Cookbook road test: Cherish – Food to Make for the People You Love
Author Anne Shooter’s Jewish family-feasting recipes are the inspiration for this, her second cookbook. Shooter’s family background is largely Ashkenazi, with Russian and Polish roots, but the recipes are from countries throughout the Jewish diaspora, such as Spain, Italy, Morocco and beyond.
There are recipes too from her trips to Israel, where her husband’s family is from, and many come straight from her mum’s and gran’s kitchens.
“I’m excellent at choosing dishes with a high deliciousness-to-effort ratio,” writes the author, and a quick flick through the recipe titles and ingredients lists confirms this isn’t a book dedicated to old-fashioned brown food. There are classics such as salt beef, chicken soup with kneidlach dumplings, gefilte fish and so on, yet there are decidedly more exotic dishes such as Ethiopian doro wat (a spicy chicken stew), spongy Yemenite pancakes called lachoch, and lamb in coriander sauce – a recipe from the Indian Jewish community in Cochin.
There are lots of chicken dishes – a whole chapter, in fact (the author’s grandad was a poulterer) – as well as time-saving one-pan meals, plenty of vegetarian recipes and a collection of indulgent cakes and bakes.
Quality of the recipes
With such a broad range of recipes from so many corners of the world, choosing just two wasn’t easy, but I settled on one from Italy and another from London. Anne’s introduction to frisinsal, a dish from Venice’s Jewish community, explains that it’s traditionally served in a round serving dish to symbolise the wheels of the Pharaoh’s chariots, harking back to the Biblical story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. The fleeing Israelites safely crossed the Red Sea with Moses, while the waves closed on the pursuing Pharaoh’s army (some sources say the tagliatelle symbolises the waves of the Red Sea and the pine nuts the heads of the Egyptian horses…).
It was the Venetian flavourings of pine nuts and raisins (and the wheel story) that tempted me to give the dish a spin. This version calls for meatballs made from beef or chicken (I used the latter) and either leftover roast chicken or salami, cut into pieces (again, I used the latter, not having a roast chicken to hand). Despite the colourful history, the dish was dry and lacked oomph. The recipe suggests coating the pasta in either the pan juices from a freshly roasted chicken or 4 tbsp olive oil. I used the oil and I felt the results didn’t sing.
Hampstead Garden Suburb chicken, on the other hand, sang like a whole choir. “It’s one of those recipes that is absolutely foolproof yet looks and tastes extremely impressive,” says the intro. And so it was. So-called because it was the dinner-party dish of choice in 1970s north London, it’s flavoured with lemon, capers, olives, prunes, cinnamon, bay and coriander – and is no shrinking violet. I was uncertain about the 60g sugar sprinkled over the chicken before the whole lot gets baked in the oven, but it gave the dish balance and a subtle caramel richness.
Photography and design
The photography and styling are vibrant although a couple of the dishes look a bit singed round the edges. There’s no shortage of colour from herbs and other colourful ingredients, and from the well chosen props and textiles.
Who’s the book suitable for?
The focus here is on practical, family-friendly dishes that are achievable without too much fuss, and the book delivers on that score. The recipes are straightforward to cook and the majority will reward effort with generous platefuls of food that’s rich in flavour as well as heritage.