I have to make a confession here. For years I have been obsessed with food. I have always tried to expand my horizons with food. I have tasted dishes that many would not find appealing, I always try new things, and those foods I have detested since my youth I have attempted to try again and again to attempt to reeducate my palate. Except for six months after my grandfather died, I have always done this with kosher food and all over the world. However, despite this, I have never formally sat down and ordered a taster menu in a restaurant.For those of you that do not know what this is, this is when the chef gives you a large number of courses, each one a smaller size than the normal portions in the restaurant, and these dishes, the chef feels, showcase his creativity and skill. I have been to restaurants and tasted from everyone’s plates, I’ve had chefs give me extra dishes, especially since the show, of food they have wanted my reaction to, and I even made my own 8 course taster dinner on Rosh Hashanah evening as each course showcased a different one of the Simanim - traditional foods eaten that have blessings ascribed for a positive year. However, going from beginning to end and seeing into the mind of a chef is something that has eluded me. Until now!For my English birthday last week, my wife, obviously knowing me to be a fussy foodie, took me for my first taster menu experience. We went to a restaurant called The Eucalyptus just outside the Old City of Jerusalem and Chef Moshe Basson served us his vision of Middle Eastern Cuisine. Other than when we got rained on whilst sitting outside in the picturesque artists alley, the service was fabulous and the meal lived up to the hype.Now, whenever faced with 12 courses there will always be dishes that some love, some like, some are indifferent to and some detest, an obvious example being that my wife loved the chocolate soufflés and I the slow cooked lamb. I would not say that it contained the most exquisite tastes I had ever experienced, but seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and tasting Chef Basson’s vision and mind was a beautiful experience. Food and cooking is his life and, being a spiritual man, each dish contained beautiful levels of depth that could not help but inspire me to love Israel and the gifts it contains through a unique cultural understanding.
I highly advise everyone to save up their money and experience this at least once in their lives. Instead of choosing a restaurant, chef, or cuisine familiar to you, try something new and different as the experience will be that much more powerful. And whilst you’re at it, especially for foodies, try and come up with your own taster menu that puts you and your beliefs and ideologies out there for all to sample. It is a liberating and beautiful journey to share with others as all have their own unique flavour! With my love for the traditional with either a modern twist or attempt at elegant elevation, I would more than likely showcase my chopped liver pâte on mine. It shows how complexity isn’t an impediment in life but can come together with beautiful synergy.Start with the livers. Due to the blood, one needs to kasher livers if bought fresh and this is definitely better as the butchers and supermarkets usually cook them too much and dry them out. Use either a blowtorch or broiler, making sure, as they are not yet kosher, that they do not touch any piece of equipment you want to use for another purpose. Do so until the outside is brown but nowhere near burnt.
Fry up some red onions with star anise until they start to brown. Add some garlic and then remove when they start to crispen up. Add the livers to the frying pan, season with salt and ground black pepper and cook until desired level of doneness - the more cooked the drier, darker and richer the pâte will be. Once cooked add brandy and set alight to flambe and then, when the fire has gone out, add some port and let boil until reduced whilst using a wooden spoon to scrape off all the beautiful bits, the sucs, from the bottom of the pan as you don’t want to lose these culinary gems.
Add livers and juices, onions and garlic to your Magimix, along with some olive oil, hard boiled eggs, red wine vinegar, cayenne pepper and silan (date honey). Mix, taste and adjust seasoning to taste.I serve this with a few drops of truffle oil, white asparagus, toast, and an onion jam made with red onions, garlic, brown sugar, cider vinegar, water and thyme.
As with all recipes, take a classic and make a personal twist on it. This uses the ingredients I love to make me enjoy a favourite dish of mine even more. Remember, your creativity is only limited by your imagination!Shabbat Shalom