One year ago – baked cauliflower
ELIE WIESEL 1928- 2016
This week the world is mourning the loss of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author, human rights activist, and keeper of the Memory of the Holocaust, who had the ear of world leaders as well as the students he taught and the readers of his books. Originally he didn't want to write about the Holocaust, believing there were no words capable of describing the experience. French writer and Nobel Prize winner Francois Mauriac persuaded him to try. Fifteen years after World War Two, he wrote - initially in Yiddish - memoirs which became Night. The rest is history.
Wiesel was internationally identified with the Holocaust and with overcoming trauma, becoming a personification of the triumph of the human spirit. Night is on the syllabus in American high schools. Wiesel won countless awards, including the Nobel peace prize, an American Congressional Medal of Freedom as well as France's highest literary prize. His great personal charm was also a factor. When he returned to Auschwitz in the 1990's, it was with a TV crew and his friend Oprah Winfrey. At a ceremony at Buchenwald he was flanked by US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
There's a lot for you to read. There were obituaries for Wiesel in newspapers around the world (Wiesel’s death was front page of the New York Times, Israel's Haaretz devoted an entire supplement to him and Barack Obama wrote a long tribute on social media) but for me this piece in the Tablet magazine is the most beautiful tribute of all. It's by a life-long friend Mencham Z Rosensaft, whose father was in the concentration camps with Wiesel and gives a real feel for why he was so beloved.
I had been writing about Wiesel myself last month, since he was born in the same year, in the same part of Transylvania as the only grandfather we have featured in Food is Love. You can read John Slomovits’s extraordinary story here, and you will see why Wiesel intially felt no words could convey these experiences.
May Elie Wiesel, who reached and touched so many people, rest in peace.
SUMMER: WORK AND REST
This northern summer has been full of news - is the world going mad? - and travel. Some of my travel has been for work, some for play, which means I haven't been writing up our wonderful grandmothers this week.
I'm back on base now, so it's back to work again. Food is Love grandmothers here we come!
But in the meantime, this post is from Paris, where I went to see my bosses, and the Galilee where I went for a weekend. This week's recipe for home-made labne comes from there.
One of the best things about working for a French TV company is having to go to head office every so often. (France 24, English service, and in case you’re wondering whether I speak French well enough to broadcast, I emphatically don’t!)
On my first morning in Paris, the sun was peeking out, and a patch of blue sky could be seen from my friend Annette Young’s balcony. And how do you spot an Australian in Paris? The Ned Kelly mug, of course, as well as incredulous complaints about the endless rain.
Paris was mostly wet and windy - it's the wettest spring since 1910, Annette informed me miserably - and when it started bucketing down, I found myself taking refuge under an awning. Oh, look at that, just outside the boulangerie. And next door to the cheese shop! Happy to report that the veges may be rain-splattered, but the baguettes are still crisp and croissants light and buttery.
But it seems that the best coffee in Paris is Australian. Annette took me to Coutume, an Aussie restaurant which has made a name for tasty, healthy food and a good flat white. It's even set up a barista course, to help kick Paris coffee along a bit.
Despite the Euro football, Paris felt a little beleaguered. It's not just the weather, it seems to be the lingering effect of the terror attacks here last November, and other smaller attacks since. I took part in the weekly France 24 journalist forum where 4 journalists spend an hour dissecting the news every Friday.
There was so much news, an hour was barely enough time, even if you only cherry picked the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida; the shooting of a French policeman and his wife in front of their 3 year old child, all live-streamed on Facebook and the assassination of British MP Jo Cox, who worked with Syrian refugees and supported Britain staying in the European Union...
On the one clear evening in my week in Paris, I stumbled across a square not far from my friend Annette’s home, dedicated to "combat writers". Paris has something for everyone, even when the news is bad.
I left Paris just before Britain voted on whether to stay in the EU. My final impressions were of European newspapers headlined in English – Please Don’t Go! - while public buildings across the Continent were flying the Union Jack, or had it as a light show.
Returning to Jerusalem, I was as shocked as the British public seemed to be that they had voted to leave. And if only they were happy with their choice... But they're not. Even many of the people who voted to Leave seem miserable! I lived and reported in London for years, and have never seen anything like the Regrexit now seeping out of the UK.
The “We didn’t meant it, we didn’t know our vote would count, we’re sorry, we were lied to, we were fooled!” has me going back to fairy tales. Am re-reading The Pied Piper of Hamelin to see if it can explain why people will follow someone off a cliff.
PARIS, ROSH PINA
Regrexit was followed by a non-work trip, a mid-week weekend in the Galilee, which turned out to be lovely. We went to Rosh Pina, one of the first Jewish settlements in Israel.
Rosh Pina has breath-taking views, old stone houses, cobbled streets, loads of history, charm, and great food.
Well, I know mostly about one restaurant, because it was so lovely that we almost never left. It’s at the Pina BaRosh guesthouse, or 'boutique inn.'
The name is a play on the name of the village. Pina Ba Rosh means ‘a space in your head’, like clearing your head – and it sure does that, as everything about it is gorgeous. The owner Nili Katz is an artist, and the house has been in her husband’s family for 7 generations.
She's behind the renovation and the stone guestrooms are romantic and arty. Each is a little different - different paintings, balconies and views. Ours had an outdoor Jacuzzi in a plastic igloo - very cool.
Niil's husband is a cattle farmer, and much of the produce in the restaurant comes from their land – meat from their ranch, cheeses from their goat dairy.
The main dining space is open, a covered balcony set on a ridge looking out over the Galilee. It’s so inviting, you feel you could stay there for hours, drinking coffee, drinking in the view, perhaps another coffee, now something to eat…
Breakfast is an Israeli strong suit, and the breakfast at Pina Barosh is to die for.
The eggs are prepared to order, the rolls are freshly baked, the coffee is really good, but it's the salads that steal the show. Fresh chopped vege salad, matjes herrings in lemon (not oil), a really tasty tuna spread, 6 or 7 different cheeses, home cured olives, a sun-dried tomato spread, herb butter and regular butter, with home made fig jam to finish.
Naturally we couldn’t finish it all – but you have to be quick or birds come to share…
BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS
Rosh Pina is a good place from which to travel around the Galilee, and once we could prise ourselves away from the open-air restaurant, we went the Mount of the Beatitudes.
It's where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, listing all those who'll be blessed: The poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven; the meek for they shall inherit the earth, and the peacemakers - or as Monty Python has it, the cheesemakers. (Still love that joke. “It’s not just the cheesemakers, it obviously refers to the whole dairy industry.”)
We were there for a concert. The gate to the Church opened after hours but we couldn't find any trace of the concert - and we stopped looking once we realised we had the whole place to ourselves. At sunset. Not a tourist, a pilgrim, a stray dog, or even a cranky guard to be seen. Just us and the warm wind and the location, like a film set, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet meets the Sea of Galilee.
BLESSED IS ORLI THE CHEESEMAKER
We also stayed at a B and B down the hill from Pina BaRosh and because it's Israel, they're related. This B and B belongs to Nili’s sister Orli Elias. The Orli Elias lodge is also in an original stone house from the 1880's, about 3 or 4 rooms, lovely and comfortable. Our room here was in the former stables. It also has that non 1880's addition - a swimming pool.
Orli's breakfast includes her home-made labne. Labne is basically white cheese made from straining the liquid out of yoghurt. It's popular across the Middle East, and is part of the cuisine of the Arabs and Druze of the Galilee, who serve it with locally pressed olive oil and zaatar.
Orli's version, learnt from them, was delicious. When she told me that it was very simple to make, I thought I'd better give it a try too.
So here is the recipe. If you can call something with 2 ingredients a recipe.
Orli's Galilee Labne
Makes one small plate
- 1.25 litres yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Mix the salt into the yoghurt and pour it into a piece of cheesecloth. A nappy, a tea towel or any large thin piece of material will do, to strain the liquid from the yoghurt.
- Gather the towel up into a ball, making sure you are holding all the yoghurt inside the towel. Warning - be careful here! If you double the quantities, you will need a bigger towel. Leave it hanging for 12- 15 hours. And that’s it!
- I don’t have anywhere to hang a ball of cloth filled with yoghurt, so I left it in a colander above a bowl and gave it a squeeze every so often when I remembered. I was amazed how much liquid came out. (Unfortunately since it is salty, you can’t really add it to a smoothie. Maybe a salty lassi?)
- The process of removing the labne from the towel is a bit messy, but as long as you rinse the towel straight away, it’s fine.
JERUSALEM TEST KITCHEN
Spectacular. Especially for so little effort. Tangy, salty, perfect with olive oil, fennel seeds and walnut bread.
But you do have to be aware that a large quantity of yoghurt will produce only a relatively small quantity of labne!
One of my neighbours who regularly makes her own labne says the quality of the yogurt is crucial. Next up, I plan to try it with fresh goat's milk yoghurt from a dairy not far from where I live. But I decided I would start with the most basic Israeli cows’ milk yoghurt, 4 % fat, available from any supermarket. And it was a run-away success!
VERDICT: Make this!!!! It's so easy and so delicious. You will be incredibly proud of yourself, for essentially wrapping some yoghurt in a tea-towel and leaving it alone for a day ...
Ending on a happy note – a wedding for 2 Holocaust survivors in Paris. Lilian Reznick and Sam Klizensky, aged 89 and 90 respectively. Needless to say, second marriage for each. So it seems we are never too old to fall in love :-)