Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Amazing concert: Avraham Fried and Dudu Fisher

When was the last time you went to a really good concert? A concert that simply blew you away?
I go to concerts all too rarely. I am just not interested enough most of the time to go to the effort of buying tickets to see acts that I am not passionate about. But on Sunday Dad, Marc and I attended a charity concert with Dudu Fisher and Avraham Fried, two renouned Jewish performers.

Dudu Fisher has a distinguished singingbackground, having trained classically. In addition to his traditional Jewish singing, he was also asked to come from Israel to play Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on the London stage and on Broadway. He was delighted but stated that he would be unable to perform on theatre's busiest nights: Saturday and Friday nights. This is because he observes the Jewish Sabbath, during which there is a prohibition on work (amongst many other things). It is so noble to my mind to potentially jeopardise such an astounding career for one's religious conviction: that is the sort of person I would like to be. Believe it or not, he was offered the part irrespective. He has a deep beautiful voice and sings traditional religious music, sometimes in Yiddish.

Avraham Fried is a Chabad Chassid, part of a chassidic orthodox Jewish movement that was led by the great Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He is a singer of great repute, a cantor who sings chazzanut (synagogue music, which is very emotional and makes even secular Jews cry sometimes). In addition, he sings Jewish orthodox pop - a style of music influenced by pop, rock and jazz, with lyrics that reflect the Jewish faith. He is SUCH an energetic performer, and true love of his faith emanates from his face. He has an indescribable joie de vivre, a glowing smile. He truly believes that his mission in life, his schlichus, is to bring people closer to their faith and to bring them joy through music. He is very famous and successful yet absolutely humble - I would go so far as to say sweet.

What can I say? This performance blew me away with its energy and intensity. I left the theatre so happy. Jewish music, klezmer, the violet and clarinet, the dancing of the rabbis - it just speaks to my soul, to something deep within me that, wherever I am in the world and whoever I am with, in whatever circustance I find myself, reminds me of who I am and of my place in the world. I feel so blessed to be a Jewish woman.

Not sure how to to post a clip but here's a YouTube link for anyone interested in hearing a bit of Avraham Fried. I'm not sure how much of it will 'translate' but we'll see!


Monday, 15 June 2009

Time out and cheesecake

I can't believe how long I have left it since posting. These little guilt-ridden introductions are so boring, I know, but for me this past month has been crucial. Crucial and vital in so many ways. I have been: talking about my future, building a dream with Marc, talking honestly about our future, arranging classes with our Rabbi, spending time with old friends who it is shameful I haven't seen more often, interviewing, cooking, reading and entertaining no end. In short, I have been rushing through the weekends, running from one place to another with very little time to spare. I have been living, and it feels exhilarating and just great.

But I did not forget this blog and I've taken photos the whole time so, now that I'm back, slowly slowly I can tell you about what I've been up to. I'm excited to share lots of developments with you.

Where to begin?

Cake is always a good place to start. About a month ago now it was the Jewish festival of Shavuot. Shavuot is really the end of Passover, the period that marks the end of the Jews' escape from Egypt, and the time that they received the Torah. It is a big celebration! A celebration that involves all things dairy, notably blintzes (sweet pancakes with a sweet cheese filling) and cheesecake.

Why, you might ask?

Well there isn't one reason, but one of the reasons is that it was at this time that the Jews received the Kosher dietary laws, amongst which is the rule that one must not eat milk and meat together. The Jews were unprepared, their dishes had been used for the preparation of both foods simultaneously and they had to start from scratch. Any person 'building' their first Kosher kitchen will tell you that it is much easier to have a milchig (milky) kitchen than a fleischig (meaty) one. So they started with dairy products, hence cheesecake (let's face it, anything else wouldn't be calorific enough to cut it to true heroic Jewish holiday status).

And so it came to pass that I made my very first cheesecake. I entrusted Marcy Goldman with this effort, and I was not disappointed. I tweaked the recipe a little, adding a little more flour than she recommended, more lemon, and I omitted the cherry glaze for real strawberries and it was a big hit.

It is true, cheesecake is really easy to make and once you make one it is difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. But shhhh, don't tell anyone. We want to perpetuate the idea that we are wondrous wondrous ladies for being able to conjure up such a delicacy!

Here's the recipe!

Graham Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 tightly packed brown sugar
pinch ground cinnamon

Cheesecake batter

2 pounds cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 can/10 ounces double cream
1/4 cup flour


fresh strawberries
a few tablespoons of jam and water


Preheat oven t0 325degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For Graham Crust: Toss graham crumbs, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together in the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan and press firmly into pan bottom. Place on prepared baking sheet.

For Cheesecake Batter, in a mixer bowl blend cream cheese with sugar until well blended. Add eggs and the next 5 ingredients and blend well, still on low speed, about 5 minutes until totally smooth. Pour into springform pan and place in oven. Bake until just set, about 60 to 70 minutes.

Leave to cool and then refrigerate for about 8 hours.

Top with freshly cut strawberries, then put few tablespoons of clear jam in a glass and add a small amount of boiling water. Mix until you have a smooth fairly runny mixture, then brush on using a pastry brush.