The most treasured of recipes are the ones that carry a sense of history, the ones that have been tested and perfected over many years and passed down through generations. Celebrating Jewish history, culture and cooking, Cooking from the Heart: A Journey Through Jewish Food is crammed full of unique recipes and stories from 27 Jewish cooks by Melbourne stylist and cook Gaye Weeden and Hayley Smorgon.
With Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Asian, African and American influences, the recipes vary greatly in tastes and flavours, and act as something of a homage to the diversity of the Jewish people. There are traditional favourites like onion soup and Latkes (a very crispy potato cake), to more exotic dishes like Aruqs (Iraqi chicken patties).
Worth a note are the particularly delicious desserts like Kindli (a northwest Hungarian cake made with poppy seed or nut filling) and Mustikka Purakka (blueberry pie). It may be hard to pronounce, but according to the authors, is relatively easy to prepare.
While there are some familiar faces to be found amongst the pages, such as Lillian Frank and Mirka Mora, this is in no way a celebrity chef book. These are recipes from home cooks. Most have been transcribed from memory and have been cooked and photographed in family kitchens.
As well as documenting these inimitable recipes, the book gives us a glimpse into the stories of these brave and resilient people’s lives, many of whom lived through the Holocaust and its aftermath. Having endured the most awful of circumstances and survived, their stories and photos alongside to the recipes makes this much more than just a cookbook, and remind us that cooking is something that can bring us together.
Cooking from the Heart: A Journey Through Jewish Food is published by Hardie Grant and is available at selected bookstores.
Gaye Weeden and Hayley Smorgon have also collaborated on The Butcher, The Baker, The Best Coffee Maker and Cooking from Memory.