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Larah Bross of Bross Bagels shares family recipes to celebrate the opening of her deli in St James Quarter

These traditional Jewish recipes are comfort food staples

Published: January 7, 2022
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"Cooking and eating have always been a big topic of conversation in my life. At home, and indeed in most Jewish families, we would be enjoying our food while talking about what we’d be eating next.

And indeed, everything could be fixed with food. Growing up, my mother had a recipe for every possible problem, from skinned knees to dead pets. Staples in her culinary medicine cabinet were matzah ball soup, latkes, challah bread picked up fresh from our closest Jewish deli, and of course the humble bagel topped with various delicious things, specific to whatever your particular problem was.

Those dishes are my comfort foods. When I opened the first Bross Bagels shop in Portobello in 2017, I wanted to offer some of the Jewish foods I enjoyed growing up and give them a bit of a twist.

So, as we hit January, and the post festive blues hit, this selection of recipes should bring a ‘hole’ lot of joy to the table. And while you eat them, I hope you’ll be talking about what you want to eat next".

Bross Bagels have opened their fifth branch in the capital with Bross Deli in St James Quarter, www.brossbagels.com

Loaded latkes

The key to making the best latkes is to always grate the potato, onion and apple by hand, and as finely as you possibly can. Bubbie (my grandma) used to always say if there wasn’t blood in your latkes, they weren’t good enough. When we opened our first shop in Portobello, we had latkes on the menu in some of our bagels. “Latke!? What’s that?!” I’d get asked by locals. “It’s like a Jewish hash brown”. ‘Aye I’ll take two!’.

Serves 4

Kwoklyn Wan's crispy chilli tofu recipe from his new book 10-Minute Chinese Takeaway

750g of potatoes, washed and peeled

1 onion

¼ of an apple

2 eggs

Recipe: Food blogger Rosella Petta’s Lobster linguine in a Valentian Vermouth bisque

3 tbsp matzo meal

4-5 tbsp of oil

Pinch of salt and pepper

1 Grate the potatoes, onion and apple. Mix and squeeze out the water. You can use a clean tea towel to wrap the mix in and squeeze out the liquid if you prefer.

Loaded cauliflower cheese recipe from the new Pinch of Nom book

2 Meanwhile, lightly whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl, season, then add the matzo meal and continue mixing.

3 Add the mix to your potatoes, onion and apple and mix together.

4 Latkes are made in batches, so heat half of the oil in a pan.

5 Take a loaded dessert dessert spoon of the mixture, then round with your hands slightly, before placing in the pan and patting out with your spoon.

6 Cook the latkes until they are golden brown and crisp on one side, then flip them over, and do the other side. Place on a tray or plate, while you cook up the second batch, adding more oil when needed.

7 Serve with lox, cream cheese and chives or apples and sour cream.

Latkes

Matzah ball soup

This is known as Jewish penicillin – a traditional soul-warming soup. There was always a pot of it cooking at home when I was growing up, filling the air with scents of warming chicken and sweet dill, and I’ve kept that going with my own family too. This was an easy one to add to our menu at the Deli, as I’ve always been so used to making enough soup to feed the entire street. The first time I introduced matzah ball soup to my partner Marc’s family, his dad ate so much, he couldn’t eat anything else. I’m still reminded of how I ruined that dinner, but I’m secretly pleased, as second helpings in our house was always a good thing.

Serves 8

1 whole free-range chicken

3 medium onions, peeled and rustically chopped

3 carrots, peeled and rustically chopped

3 parsnips, peeled and rustically chopped

130g matzo meal (if you can’t get hold of it, use matzo crackers, blitzed to a fine powder)

3 sticks of celery, chopped

4 large free-range eggs

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

Three handfuls of fresh dill, and an additional tablespoon, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 Place your chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat to a simmer for around half an hour.

2 Add the chopped onions, carrots, parsnips, celery, garlic and handfuls of dill and season. Bring everything back to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave to simmer for 1 hour.

3 Skim the broth every so often and reserve about four tablespoons of fat for your matzah balls before allowing it to cool. My mum used to tell me to throw this away but it adds so much flavour.

4 After an hour remove the chicken and let it cool. Pull or shred all of the meat from the bone, and place it back in the pot to simmer

5 Meanwhile, to make the matzah balls, beat the eggs in a large bowl together with 70ml of cold water, the cooled down chicken fat, the matzo meal, seasoning, and chopped tablespoon of dill, then mix together to create a smooth paste.

6 Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for around half an hour, then remove the dough from the fridge. Warm your hands slightly before you begin to mould this mixture into around 20 small balls. They will increase in size as you cook them so don’t worry about them being smaller when you roll them.

7 Add your balls to the pot with the soup, place the lid on and simmer for around 20 minutes. You can tell they are ready when you can see the balls are light and fluffy, and they bounce back up. Spoon into bowls.

Bross Deli, St James Quarter
Bross Deli, St James Quarter

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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