“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.
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.
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.
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 Recipes, Hungry Healthy Happy, Hazana: Jewish vegetarian cooking, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, Modern Jewish Baker, Feasting, or Wild Honey and Rye.