I was recently asked to review The Social Kitchen, which was described to me as a ‘New Jewish cookbook’. I of course agreed, but flipping through the book it quickly became clear that this 3-word description really didn’t do it justice.
While there is nothing overtly ‘Jewish’ about the book, what does jump from every page is the larger-than-life personality of the recipes’ author, Shally Tucker. The book was produced by her children as a tribute to their mother. It is also a fundraising exercise for Dermatrust – the charity that supported her through the illness that ultimately cut her life short.
The book is interspersed with stories and anecdotes from friends and family members. These recount not only Shally’s generous motherly instincts, but also give an insight into her creative and eccentric ways. I’m sure we all know someone a bit like Shally – with a kind heart and a welcoming home. It seems she was always ready to provide friendship and sustenance, from a cup of tea to a three course meal, whenever anyone needed it.
The recipes are taken from Shally’s kitchen notebooks, and they are the kind of no-fuss dishes that are great to have on hand. There are plenty of ideas for weeknight dinners, Shabbat meals and special occasions. Plus there’s a whole chapter of cakes, bakes, biscuits and desserts. The book is beautifully illustrated with mouthwatering photographs, including many of tables laden with dishes, with a hungry family tucking in.
There is nothing earth-shattering about these recipes; they are simple, no-fuss, family food. You won’t need to visit any specialist shops for ingredients – most of what you need will already be in your pantry. In that respect, this is a very useful book. You’ll be able to whip something up at a moment’s notice, from items already on hand. A fine collection of family favourite recipes.
As an example to whet your appetite, here’s the recipe for Soy Salmon – looks like a great prepare-ahead lunch or dinner.
- 115 ml light soy sauce, plus extra to serve
- 3 tbsp date syrup or golden syrup
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp good-quality vegetable oil
- 4 lemons, zest and juice
- 1 side of salmon (about 1kg)
- 100 g sesame seeds
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced
- salt and black pepper
- Put the soy sauce, syrup, sugar and oil into a roasting tin or a baking tray big enough to hold the salmon. Stir in the lemon zest and mix well, then add the side of salmon. Get your hands in there and rub the sticky marinade all over the fish so every inch is covered. Leave the fish, skin-side up, in the marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas. Turn the salmon skin-side down and pour the lemon juice over it. Scatter the sesame seeds and half the spring onions on top and season well with salt and pepper.
- Bake the salmon in the hot oven for 20–25 minutes until just done. Serve hot or cold with the remaining spring onions and a drizzle of extra soy sauce.
There are lots of lovely touches in this book, for instance the inclusion of a ribbon bookmark, cut from Shally Tucker’s ribbon collection, which apparently filled 77 drawers! Mine is a gorgeous purple grosgrain ribbon, just lovely. Shally was apparently very crafty as well as a great cook, so there are ideas for craft projects and gifts in the book too.
You can buy your own copy of The Social Kitchen from Amazon for £25. All proceeds raised from the sale of the book will go to Dermatrust.
Recipe and photo reproduced with permission from The Social Kitchen. I was sent a copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own.