Part journal, part advice column and part cookbook, Ellie’s Table is a celebration of family and feel-good food. Lovingly crafted over two years, it’s the first book from Ellie Bouhadana, Hope St Radio’s head chef.

Alongside recipes, the book contains stories about Bouhadana’s family and its influence on her cooking, including her dad’s love of mandarins and her mother’s home-baked challah bread. There’s even a whole chapter dedicated to her famous oily focaccia, which she makes by hand at Hope St and delivered during Melbourne’s lockdowns.

With the book launching next month, Bouhadana joined us on Broadsheet: Around Town to chat about her family’s Jewish traditions and how they shape her recipes. She also shared her top tips for hosting a dinner party and the snacks and sauces she keeps stocked in her pantry.

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On her family’s influence on her recipes

I grew up with Friday-night Shabbat dinners, that was the thing I looked forward to the most during the week. When I would finish school, I would be excited to get home and watch my mum and my grandmother come together and cook, and I would just watch or maybe help a little setting the table.

A lot of those dishes that I grew up eating are in the book. The menu at Hope St and a lot of other little dishes in the book reflect that, in the sense that I’ve tried to turn them into dishes that you can eat at a restaurant. They’re family-forward and they’re based on tradition and heritage, but you can also elevate them and eat them for a dinner party or at a restaurant. So, the book has chicken soup with matzah balls in it and North African spicy fish and couscous, but it also has fresh pasta with broad beans and ragu that has mortadella in the base and prosciutto.

On the essential items she keeps in her pantry

I always have pickled things in my fridge – like pickled radishes, or pickled chillies or pickled cucumbers – just because they’re a fun thing to put out if my mum stops by or a neighbour or friend stops by to eat something. I’ll always put out something pickled. I always have things to add extra flavour, like a bottle of soy sauce or ponzu. I love using them to add extra saltiness, but subtle saltiness, to a dressing or marinade.

Also, colatura di alici, which is a fermented anchovy oil. I always have that in the fridge. That’s an extra little fishy number to put into a pasta or a marinade. And I always have wine in the fridge and stock to add extra flavour. Of course, tinned fish is always in my pantry and spices like cumin, baharat and really good olive oil. I also love vinegars, so a good collection of wine vinegars. I could go on!

On how to (calmly) host a dinner party

My tip would be, and the way I’ve learned to go about it, is writing out a menu that makes sense to the night and staying in that lane. Although I did grow up watching Shabbat dinner be really beautiful, it was also stressful seeing how all the mums would make like 25 dishes for the main course. I’ve really tried to move away from that idea, to rather making the one dish for main that feels exciting to you and dramatic to your guests.

So I think: streamline the menu, write it all out before, have your glass of wine, write a prep list and tick it off as you go. That’s something I’ve learnt from the kitchen. I can enjoy the cooking process a lot more that way. But don’t have too many dishes. Just keep it to a couple of things that you’re excited about.