Experienced businesswoman, devoted food blogger, writer and freelance journalist Nida Degutiene’s ‘A Taste of Israel’ is finally available for the first time in English. Hailing from Lithuania, Nida arrived in Israel in 2009 as the wife of the Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel and South Africa and immediately fell in love with Jewish food, culture and traditions.
Once she discovered that many nostalgic dishes from her childhood are actually Jewish culinary heritage, blended over centuries into Lithuanian cuisine, she began to share this knowledge and her experience of living in Israel on her blog (www.nidoreceptai.lt).
Here Nida describes the book in her own words: “In Israel food holds a special place in Jewish life. From early morning until dawn the next day, Israelis are always nibbling on something and enjoying one another’s company, and on any given holiday festive tables groan under the weight of a multitude of dishes and goodies.
This book is an open door into the kitchens of the ordinary Israeli home. It is also an invitation to explore the country’s diverse street food and offers a behind-the scene glimpse at some of its gourmet restaurants. You’ll find recipes for dishes that do much more than satisfy hunger.
They are memories and stories shared with me over the course of five years by Litvaks from Israel and South Africa, by my Israeli friends, by their mothers and their grandmothers.
They reflect the traditions, history and customs passed down the generations. They are an attempt at returning a piece of Jewish heritage to the small, but vibrant Jewish community in Lithuania.”
‘A Taste of Israel’ describes the food through the eyes of a foreigner and non-Jew, who was lucky enough to become part of that Jewish community. Chapters are divided into the usual arrangement of appetisers, starters, mains and desserts, but there are also sections on the different religious festivals, as well as detailed information of what constitutes ‘kosher’. All the well-known classics are there, such as Gefilte fish, Knaidlach, Latkes and Challah, and more, in the 100 plus recipes, whether traditional or modern.
Over the past five years Nida has written over 300 articles covering lifestyle, travel, culinary arts, culture and business for Israeli and Lithuanian newspapers and magazines. She currently has 30000 unique followers and boasts more than 40000 visits per month.
Chraime (fish cooked in tomato sauce)
Ashkenazi Jews from central and Eastern Europe take great pride in their traditional gefilte fish recipes, but Sephardic Jews, hailing from the Iberian Peninsula or North Africa, don’t look twice at the boiled fish patties. Their culinary answer to this Ashkenazi favourite is chraime – saltwater fish stewed in a spicy, aromatic tomato sauce. From Shabbat, through Rosh Hashanah, to Pesach, not a single Sephardic holiday is without chraime.
- 1 red sweet pepper
- 1 yellow sweet pepper
- 1 green sweet pepper
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 red chilli, or to taste
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 x 400g cans tomatoes in
- Tomato juice
- Black pepper
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- 1.2kg fish (e.g. yellowtail or snoek), filleted with skin on
- 1 cup chopped fresh coriander
Wash the red, yellow and green peppers, then cut them in half. Remove the seeds and membranes and slice them into long, thin strips. Peel, then finely chop the cloves of garlic. Clean the red chilli and slice it into long, thin strips.
Heat the oil in a large, deep pan. Fry the peppers, garlic and chilli, stirring, until everything softens.
Add the tomatoes and tomato juice, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a small bowl, mix the boiling water and tomato paste. Add the turmeric, cumin and both types of paprika. Mix well.
Carefully place the fish fillets in the cooking tomato sauce, skin-side down, and cover with the tomato paste and spice mixture. The liquid should cover the fish. If not, add a little boiling water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Serve the fish covered in sauce and garnished with chopped coriander. Couscous, rice or fresh crusty white bread all make good accompaniments.
Extracted from ‘A Taste of Israel’ by Nida Degutiene (Struik Lifestyle)