JUST ADD LOVE IS LAUNCHED!
Finally - a recipe again! And for cheesecake… mmm, cheeseacke…
I haven’t written much here because I’ve been busy talking to you directly, if you’re in Australia, at various book events, and media interviews.
It’s been a packed trip, full of fun, connection - and love. Amazing.
There were tears and laughter at all these Just Add Love events - and a real magic in the room each time.
The interviewers - Geraldine Doogue, Ellen Fanning, and Dani Valent - were as fascinated as I was by the life stories of these remarkable women. How lovely it is to accord older women respect and to tell ‘herstory’ and not just ‘history’!
And best of all, how extraordinary to have so many of the women attending these events with their families.
I have to pause here to say how grateful I am that I was able to attend the 100th birthday of Lena Goldstein, whose story opens the Just Add Love cookbook; and how honoured I was that Lena and her family attended both of the main Sydney book events.
And how sad it makes me that Lena passed away last month, just 10 days after the Just Add Love book launch. I have written about her at length in the book, of course and on this website (link here.)
Please read her story. Apart from her family, it was the most important thing she had - perhaps that’s true of all of us, but Lena acknowledged it openly.
What a privilege it was to know her. And how lucky I am that this project, and this book, introduced us. I know that her memory is already blessed.
The book launch in Melbourne was also attended by Survivors and their families. They were almost as happy to be there as I was to see them!
Sarah Saaroni - whose cheesecake recipe we are sharing today - said frankly that she wasn’t overly optimistic when I first called and asked her to participate.
“But she was so determined and now she has finished me the book and it is the most beautiful book I have ever seen! I think every home in Australia should have one!”
You can see why I may have to bring Sarah Saaroni to every event I do in the future :-)
Henry Greener recorded the Melbourne launch for his show The shtick - you can see part 2 here below - or all 3 parts here.
BACK IN ISRAEL, IT’S SUMMER… AND THAT MEANS CHEESECAKE …
In Israel the festival of ‘Shavuot’ marks the beginning of summer and it is known mostly for a vegetarian dinner table, filled with cheeses and ending with a triumphal cheesecake. Ah yes, a holiday built on cheesecake is a fine thing.
It does also have religious significance, with a biblical story based around women's lives and focused also on the treatment of migrants and refugees; but right now, if you’re looking for a recipe, cheesecake is top of the agenda!
Here are 2 recipes: the Classic Cheesecake, dense and delicious, and also a small personalised sweet cheese morsel, baked on a vine-leaf, more like a hint of cheesecake … if you can stop at one.
YOUR OWN CHEESECAKE ON A LEAF
This recipe is a riff on the falculella, which sounds like an Italian curse, but is in fact a Corsican pastry, or a cheese sweet, really since there is no pastry at all.
It's made with Brocciu, the island’s white sheep cheese, beaten with sugar, eggs and lemon rind and baked on a chestnut leaf.
There are no chestnut trees in Jerusalem – or at least, not around my village – but vineleaves are abundant. So I picked some that were hanging over a friend’s wall.
You don’t eat the leaf, it’s only a ‘plate’, but if you can think of a suitable edible leaf to use in Australia, please let me know.
Ricotta is perhaps the closest cheese to brocciu, although the Corsican cheese – actually made from the whey, not the curd - has a stronger taste. I haven’t been able to find good ricotta in Jerusalem, so I tried ‘tvorog’ from a Russian deli – like Australian farm cheese, or American farmer’s cheese - which worked a treat.
1 lb/ 500 g white sheeps’ cheese, (or farm cheese, farmer’s cheese or ‘tvorog’)
100 g or scant ½ cup sugar
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons flour or semolina flour (around 50 g)
grated rind 1 lemon or ½ orange
20 vine leaves, rinsed and dried
1. You want the mixture to be as firm as possible, so that it doesn’t spill over the leaf.
Tip: If you are using soft cheese eg ricotta, it's a good idea to leave it to drain over a sieve overnight.
2. Rinse the vine leaves in cold water and then leave them to dry. You don’t need to boil them.
3. In a bowl, break up the cheese with a fork or spoon. DON’T use an electric mixer of any kind, it will make it too liquid. Keep it simple! Add the sugar, eggs, semolina flour and lemon rind. Mix.
4. Put mixture in fridge for 10 minutes to firm up. Turn the oven on high: 425 F / 220 C or 200 C fan-forced.
5. Place leaves, shiny side up, onto an oven tray. No need to spray with oil, the leaf peels off easily without. Place a large spoonful of the mixture on the centre of each leaf. The thicker it is, the more you can use, and more is better, but beware, it will spread.
6. Bake in hot oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch. You want it brown, not burnt!
In Corsica they brush the finished cakes with sugar syrup – made by boiling up 100 g / 1/2 cup sugar with 100 ml / scant 1/2 cup water. I didn’t feel it was necessary, but do it if you like it sweeter.
VERDICT: These are wonderful – tiny but perfect! There is not too much sugar, so they are light, tangy and very easy to eat. A lovely one person morsel, more like a friand or a tiny muffin. Best eaten the same day.
The grandmothers in this project, and especially for some reason the Polish-born grandmothers, are great cheesecake bakers. This recipe is from Sarah Saaroni.
“I was a great baker. I baked all the cakes at both my children’s weddings,” Sarah Saaroni says with her magical smile.
When Sarah had turned 90, she gave me this recipe, just off the top of her head, and also handed over her last pack of “kase kuchen hilfe” – literally cheesecaker helper - a European secret something they add to stabilise a cheesecake so it doesn’t fall too far as it cools. You can also use pudding mix or cornflour for this job.
Sarah also swims and gardens and grows her own veges - she's who you want to be in your ninth decade!
Sarah's Polish Cheesecake
Makes a large cake. You can halve the quantities for a smaller cake.
1 kg white cheese - farm cheese, farmer’s cheese or Russian ‘tvorog’
8 eggs at room temperature
250 g sour cream or butter
1 ½ cups sugar
juice half a lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding mix or cornflour (or ‘Kasekuchen Hilfe’)
Handful of raisins, soaked in rum or brandy
optional: ½ teaspoon orange flower water
1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C degrees. Prepare cake tin, making sure it’s well buttered and has flour or bread crumbs on the bottom. Soak raisins in 1 - 2 tablespoon rum or brandy.
2. Beat the cheese in a food processor or using a potato ricer. Do not do this in the main bowl of the mix-master, you will be using it for the eggs soon. Set aside.
3. You can use either butter or sour cream. If you are using butter, melt over a low heat and set aside to cool a little.
4. Now to the cake. Separate eggs. Beat egg whites till stiff, set aside.
5. Put egg yolks into the bowl of a mix master. Add sugar, a pinch of salt, vanilla paste and lemon juice and cream until fluffy, about 5 minutes. In Poland, this egg custard is called ‘Goggle Moggle’. It’s ready when it has doubled in size and has reached the custard, or mayonnaise, stage. Add the beaten farm cheese. Add pudding powder or cornflour - or German ‘cheescake helper’ if you’re lucky enough to have some - and melted butter or sour cream. When the mixtures is smooth, mix in raisins by hand.
6. Lastly, carefully fold in beaten egg whites by hand. Pour into prepared cake tin. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes. Do not open the oven until the cheese cake is ready. But do check – through the glass - after 40 minutes in case it is getting too brown on top. If it is, turn the oven down slightly. When ready take cheese cake out of the oven and set it aside to cool.
And finally - a big shoutout to everyone who helped along the way.
You are too many to mention individually, starting with all the generous supporters of our Kickstarter campaign, then moving on to the book’s photographer, David Mane and its graphic designer, Amanda Hampel, then all the hardworking folk at Melbourne publisher, Black Inc, including of course its founder Morry Schwartz, and all those who organised these events, including friends who had them in their homes.
Everyone was put to work - including family and one of the book’s covergirls!
Couldn’t have done it without you :-)
As I bake, I miss my family, now far away in Australia.
I hope you have family close by to share the stories and recipes from this book. Remember, you can order it here, via our website. Happy Holidays!