AFTER the success of their first three books, the Monday Morning Cooking Club sisterhood comprising Lisa Goldberg, Merelyn Frank Chalmers, Natanya Eskin and Jacqui Israel recently released their latest book, Now For Something Sweet, and it’s a delightful sugar overload.
“There is something about the Jewish community and cakes,” says Goldberg. “I don’t know what it is, but when I think about going to my aunties’ houses, there was always cake on the counter. If someone is celebrating an occasion, someone will bake a cake.
“If someone is feeling sick, someone brings chicken soup – and a cake. If someone passes away, someone brings a cake.
Cakes are such a big part of our culture and tradition.”
Among the many recipes in the book are a series of Pesach approved recipes for more inexperienced cooks, and other more challenging ones to push the confident chefs into new territory. The simplest Pesach recipe, Goldberg suggests, is probably macaroons – and it’s one of the few recipes that the Monday Morning Cooking Club women have created themselves.
“I grew up eating chocolate macaroons from the tin. I think the brand was Manischewitz,” remarks Goldberg. “My mother bought them in Melbourne, these chewy chocolate macaroons, so we wanted to make our own version of it.”
With each recipe, there is often a nostalgic story attached.
“I think the trademark of the Monday Morning Cooking Club is the story that is often told with the recipe,” says Goldberg.
“We might tell the story of the person who gave us the recipe. Our idea and our aim has always been to provide a snapshot of a community, so people read it and understand migration and hardship and survival, and also the good stories of love, connection, family, friendship around the family table and the Shabbat table, the festivals.
“Our books tell that story well because you get a real sense of a community obviously obsessed with food, but also equally committed to connection and family. That’s a really big part of our community.”
After trawling through hundreds of recipes, the Monday Morning Cooking Club women “ended up with a handful of Jewish, mostly Israeli cooks, with really unique recipes we hadn’t seen before”, Goldberg comments.
“We have a collection of recipes that we have taken from Australia, and a bit of the world, and we’ve tested and tasted them, and then curated the collection very carefully and tweaked it where needed.
“We have come out with a collection of 115 recipes that we absolutely love.”
While searching for recipes that met Pesach restrictions and also delighted the tastebuds, a sweet delicacy the women salivated over was charoset ice-cream.
“It’s from an American cook, who was in our last book as well,” Goldberg explains. “She went to Israel and had Ben and Jerry’s charoset ice-cream, and decided to recreate her own version. It has apples, dates, figs, Pesach wine and cinnamon in an ice-cream.”
As preparations for an unusual Pesach this year are underway, Goldberg is one of many readying her kitchen and her family for a different kind of seder.
“I’ve never made my own seder because I’ve always gone to Melbourne to spend it with family there,” says Goldberg.
“My mother always makes a veal brisket with a big slab of potato rosti, it’s a Polish thing,” she adds, remembering her seders in years gone by. This year, she hopes to recreate her mother’s recipe in her own family home.
Goldberg explains the recipe requires a particular cut of veal which – in ordinary times – would be relatively straightforward to source, but the unique set of circumstances surrounding this year’s seder make it harder to come by.
“If I can’t find the cut I need, I will make some version of the veal brisket,” Goldberg assures herself, before her mind moves onto the next dish requiring consideration.
“What about the gefilte fish?” she queries. “The only time I made it was for the second [Monday Morning Cooking Club] book. We have Natanya’s mother’s recipe in the book. I’ve always left it to other people. Do I make it this year?”
Stepping out of our cooking comfort zones is an essential ingredient for Pesach this year, when adherence to tradition and the forming of new memories will coalesce to create a novel experience.
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“People who haven’t cooked seders before are going to have to do it for the first time. I am sure everyone will go back to their childhood and the seders they had, or the seders they had last year and recreate those traditions,” Goldberg comments.
“This year will create a tradition for another year – in future, people will say, ‘Remember that year we had a seder for five?’ And that will be a lasting memory.”
This year might present a different kind of Pesach, but thanks to the Monday Morning Cooking Club, it will still be a very sweet one.
Now For Something Sweet is published by HarperCollins, $49.99 (rrp). Visit mondaymorningcookingclub.com.au/the-books.