A few weeks ago I had the privilege to be a volunteer at Gefiltefest, the Jewish Food Festival. Now in its third year, the festival encompasses all things Jewish and foodie; it is multi-denominational with an ethical/ sustainable ethos. Through the course of volunteering I met some incredible people, including an 87-year-old camp survivor with buckets of energy who spends her time creating food redistribution networks, and a guy who brews his own booze to barter with people for scrap at building sites.
I also co-presented a session about Ruchot Community Café – a non-profit kosher, vegetarian café, based around ethical food choices and sustainability, run entirely by volunteers. I am normally pretty shy so this was a massive deal for me, but it went really well. My main pitch went something along the lines of the Jewish mother concept of ‘FOOD=LOVE’ or rather, “I will feed you because I love you, and if you love me you had better eat.” Somehow I think a lot of us have lost sight of the LOVE, and having a grassroots community where the people are empowered to take ownership of the source of their food and what they are going to do with it, is a really good place to start. Please message me if you are interested in learning more about Ruchot Community Café, or want to get involved (grassroots communities exist for those who take part).
The logo of Gefiltefest is an aubergine. I’m not really sure how, but aubergines have become as firmly entrenched in Jewish food culture as chicken soup and latkes – somehow if you don’t know at least 100 ways to cook them, you aren’t really a Jewish cook. I am sure that someone with a better knowledge of Jewish law/history could come up with something about the aubergine’s versatility, or the way it has travelled throughout the world, but I am more concerned with this – they are TASTY!
This dish is a variation on the Korean aubergine recipe mentioned in my previous post in the section about the Madhur Jaffrey vegetarian cookbook. I had forgotten about how nice it was until I started flicking through the book again. The original recipe was quite involved, and so in my typical lazy style I have simplified it – still really delicious though.
Serves 2 or 3 as a side dish, multiply as needed
1 aubergine, cut into whatever shape takes your fancy (mine were rectangles about 4cm by 1.5cm)
1 onion, preferably red, sliced into thin rings
1 clove garlic, crushed quite finely
100ml hot water
2 heaped tsp miso paste (it doesn’t seem like a lot but miso is powerful stuff and the taste really comes through. I used a golden yellow one – the dark brown ones tend to be stronger, so use your own judgement for quantities)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sake (dry rice wine)
2 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Flavourless cooking oil
Heat the oil in a large frying pan (that has a lid) and start frying the onion and aubergine pieces on a medium-ish heat, turning every now and again to make sure that the onions aren’t sticking and everything is getting a good colour. After 5-10 minutes, add the garlic.
While the aubergine is frying combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl or jug and mix well.
After the garlic has been in the pan for a couple of minutes, add the sauce. Give everything a stir, put the lid on and turn the heat down to a simmer. Let this cook down for at least 30 minutes, stirring every now and again. It is ready when it has cooked right down, the sauce is thickened and the aubergines are gloriously silky and sweet.