I might have guessed this would happen. The airline we're all flying with to Israel has cancelled the route from January. Urghhh!
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Marc says I shouldn't contemplate it. Rachel planted the seed in my mind. Emily suggested I rename the blog 'Pen, Paper and Wedding Cake'. On some days I think it'd be cool. On others I think: 'that's one thing I don't need to add to my plate'. Except it is, clearly. Mmmmm.
I want to!
But, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that there are added complications:
(1) Our wedding is strictly Kosher. Since we'll be serving meat, the cake can't have butter in it.
(2) I'm leaving for Israel a week before the wedding and in Israel we don't have a working oven. Any cake I make will have to be transported from London and decorated sur place. This means I need a cake that will keep well for at least a week.
What does this leave me with? A non-dairy boozy fruit cake! Do any of you have a recipe for this random concoction? The research starts here.
I'd just feel such a phenomenal sense of pride if I could make my own cake! It's my thing, and in Israel cake ceremonies are rare, so it'd be special (as would be serving an English fruit cake!).
So tell it to me straight: am I crazy to want to make my own cake? I really want to know what you think!
I love Kofte, and all Middle Eastern food! Kofte are a staple food in Turkey: meat patties, shaped in a variety of ways and seasoned with spices that evoke markets and the warmth of that region. They are succulent and fragrant, served with salad, some pitta bread and dips (hummous, baba ganoush etc). They're a great party snack as well. I thought I'd give these a try and I have to say, I think they're terrific! I followed a recipe, but found that the taste wasn't strong enough for me, so I adjusted things. By all means tinker with the below to your taste. You can always fry a small amount of the mix and taste before you fry the whole lot!
400g of lamb mince
1 handful of chopped fresh mint
2 handfuls of chopped fresh parsley
1 onion, diced very finely
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 egg (beaten)
1. Put the lamb in a mixer and beat for about 30 seconds, to make it finer.
2. Stir in all the ingredients.
3. Mix with your hands.
4. Shape the batter into thick almond shapes (see photos below) or any other shape you wish.
4. These are probably best cooked on a bbq, but they can also be fried in a bit of oil (which is what I did).
Monday, 23 November 2009
We're on the cusp of ordering our wedding bands. I have to say, it didn't take us long to figure out what we wanted. When Marc and I first looked at engagement rings, I thought of how a wedding band would go with one. In the Jewish tradition, a wedding band should be smooth and not have diamonds in it, to represent a smooth marriage. It turns out that the first ring I was shown was the right one. I loved it immediately, and it resolves the problem of nothing sitting flush against my engagement ring. It is curved, but in a very subtle way. With my engagement ring you can hardly tell that it is curved at all. I also think it looks dainty on its own.
The thing is (there is always a thing, isn't there, with wedding stuff?) it comes from Tiffany's (it's the Elsa Peretti band). I have looked for an equivalent in every other mainstream jeweller, but couldn't find one. It's so popular to have diamonds in wedding bands now, so there were no plain gently curved bands. Not wanting to pay the Tiffany mark-up we're going to have it made I think, just as Marc did the engagement ring. I hope it comes out ok!
'My' ring in plain platinum
The same ring with diamonds on someone's finger. LOVE the daintiness.
Marc tried on plain platinum bands but didn't like them. He did really fall for this milgrain band though. It looked so good on his finger!
It was so sweet the other day when Marc articulated just what I was thinking: how hard it will be to have the rings in the house without wearing them! We don't live together, so we may have to give each other the other's ring to prevent us from getting tempted to try them on all the time. I can't wait to wear my wedding band!
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Here's the macaroon tutorial I promised.... good luck! They are totally worth it! This is a vanilla recipe and is just delicious. Once you've mastered it the variations are limitless... add raspberry coulis to the centre and colouring to the shell... the world - or should I say the macaroon - is your oyster!
250g ground almonds
450g icing sugar
200g egg whites (which have been left refrigerated for 5 days)
5g vanilla powder (you need a real vanilla pod for optimum flavour)
1. Mix 250g almonds with 450g icing sugar and the vanilla powder, and sieve the mixture so that you end up with a fine powder.
2. Put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixture and beat until white and fluffy. (If you are going to experiment with other flavours and want to add food colouring to the shells, do so at this stage).
3. With a spatula, slowly add the almond-sugar mix to the egg whites and mix in the stand bowl until you have a smooth and somewhat shiny mixture.
4. Scoop this mixture into a piping bag, you will need a tip between size 7 and 10.
5. Rest the tip on the baking tray (covered with parchment paper) and form circles. The mixture should ooze out from the side of the tip (the tip should not be held vertically so that it's in the middle and the circle oozes from around it).
6. Form an even number of circular discs. This may take some practice! At first, your macaroons might be misshapen, but they'll still taste amazing!
7. Put your baking tray on top of two others. It is important to bake your macaroons on a tray that has two others below it for insulation purposes. Then put three trays into an oven at 160 degrees celsius for 12-14 minutes. Rotate about half way through.
8. As soon as you take the upper tray out, pour water in between the parchment paper and the tray using a measuring pot. This helps the macaroons to unstick from the paper.
9. Wait a few minutes, then remove the discs not by immediately lifting but by rotating them so that they come off neatly.
10. Arrange them in rows, flat side up.
75g full fat milk
60g egg whites
200g butter (room temperature)
1 vanilla pod
Boil the milk, the sugar and the contents of the vanilla pod (slice in two, scrape out the filling and add). Mix the egg whites and the sugar. Add the milk and stir at 82 degrees celcius. Cool down by whisking to 30 degrees celsius and add the butter. Beat, then leave in the fridge for about an hour.
Put the filling into a piping bag and pipe the cream onto the middle of half the discs. Then put another disc over the top to create beautiful macaroons.
Try adding fresh raspberries to the cream, or even chocolate. Feel free to experiment - that's how the most magnificent versions came to be!
Please tell me how you got on!
Saturday, 21 November 2009
It's now 190 days till the wedding! That doesn't seem very much time, right around the 6 month mark. I guess we won't have had a very long engagement, but that is how we wanted it. We were together for nearly 4 years before getting engaged. We grew up a lot, talked a lot, decided on a lot of things, so that when we were ready we were ready. And now we just want it to happen already. I never wanted a long engagement because I don't see engagement as the 'next stage' of a relationship. For me, engagement is a state of leading up to marriage. This isn't as common as it used to be I think.
Last night I had another wedding nightmare, except I wasn't that stressed about it. It was the day before the wedding and I had forgotten to order any flowers. I didn't have a bouquet and there would be no centerpieces. We went to a florist, whose version of a bouquet was a bunch of flowers that looked like the kind you get at gas stations. Suitably unimpressed, I said to my mother 'oh well, we'll have to go to the market tomorrow [day of wedding] and I will arrange the flowers myself [note I have no experience in this area]'. I hope I can be that calm on the actual day if things go wrong!
Lately I've been trying to fix the formatting for our programs, which I managed to do, and spent a long time trying to find the right baskets for them. I would like 2 bridesmaids to hand out programs from these right before the ceremony begins. We're touched that a lot of non-Jewish friends are coming, and we'd like them to understand what's going on. I think I finally found the perfect ones for our rustic feel:
I also bought our champagne flutes and cake server. To be honest, I couldn't find many of these that I actually liked. I ended up with the Vera Wang Love Knot set, and I really love them! It's incredibly hard to get a good shot of them for some reason, so here are the official ones.
I'm probably going to get these engraved with our names and wedding date.
So those are a few more details that are taken care of. There's still a huge DIY list to tackle but right now I'm feeling good about everything that needs to be done.
Friday, 20 November 2009
It is just over a year since the Mumbai terrorist attacks which killed so many innocent victims, amongst which were Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg.
I wrote about the effect that this had on me then, and a year on the horror of it hasn't escaped me. The idea that people who were selfless enough to leave behind their lives to set up an outreach centre in Bombai could be killed in such a brutal way defies me, and at the time defied my faith. I needed at the time to let my Chabad friends know that I shared their sorrow. I needed to show my solidarity. They accepted it gracefully but very discreetly. They showed their pain but not their anger. Their acceptance derives from their conviction that such events are a part of G-d's plan. They accept the good and the bad with equal serenity - one which I cannot emulate.
Chabad doctrine states that everything can be made to be a force for good, so this informed their reaction to the tragedy. They mounted an appeal for women to light Shabbos (Sabbath) candles in memory of Rivkah. They asked people to pledge a mitzvah (a good deed).
When the attacks happened it definitely shook my faith, whereas it made theirs and their resolve even stronger.
A year on I am grateful for Sanda, their Indian nanny's, bravery in saving their only son, Moishe. Their older children died from genetic problems, so he is very much a miracle child in more ways than one. Thank G-d that there is a thread of continuity for these young lives lost. I only hope that Moishe will be able to grow up like a normal child as much as possible, and forge his own identity, rather than always being thought of as the child that made the press all over the world, the 'child of' Gavriel and Rivkah rather than a person in his own right. If only there were more people like Sandra, who risked her life to save Moishe as the terrorists were on the roof of the Chabad House.
I will not forget the futility of this terrorist attack. It sickens me to the core. I pray for the families who lost loved ones in Mumbai and am grateful for the freedom that I have thanks to all who are fighting and have fought for us in the past and thanks to people like Sandra - ordinary people who do heroic things all the time without seeking recognition. Thank you.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Marc and I have been casually talking about our honeymoon for some time. We had a number of ideas (Hong Kong and Malaysia, and San Francisco and California road trips, vineyards etc), but none of them seemed to really enthuse us for some reason. That is, until we came up with a few days in San Francisco and a stay in Maui, Hawaii! We both got excited about this idea, so Marc (who's sorting honeymoon stuff out) looked at flights and booked us with United. Ahhh, it's actually happening! We're all booked!
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
I've been starting to think about programs, and I've always known that I want them to include an explanation of the Jewish wedding ceremony for our friends (most of whom aren't Jewish). I want all our guests to have a special experience - to witness something they haven't seen before - and understand what's going on. I started to write up this document, cutting and pasting from www.chabad.org and making my own comments. The first draft text is below. I think Jewish marriage ceremonies are full of meaning and I hope that you enjoy reading about them!
The Jewish marriage ceremony
According to Jewish belief a person’s wedding day is the holiest day of his or her life.
A traditional Jewish wedding is a tapestry woven from many threads: biblical, historical, mystical, cultural and legal. Threads carried from one generation to the next, forming a chain of Jewish continuity which goes back more than 3,800 years.
We are so grateful that you have come all this way to be a part of this special day with us and wanted to provide an explanation of the marriage ceremony, so that you can feel involved and understand its symbolism and significance of the events that will follow.
Before the ceremony begins
Since you arrived and enjoyed your first drinks, Marc and Vanessa have been in separate rooms, each with their closest family members. Traditionally the bride sits on a throne like chair and her close female friends and family come to bless her. At this time the bride is also concentrated in prayer and it is believed that brides have a special ability to bless others on their wedding day.
Badeken Ceremony (veiling of the bride)
Before the ceremony begins, Marc will go to the bridal reception room with his parents, and cover the Vanessa’s face with a veil. The veil affords the bride privacy and emphasises that the groom is not solely interested in his bride's external beauty, which fades with time, but rather in her enduring inner beauty.
When the groom veils his bride, he is saying, "I will love, cherish and respect not only the 'you' which is revealed to me, but also those elements of your personality that are hidden from me. As I am bonding with you in marriage, I am committed to creating a space within me for the totality of your being -- for all of you, all of the time."
The Jewish marriage ceremony takes place beneath an unenclosed canopy (a chuppah), open on all sides. This a demonstration of the couple's commitment to establish a home which will always be open to guests, as was the tent of Abraham and Sarah. Furthermore, a chuppah held under the open heavens symbolizes the couple's resolve to build a household which will be dominated by "heavenly" and spiritual ideals, rather than the pursuit of corporeal accomplishments and physical wealth.
Marc will wait for Vanessa under the chuppah, symbolically inviting her to his domain.
When she reaches the chuppah, Vanessa will circle Marc seven times. This recalls the seven times Joshua and the Israelites circled the walls of Jericho to bring them shattering down. Similarly, this circling is believed to break down any remaining walls or barriers between the bride and groom. With these circles the bride is creating an invisible wall around her husband into which she will step to the exclusion of all others.
Once the bride and groom are standing side-by-side under the chuppah, the cantor welcomes them on behalf of all gathered by singing several Hebrew greeting hymns, which also includes a request for G‑d's blessings for the new couple.
After all this preliminary activity, we are ready to begin the actual marriage ceremony.
According to Torah law, marriage is a two-step process. The first stage is called kiddushin, loosely translated as "betrothal," and the second step is known as nisu'in, the finalisation of the nuptials. Both kiddushin and nisu'in are accomplished successively beneath the chupah: the kiddushin is effected when the groom gives the bride the wedding band, and the nisu'in through "chupah" -- the husband uniting with the wife under one roof for the sake of marriage
The mitzvah of marriage is performed over a cup of wine. After the bride and groom sip from the wine, the groom places the wedding band on the bride's right index finger. While putting the ring on her finger, the groom says in Hebrew and the vernacular: "With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel."
After the groom places the ring on the bride's finger, the ketubah is read aloud. The ketubah is a binding document which details the husband's obligations to his wife, showing that marriage is more than a physical-spiritual union; it is a legal and moral commitment. The ketubah states the principal obligations of the groom to provide his wife with food, clothing and affection along with other contractual obligations.
Reading the ketubah serves as a separation between the two phases of marriage -- kiddushin and nisu'in. After the ketubah is read, it is handed to the groom who gives it to the bride.
We now proceed with the final stage of the marriage ceremony, the nisu'in, which is effected by the Chuppah and the recitation of Sheva Brachot -- the "Seven Benedictions." The first blessing is the blessing on wine, and the remaining six are marriage-themed blessings, which include special blessings for the newlywed couple. The bride and groom once again sip from the wine in the cup.
It is customary to honour friends and relatives with the recitation of these blessings. In our ceremony [insert names] will say our blessings.
Breaking the glass
A cup is then wrapped well, and placed beneath the right foot of the groom. The groom stomps and shatters the glass; customarily to the crowd's jubilant shouts of "Mazal Tov!” (we’re counting on you!).
The custom of breaking a glass was incorporated into the ceremony following the dictum: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [its dexterity]. Let my tongue cleave to my palate if I will not remember you; if I will not bring Jerusalem to mind during my greatest joy." This reminds everyone that even at the height of our personal joy, we must, nevertheless, remember Jerusalem, and mourn the destruction of the Temple.
Immediately after the chupah, the bride and groom adjourn to the "yichud” (seclusion) room, where they spend a few minutes alone.
After the public ceremony, it is time for the bride and groom to share some private moments. Even while surrounded by a crowd, they must take a break to be there for each other. This is an important lesson for marriage -- the couple should never allow the hustle and bustle of life to completely engulf them; they must always find private time for each other.
Participating in the wedding feast and rejoicing with the bride and groom, to cheer them and gladden their hearts on this special day, is a great mitzvah. We are so glad that you are here to celebrate with us!
My friend Lizzie recently moved into a fabulous flat in Hampstead and was having a housewarming party on Saturday. Naturally, I wanted to bring something home baked. I was about to run to my trusted vanilla cupcake recipe but I thought to myself that it's terrible to have to many cookery books and not try out new things. So I decided to pick up one of my untested cookery books and try something new.
The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook is one that I've been curious about but could not really justify with all the baking books I own. I didn't buy it until I found it so reduced that it would have been an offence not to. And I am so glad that I did. If this recipe is anything to go by, this book really is a cut above the rest (including the likes of Nigella.
These cupcakes were so moist and dense yet light. Really sumptuous and a complete hit. Here is the recipe, however note that I reduced the amount of sugar in the frosting by 1/3 (personal preference) when in my cupcakes and we all thought they were sweet enough.
60g butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
10ml red food colouring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese, chilled
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla extract. Once mixed add to the creamed butter and sugar.
4. Mix carefully until combined and then add half the buttermilk, mix further and add half the flour. Mix thoroughly before adding the remainder of the buttermilk and flour and mixing further.
5. Add the white wine vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix thoroughly for at least 5 mins.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins or until the cupcakes spring back slightly when touched.
7. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.
8. In the meantime, to make the frosting cream the icing sugar and butter together until well mixed.
9. Add the cream cheese and mix until it is incorporated. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy for at least 5 mins.
10. Use a spatula to layer the frosting on top of the cupcakes.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I know that I've already spoken to you about my talented friend Fred. The brilliant yet humble Fred, who is living out his dream of being a photographer. He could have done anything, but he taught himself photography whilst he was studying Japanese at Oxford, and today he is a successful photographer, having taken portraits of varied people - from models for Vogue to politicians like Bill Clinton. Extraordinary. Fred is just one of those people who makes things happen.
Me, Musia, Chanale, Freidy, Rabbi Eli, Fred, friend of Fred's
Look at the warmth and intelligence, the willingness to challenge his audience and nurture their thought. You look at the picture and you've almost met the man (Rabbi Lau)
Rabbi Eli in front of a photo of himself!
I've decided to DIY lots of wedding things - I'm finding it so much fun and I love being able to customise things and have exactly what I want.
Friday, 13 November 2009
I'm tentatively working away on our DIY invitations, for which I will put up instructions in due course. I haven't shown these designs to anyone yet because I want to get them right before subjecting them to scrutiny! So you are the first (apart from Marc) to see them.
I'm being really indecisive and I'm not 100% with either. I won't say which I'm leaning towards, but I would really appreciate your honest advice (the good and the bad please).
Thank you all in advance!
1. Mediterranean pattern A
2. Mediterranean pattern B
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Ottolenghi sells seductive Mediterranean food (there really is no other adjective to describe it). It is al fresco, fresh, colourful and healthy (for the most part) and influenced by all the countries whose food I love, Morocco, Turkey, Iran and my own homeland, Israel. Seriously yummy.
I got back from Paris on Sunday at lunchtime and Marc was in Islington having lunch with his friends. The group headed up to Ottolenghi for something sweet and Marc returned home with a sinfully dark slice of chocolate cake (minus a few bites he'd nibbled off on his way home). Love him.
Just look at this cake!
What can I say - it was the moistest darkest yummiest chocolate cake I have ever eaten. I am obsessed. Can't wait for the next opportunity to go (ie. this Sunday). And in the interim I have had to content myself with ordering the cookbook straight from Amazon, first class please, so I can see whether I can concoct something equally delicious. It's going to be a tough challenge, I can tell you.
This food is so inspired by Israel and I'm really excited to share my home country's food with my closest friends when they come out for the wedding!
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
What can I say, I had a wonderful time! It felt as though I hadn't been there in 20 years rather than 8 months though - that was strange. Audrey picked me up from the station (can I reiterate how amazing it is to get on a train and be in Paris in little over 2 hours?) and we went straight to my favourite sushi place! We would go every Wednesday to get our fix, so it was only fitting that this be our first stop. Amazing menu: salad and soup, sashimi and skewers and rice all for 15 euros. Scrummy.
Then we went to Audrey's apartment which, like all great Parisian starter homes, is on the 6th floor without a lift! Once you get there you feel on top of the world. I lived in a similar space in 2003 in Saint Germain des Pres. Good times indeed and staying with Audrey took me right back to them.
The following day we had an early lunch with a lovely colleague (sushi again - love it) and then I went off to my pastry class at LeNotre. It was weird going around in the Metro on my own. It felt like my town, I was at home, except it was no longer my home. It is hard to explain.
At LeNotre I actually had the same teacher who taught my croissant class 8 months back, so that was cool. Macaroons are far more do-able than croissants and the results are so rewarding, so in the next few days I'm going to put up instructions. Watch this space. It was so fun to be back in a professional kitchen and to learn with people equally passionate about pastry. I mean, you can hardly discuss icing tip width with just anyone (unless you want to lose your friends as they slowly die of boredom).
I left the class on a high for sure. I found out that retraining as a pastry chef would take at least 2 years - such a long time. A part of me wishes I had done that in my early twenties, when there seemed to be so much time. 2 years was nothing. Anyway, I will definitely be making macaroons again, and I look forward to experimenting with different flavours and creating my own. Lots of fun and mess ahead!
Audrey and I met on the Champs Elysees after that and looked at books. I love French bookshops and can browse in them for hours! There is a new Laduree book out if anyone's interested. It looked very good indeed. Finally a book that divulges a bit of that Laduree magic.
The following day we started off at Mora and G. Detout, the professional baking/confectionary shops. Mora sells every conceivable item to make cakes and to decorate them. It is replete with chocolate moulds and the like. A sight to be seen to be believed. G Detout looks like a person's name but sounds like 'J'ai de tout' (I have everything). And this is true. Anything pastry-wise that you could want, G Detout has. I went to buy a few things that were recommended in the macaroon class.
Here we have a 7mm icing tip, a whisk, a mixture that is 50% ground almond 50% icing sugar, Tonka, and violet chips. The plastic things are bowl scrapers. The pastry chef told us how important it was not to waste anything and these are phenomenal at not leaving bowl and spoon lickers anything at all to taste! I wish we had equivalent shops in London.
We also went to an amazing ribbon and button store, 'la Droguerie', where we found supplies to make our own jewellery. I loved these profile discs and chose to mount them on these flower rimmed bases. I then stuck the earring attachment on the back. So easy and so beautiful in my opinion. I've already enjoyed wearing them.
Then we walked to and through the Marais, which you all know by now I love. I love all the little boutiques and the vintage finds. It's just a delicious place to spend an afternoon. Here are a few pics.
As you can see, the cupcake trend has hit Paris. Of course, they are mini teeny cupcakes, for the teeny 'Parisiennes'!
Love Paris' rose shops
I spotted this dog, which might be the cutest thing that I have ever seen. And I love all the flower shops everywhere. It's easy to be romantic in Paris.
So we didn't stay, and headed up to Laduree, which by now feels like my second home (what a privileged person I am). I tried one of their new macaroons: fig and date flavour. Since I am in love with both figs and dates, you could say that I was in heaven.