five letters bring to mind a world of possibilities, and they all involve eating.

So I was excited to get my hands on Emma Spitzer’s new recipe book – ‘Fress – Bold flavours from a Jewish kitchen’. By and large, it didn’t disappoint.

An honest review of Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer's new recipe book 'Fress - bold flavours from a Jewish kitchen'.

A real masterchef!

You may remember Emma from Masterchef in 2015. She made it through to the final with her bold, family-inspired recipes. This book offers up more of the same – tasty, wholesome food that draws on her own Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, as well as that of her husband’s Algerian-Israeli background.

The classics are there – chicken soup with knaidlach, egg & onion, and salt beef from the Ashkenazi side. Plus hamin, kibbeh and all manner of aubergine-based delights from the Sephardi side. There are also plenty of new twists, like za’atar crusted halloumi salad, sticky pomegranate salmon, and fennel & potato latkes. The book is well-illustrated, and everything looks absolutely mouthwatering! The dishes in the photos look appetisingly home-made, encouraging you to have a go – there’s nothing too difficult or ‘cheffy’ here, just honest, delicious food that anyone could make.

Well organised

The book is divided into well organised chapters. These include small plates for sharing, soups, big plates with meat & fish, sides & salads, and sweets & baking. It makes it easy to dip into and find something to fit whatever occasion you’re catering for. I’m particularly looking forward to trying the chocolate babka, and the pan-fried cauliflower with caramelized red onions, toasted Israeli couscous and almonds – see below. Yum.

fress internal pages


I only have one tiny gripe about this book. Emma is clear in her introduction that she does not keep kosher, and the book is subtitled ‘bold flavours from a Jewish kitchen’ – not a kosher one. However, she also goes into details about not mixing meat and milk, and making parve (dairy-free) desserts to follow a meat meal. So, why then, did she include a recipe for monkfish? As far as I can see, it’s the only explicitly non-kosher recipe in the book, so it seems almost a shame to have included it.

Treif fishes aside though, this is a lovely book. Fress by Emma Spitzer is published by Octopus Books, RRP £25.
I was sent a complimentary copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own.

You might also like to read some of my other book reviews, such as 100 Best Jewish RecipesHungry Healthy Happy, Hazana: Jewish vegetarian cooking, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, Modern Jewish Baker, Feasting, or Wild Honey and Rye.


  1. I love to use my crock pot year round. In the winter for comfort foods and in the summer because it is just too darn hot here most of the time. But I still enjoy a good soup during the summer and I’m bound to find one here!

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  3. Eating copiously and without restraint sounds right up my street.. x

  4. You’re right that it’s odd for the book to include only one recipe that’s not kosher, surely it would have been so easy to take that extra step and go for all kosher, but perhaps she or the publishers felt it would be perceived as more universal or accessible without? For me, I don’t have to keep kosher (or be Jewish) to be interested in the cuisine, and it sounds like a delicious collection of recipes.

    • I think the reason this annoyed me out of all proportion was because a couple of times friends have made me monkfish thinking it was kosher, and I’ve felt bad having to explain why I’m not eating it. It would have been much worse if they’d then said, “but the recipe came from this Jewish cookbook…” 🙁
      Perhaps she could have just included a note that monkfish isn’t kosher but offered some suggestions of alternatives that are (e.g. cod, haddock, hake, mackerel, salmon). Anyway, as you say, it is a delicious collection of recipes. I’ll just have to skip past that page and keep breathing 😜

  5. Oooh, I have a bit of a cookbook habit and this one looks gorgeous!
    Jane x

  6. The book sound great, so I have entered the giveaway just in case I get lucky:)

  7. For some unexplainable reason I’m not receiving any emails although I have subscribed @ least twice!

    • Hi Christine,
      Sorry about this. I’ve been having some technical problems and so it’s a while since the newsletter has been sent out. Hopefully one coming soon though 😀. Thanks for your patience!
      Helen x.

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