Matzo, tsimmes, haroset, and more… as the One Voice Jewish Street festival returns, with double the festivities as it is just two weeks before Pesach or Passover
The famous Jewish obsession with food and gastronomy is always on display at the annual In One Voice Jewish street festival in Elsternwick, but this year it will gain even greater prominence due to the festival’s proximity to Pesach (Passover). The festival on Sunday, 18 March, less than two weeks before Pesach which this year starts on 30 March.
Pesach is one of the most important Jewish holidays, commemorating the liberation of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt under the leadership of Moses. According to the Old Testament, they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. In commemoration, no leavened bread is eaten, with matzo often substituted.
Festival director Judith Weizman said that the popular Nosh Tent would be featuring Pesach food.
“With Pesach less than two weeks away, we’ve called on cooks from all corners of the world, modern and traditional, to get the juices flowing with demonstrations and tastings galore. Think matzo brei, tsimmes, haroset, boiled eggs… and still more things to do with matzo,” she said.
Indian Jews, Ken and Esther Daniels, who have won lots of fans at the Nosh Tent over the past two years, will demonstrate their special Indian-style date haroset. In the Jewish tradition, haroset is a Pesach dish most often with fruit and nuts to symbolise the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
“Our recipe is centuries old, handed down from generation to generation. Dates are soaked overnight in water and then cooked on the stove for a very long time. The dates are then strained through a cheese cloth and then go back onto the stove until the mixture is thick and glossy. It can sometimes be garnished with cinnamon and nuts. We eat it with matzo,” Esther said.
“In the past, back at home in India, the women would communally get together before Pesach and make shmura matzo. But more recently, matzo has been freely available. In the Bene Israel/Sephardic tradition, rice is also allowed but our family prefers not to eat it as Pesach.”
Jews settled in India, probably in the year 175 BCE, after being shipwrecked off the coast of Mumbai. Other Jewish migrants settled in and around Mumbai in the eighteenth century and then in a few other places. They are known as Bene Israel (‘Sons of Israel’).
“The Jewish community lost its scriptures in the shipwreck but we kept Kosher, circumcised our baby boys, said the Shema and kept the Sabbath as a day of rest. We also maintained other customs such as wearing white on Yom Kippur. Our scriptures were restored to us in the 1700s. We experienced no anti-Semitism in India. The Hindus made us very welcome, as did the Muslims,” Esther said.
It is estimated that there were 6,000 Bene Israel in the 1830s, 10,000 at the turn of the twentieth century, and 20,000 in 1948, at the peak. Since then, most of the population has migrated to Israel, the USA, Canada, England and Australia but there are still eight synagogues in Mumbai.
Dani Valent, award-winning writer, eater, traveller and cook, and, restaurant critic for The Sunday Age, will demonstrate a whole new take on matzo balls (kneydlech) using a Thermomix.
Valent, who has written three Thermomix cookbooks, says her matzo ball recipe has taken inspiration from other cuisines, including Vietnamese pho and Chinese dumplings.
“I am on a mission to connect the Melbourne Jewish community to other communities,” Valent said. “Even if, like me, you don’t go to synagogue, Pesach is a great excuse to get together and eat a lot of fabulous food with your family. I love Pesach, particularly the sense of renewal it brings. And what a great story!!
“Like Lunar New Year, Pesach is an easy festival for everyone to access—and we Australians are pretty good at connecting to other cultures through food.”
Even as a professional cook and culinary expert, Valent says that there is nothing like her mother’s chicken soup.
The Daniels will be joined by Aloma Treister who will introduce the crowd to some Iraqi-style haroset recipes (including one with date syrup) and by Helen Mizrachi will demonstrate how to cook tsimme, a traditional Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jewish superfood (think prunes and veggies), according to her mother’s own recipe (to make “big tsimmes” over something” means taking a huge fuss, perhaps because of all the slicing, mixing, and stirring that go into its preparation).
A big feature of the day is the impact Pesach Bake-Off Competition which anyone can enter. Pastry Chef Pierrick, the 2017 Pastry Chef of the Year, will judge the best flourless Pesach cake and baked desserts.
“The key ingredients I look for in a winning cake or baked dessert are texture, taste, freshness and the overall experience,” he said.
Perrick is offering first prize—a 2-3+ hour cooking class for the winner and friend (check out http://www.pierrickboyer.com/)
Home cooks stand to win other fabulous prizes including cookbooks, a hamper from the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice-creamery, Classic Cinema tickets, soda stream machines, a Matzo plate from Ruby’s Gifts and salad servers.
The Bake-Off benefits impact, a volunteer-run organisation providing assistance to women and children fleeing extreme violence at home. To enter go to www.impactforwomen.org.au.
Food at In One Voice Food is being supplied this year by Kosher food trucks – Bites on Wheels, Bretzel.biz, Cocofrio, Corn Kid, Howzit Brew, Mama Falafel, Naughty Frenchy, Passionate Catering, Real OG Burgers, and Savion Bakery.
The In One Voice Jewish street festival is presented by the Kadimah Jewish Cultural Centre and National Library and SKIF.