Food has been the centre of my existence from as far back as I can remember. Food played an integral part in my upbringing. Though it wasn’t just any food, it was good, homemade food, often using recipes that were passed down from previous generations. I can honestly say that I come from a family of good cooks.
My childhood began two years after a hotel run by my Great Grandparents and my three Great Great Aunts in Bournemouth closed down. It was known for its family atmosphere, important guests, five star service but, most importantly of all, its food. I was brought up on the exciting stories and lived vicariously through the mouth-watering accounts that were given about the meals that were served and sumptuous teas on offer. I think that this is where my love for food and cooking really began.
I’m often asked the question, ‘When did you start cooking?’. The truth is I can’t pinpoint exactly when I began cooking or baking, but I just remember always feeling the most comfortable in the kitchen, even if it was just helping with the washing up. The next question I get, is ‘When did you start making a whole Shabbat meal?’. This I can pinpoint (though my mother denies this). I was about 11 or 12 years old and sent home from school early because I was ill and running a temperature and it was a Thursday or Friday. My mum wasn’t best pleased that she had had to pick me up early as she worked full time. She dropped me home and told me that there was a chicken in the fridge and I needed to wash, clean and cook it. And that’s when the kitchen officially became mine (well I like to think so)!
It became a habit about 10 years ago to start inviting young professionals, many from abroad, for Friday night dinner and it is not unusual for us to have 20-30 people at a time. I joke that I don’t know how to cater for less than 15 people. I am always looking out for new recipes and excited to try them out at my Friday nights. What also became a habit was baking for work, always baking something new.
About five or six years ago I came across an extraordinary challah recipe that would become my most prized recipe. I have come to realise, that there is nothing as satisfying as kneading your own challah, seeing it rise and taking it out of the oven. The smells are just divine.
I enjoy baking, cakes, biscuits, deserts etc. but I can’t say I love it. What I do love doing is cooking proper meals and making bread. There is a real sense of satisfaction to be had from cooking a full meal and recently I have had so much satisfaction and enjoyment making many different types of bread.
Pesach this year was spent in Israel, and as one does over Pesach all you seem to think and talk about is bread. I had always had a dream of following in the footsteps of my great grandparents, opening up an establishment whereby I could feed people. Ideally, I would love to open up an artisan bakery. At my present stage of life this isn’t possible and I do enjoy my day job of being a high school teacher. An idea was born whilst sitting in Netanya with my family munching Matza… begin a challenge of making a new bread every week and blog about it. TweetMyWheat was born.
As I am sure you can imagine, someone who loves food isn’t going to be someone who is slim. Weight has always been an issue for me. I had finally gained some control of this issue and was at a happy place and then I began this challenge. Now I am the type of person who can’t say no to food, especially if it is coming out of my oven and smells so inviting. I was loyal to my challenge of making bread once a week and giving it to those who had made the request, but made enough for home and my colleagues so they could taste it and critique it.
I realised that this challenge, though was fun and exciting wasn’t helping the weight issue. Feeling perturbed and upset that I may have to stop the challenge and the blog, which I surprisingly enjoyed writing, a new plan was born. I would just write about my different food experiences, whether it was about bread or about a starter or main course that I made or about a place I have visited that other foodies would appreciate.
Bread making will always be my first love and I am not completely stopping the challenge, I am just not making a new bread recipe every week, except for challah of course. I hope you will enjoy coming on this journey with me. I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts and ideas on all things to do with food.
I will leave you with my experience this week of making a Challah Hot Dog… yes you read that correctly, a Challah Hot Dog! I was sent a link by a friend with this amazing idea. It is one of those ideas whereby you think, that’s so simple yet so genius, why hadn’t I thought of that myself! I made my usual Challah recipe and instead of shaping it like I usually do, I made small sausage shapes and wrapped the dough around a real sausage. In my house, we have a thing about always boiling sausages first, even if you put them in chollent or on the bbq. So, I boiled the sausages, allowed them to cool down as if you put the dough around them whilst they are hot, you will ruin the dough. The dough was allowed to rise for another 20-30 minutes. Before placing them into the oven I egg washed them and put some sesame and poppy seeds on top. This was a tester as I plan on making them as a starter for Friday night. They are going to have to be made fresh on Friday as they don’t work well being frozen and re-heated. I have a feeling these are going to be a hit… you should give them a go as well.
First published on Arutz Sheva 09/07/15