Who are we?
Born in 1973 in London, Michael is a publisher, author and the original founder of “Gefiltefest”, the London Jewish Food Festival. His soon-to-be-published new children’s book “The Chocolate king” tells the story of the prized ingredient’s journey within the Jewish food culture and a separate fund-raising book features 50 kosher chocolate recipes. The colorful books will be published by Green Bean Books, founded by Michael to create high quality Jewish children’s books.
Rachel Leventhal Marcus
Born in 1980 in London, Rachel is a barrister by profession. As the daughter of a family who immigrated to Britain from Egypt, Rachel grew up on her mother’s tasty delicacies, from Mulukhiyah, a stew of Jew’s mallow considered by some as the land of the Nile’s national dish, to Ma’amul cookies filled with dates. Rachel has learned the essence of the Egyptian Jewish cuisine from her mother, ‘a glorious cook’, and she cooks it every day.
7 years old, is in second grade at Eden Jewish Primary school in north London. Sammy is named after Sophie, Michael’s late grandmother. He likes to sample Grandma Sophie’s strudel, still prepared at the family’s kitchen to this day, but much prefers pizza, pasta and chips. His favorite thing to eat is roasted pecans.
5 years old, started Primary school last year. His parents testify that he is very picky about food and if he is served a pancake that is not the perfect shape it will find itself on the floor very quickly. That said, Jack loves fruits and is particularly fond of cucumbers.
Where was the photo taken?
Marcus-Leventhals live in East Finchley, North London. These days their house is under renovation and they have temporarily returned to their previous home in the neighborhood. “Our current kitchen may be small, but it produces huge meals” Rachel says with a smile. “Michael’s mother is always surprised that we manage to prepare so much food here.” While Michael confesses he prepares days in advance for each meal he cooks, taking the time to examine and compare recipes, buy special ingredients and rehearse, Rachel prepares food quickly and “it takes 9½ minutes of a big commotion in the kitchen for everything to be ready to eat and finger licking good” her husband says proudly.
Our family kitchen
The kitchen is the Leventhal family’s playground. “I love chocolate, and I once tried to use a balloon for making a dome” Michael recalls. “But something went wrong, and the balloon exploded with a great bang. The kitchen, and I, were both completely covered in chocolate.” It would seem that the apples did not fall far from the tree: “the kids have a hobby inventing new kinds of cookies” says Rachel. “They call them Mind cakes because they create them with careful thought, and through trial and error.” Recently Sammy and Jack created a batter that included, among other things, baking soda, vinegar, cinnamon, cocoa and flour. The experiment ended with an explosion but no casualties were reported.
Rachel and Michael experiment with new recipes but at the same time they make sure to preserve their culinary traditions. “To us food carries memories and heritage and it is important for us to pass this on to our children. If we do not do this, all of it may be lost. That is why we prepare the foods we grew up with over and over again, so that they also become an integral part of Sammy and Jack’s childhood food memories.”
Our house recipe
“It is always emotional for me to bake Grandma Sophie’s strudel” says Michael. “Grandma made this strudel every week for the Sabbath eve, even when she was well over 90 years old. When I make it, as challenging as it is, it brings back fond memories. I will not forget how every Friday she would hand me a plastic box with a few slices of the strudel for the rest of the week. Come Sunday and I would return the box empty.” Before she passed, Michael baked his beloved strudel with his grandmother and she even made sure to leave the recipe in her handwriting for the grandchildren. “But the recipe she left is inaccurate and the type of pastry is different from the one she used herself” Rachel adds. Michael believes that the reason for this confusion is that late Grandma Sophie never baked her strudel from a written recipe.
However, the strudel they have recreated comes very close to Michael’s precious memories.
Apple Strudel, Serves 8-10
375g/14oz ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed (Michael and Rachel are convinced that this should actually be filo or Strudel)
Flour for dusting
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 tablespoons raspberry
4 tablespoons ground almonds
4 medium Bramley (cooking) apples
170g/6oz/ ¾ cup raisins or sultanas
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 beaten egg
Icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Cut the sheet of pastry in half widthways. On a lightly floured surface or a large piece of parchment paper, roll one half to a 30 x 40cm/ 11 x 15-inch rectangle. The pastry will be paper thin.
- Lightly brush the pastry with half of the oil, leaving a 2½cm /1-inch clean border.
- Using a palette knife, spread 4 tablespoons of the in an even layer within the border and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of ground almonds on top.
- Peel, core and grate the apples. Place in a colander and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Spread half the amount over the pastry in an even layer, sprinkle half of the raisins or sultanas and add a pinch of cinnamon.
- Carefully roll the long edge of the pastry to form a log and transfer to the baking tray, making sure the seal is facing down. Tuck the ends under and brush with the beaten egg.
- Repeat this with the remaining pastry and filling to make a second strudel.
- Bake until the strudel is golden and puffed, about 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Once cool dust with icing sugar and cut into slices.
(Edited by Ofer Vardi, photography by Devon Shoob)