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Emma Spitzer. Credit: Clare Winfield

New Cookbook Explores Author's Family Food Traditions

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Emma Spitzer's Fress is a personal cookbook, one that combines recipes from her Eastern European family with the Middle Eastern flavors of her husband's family. In this new cookbook, the England-based Spitzer discusses her efforts to incorporate the cuisines of her and her husband's ancestors into the everyday cooking of their own family; she enjoys cooking these recipes with their four young daughters.

In Fress, Spitzer also discusses her run on the BBC "Masterchef" television series where her "only objective was not to be disqualified;" she wound up being a finalist and was told that she brought a "new style of cooking" (read: Jewish style) to the show.

Though it has a distinctly Ashkenazi title (fress means to eat heartily in Yiddish), given the diverse backgrounds of Spitzer's family and friends from which she draws her inspiration, the recipes in Fress span cultures. It's the kind of book one would refer to when looking for varied recipes to plan a meal, a book without a niche lens that has a little bit of everything.

Spitzer agreed to answer a few questions and to share a few recipes, her sister's Cherry Tomato, Red Lentil, and Chickpea Soup, her friend's Fried Eggplant in Tomato Sauce, her aunt's Beef-Stuffed Artichokes, and her own recipe for Salmon and Sweet Potato Fishcakes with Lime Za'atar Yogurt, a dish she likes to make with her four daughters.

What inspired you to write Fress now?
I've always wanted to do a cookbook but "MasterChef" gave me the platform and audience to be able to do it now. It just happens to coincide with Jewish food having its moment so it couldn't be better timing!

You call entering "Masterchef" your "life begins" moment-- how did you decide to join?
I'd been a fan of the show since it started in the 90s and spent many a series watching, thinking I could do it. I do suffer from a lack of confidence with cooking, probably because i care so much about what people think, so it held me back from entering earlier. I think I just bit the bullet the moment I turned 40!

Were the judges familiar with your style of blended Jewish cooking?
I think I managed on almost every dish I had created to surprise and delight them with new flavors. they seemed to really embrace my style and combinations so if they had been exposed to them, it wasn't In the same way I cooked for them. Gregg said I had brought a new style of cooking to "MasterChef" which is one of the best compliments I could have ever received.

Tell me about the recipes in the book. How did you choose which family recipes to include?
At first, 110 recipes seemed very overwhelming but by the end, I was having to decide between certain recipes. Nothing made the book if I didn't want to eat it myself. I wanted to get a good balance between the classic Jewish dishes and more of the modern plus I love the use of spices so there had to be plenty of big bold flavors. More importantly, as a home cook myself, the recipes had to be easy to recreate for those who are not do confident in the kitchen; I'm hugely passionate about inspiring confidence in others and making my food accessible to everyone.

How has the reaction in England been to your style of cooking?
Fortunately, it has been really well received and my style of cooking is very popular at the moment. People are often amazed at how simple my dishes are, yet they can taste a lot more complex.

What do you plan to do next?
I would love to do another book! I've already been creating new dishes in case I get asked. I'm also really enjoying teaching too and combining my food interests with my travel business, there is so much synergy between the two.

Emma Spitzer's Top 10 Jewish Foodie Spots in London

Salmon and Sweet Potato Fishcakes with Lime Za'atar Yogurt

Aunty Rachel's Beef-stuffed Artichokes

Debbie's Cherry Tomato, Red Lentil, and Chickpea Soup

Fried Eggplant in Tomato Sauce

Fress

Emma Spitzer

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