Appetite for perfection: Gefilte fun

These are crazy times. I don't want to talk about the tragedies befalling all the people of Jerusalem at the moment, although my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. We're all feeling under siege here. Needless to say that when I'm walking to work with my chef knives I feel a bit safer.                                                         

Anyway, I am having my own crazy experiences in a different way. Being in yeshiva, however long the hours you study, it does not prepare you for work, especially as a chef running a restaurant. I'm currently writing the new winter menu for Soyo. Its lots of fun trying to figure out which fish works best with strawberries and which cheese combinations work best with cauliflower but I feel like I haven't slept in a month. Coming up with new recipes is one thing, but then other people have to taste it - the part during which I always want to hide under a pillow - and then figure out the most efficient way to make it in our kitchen and train our chefs. The common economic problem of limited resources and unlimited wants has never rung more true. Thankfully, every few days I get to see my beautiful wife! I did get to go to the wedding of Asher, one of my co-MasterChef contestants in Haifa. Thirteen wannabe chefs at one table produces some interesting drama.  

So, as promised, I worked on a revolutionary new gefilte fish recipe. It took a while to come up with but the end result, in my humble opinion, is pretty awesome. I chose to go the Polish route by making it a bit sweeter rather than the more savoury Russian version. (Anyone who knows both nationalities will understand that you really are what you eat.) Not sure if anyone has used inspiration before from Evelyn Rose and Heston Blumenthal together.

First off to make this new and improved gefilte fish, you need a stock that you will eventually poach the fish balls in. I chose a cross between a classic fish stock/court bouillon and a soupe de poisson/bouillabaisse: onion, garlic, celery, carrot, leek, mushrooms, fennel, tomatoes, orange zest, lemon zest, white wine, arak (in place of pernod), thyme, parsley, tarragon, basil, white and black peppercorns, bay leaf, fennel seeds and saffron with fish bones, heads etc.  

A lot, I know. Anyway, sweat the veggies until they're soft; boil to reduce the alcohol; add the fish bits; cover with water; boil; add the spices and zests and simmer for a while.

Whilst this was simmering I prepared the fish. I chose a mix. If you have the resources at your disposal, use fish bits for the stock from the fish you are using for the balls. I chose classic carp mixed with a combination of tuna, haddock and sole. To elevate the flavour of this, as I tried to do with the stock, I used minced fennel, onion and orange zest with my fish along with unflavoured bread crumbs, sugar, salt, white pepper, ground almonds and eggs. Drop these in the stock and leave them to simmer for a couple hours more. 

Now, I have to stop here and tell you that at this point my wife came home from ulpan and was elated at the smell and horrified at not only the fish heads in the stock but also the mess. Luckily for me I had to go to work after it was made, but I want to publicly thank her for being awesome. We just celebrated our one year anniversary since our first date and every day keeps getting better and better. 

But back to the gefilte fish. What do you serve it with? Tradition says with a carrot on top and chrayn - a mix of beetroot and horseradish. Of course I had my own twist and served it with a carrot and fennel confit - again keeping the flavours running throughout - slowly heated in olive oil with salt, black and cayenne pepper, along with a beetroot vinaigrette. I know horseradish is a bit strong for some and wanted this to be a more delicate dish. The vinaigrette is with finely chopped raw beet, onion, red wine vinegar, a balsamic reduction, salt, pepper and olive oil.

There you have it. A bit of a palaver it might seem. It takes a while to make but it is actually quite easy and I got to watch two movies whilst preparing it. I strongly recommend The Judge! Trust, your guests will love it as well as you. I only wish I had time to prepare it at my restaurant - please God in the future. Until then, you'll either have to try it at home or come over for Friday night dinner. 

Just remember, when trying to recreate dishes or come up with funky ones, your only limit is your imagination. Feel free to email me for exact measurements, questions or suggestions. Next time I think I'm going to try my hand at a remake of lockshen pudding/kugel - a dessert of baked pasta and raisins - or at least it used to be!

Print a copy of this blog post and bring it to my restaurant Soyo for a 10% discount on your next visit -51 Emek Refa'im St, Jerusalem