I grew up in a completely secular, non-practising but crazily Yiddishe Jewish family. A sort of group love child of Richard Dawkins and Maureen Lipman. The traditional Friday night Shabbat meal involved a great deal of food, a minimal number of blessings, some more food, Nana simultaneously watching ‘Corrie’ on the box whilst eating lokshen pudding, and Papa reminiscing about his grazed-kneed childhood in Hackney. Topped of with a piece of baked cheesecake and a lemon tea.
My mother would always make amazing, hamishe feasts for Shabbat: eggy challah, chopped liver, golden chicken soup with fluffy globules of kneidlach, gedempte chicken and meatballs… So suffused was our Essex dinner table with historic dishes bubbling over from the old Jewish world that we would go to bed and dream of golems moulded from matzo meal.
In an attempt to gedempte, and recreate one of those delicious Arcadian, homely meals for my family this evening, I called Mum this morning to ask for her ‘Gedempte Chicken and Meatballs and Gravy Potatoes’ recipe. The conversation went a little like this:
Mum – “Do you have a shissel?”
Me (boasting) – “Do I have a shissel. I have an AGA and THE best shissel.”
Mum – “Well, there you go.”
And here is the recipe.
Challah – traditional, slightly sweet plaited bread baked for the sabbath
Gedempte – slowly cooked/stewed
Golem – an animated anthropomorphic being in Jewish folklore
Haimishe – homely
Kneidlach – dumplings made with matzo meal and egg
Lokshen – noodles
Matzo Meal – powder ground matzah (traditional Jewish unleavened bread. Basically a cracker.)
Shabbat – the Jewish sabbath
Shissel – a cooking pot