From my mother, to my children, to their children – and now to you – a traditional, home-cooked Shabbos meal from start to finish
By: Rebbetzin Winnie Gourarie
Rabbi Soleveitchik z”l once wrote, “Even in those neighbourhoods made up predominantly of religious Jews, onc can no longer talk of the sanctity of Shabbos. True there are Jews in America who observe Shabbos. But it is not for Shabbos that my heart aches, it is for the forgotten ‘erev Shabbos’,” referring to those hours just prior to the commencement of Shabbos. He lamented that there are few Jews who really prepare for Shabbos properly and then are able to enjoy the holiness and sanctity of Shabbos.
I think that this applies to our present-day South African Jewish community as well. The women in our community are, Baruch Hashem, very busy with acts of chesed and loving kindness. We raise much needed money for our many welfare organisations and we are ever ready to open our homes and our hearts to whoever needs us. We are also very lucky that we have domestic help so readily available. When it comes to making Shabbos we do all the right things: we open the eggs to check them for bloodspots; we light the fire for our stoves and ovens; and we take challah after kneading our dough. But, perhaps, we are missing the point. We are told, “Mi shetorach be’erev Shabbos, ochel be’Shabbos,” whoever toils on erev Shabbos, will eat on Shabbos. In many homes, the domestic employee actually makes the entire Shabbos meal. As a result, we are robbing ourselves and our children of the beauty of an “erev Shabbos”, when the whole house is permeated with the smells of the delicacies being prepared by the central figure of this beautiful mitzvah – the “akeres habyais” – the woman of the house herself.
It is my sincere hope that Jewish women will start making Shabbos themselves and experience the beauty, excitement, and anticipation of a traditional erev Shabbos. I present you with the recipes for a traditional Friday night meal, which in my home hardly ever varies, that I learned as a young girl from my mother and which I have handed down to my children and grandchildren. Wishing you and your family a wonderful erev Shabbos and Shabbos!
- 4 cups of lukewarm water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of oil
- 2 tbl of salt
- 2 cakes of fresh yeast (if unavailable, use 3 sachets of instant yeast)
- 2 eggs
- +/- 2¼ kg of flour to make a firm, pliable dough
Pour the water into a large bowl and add the ingredients in the order listed. Mix in everything by hand. Knead. Allow the dough rise to triple its size. Recite the following bracha:
“Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu melech ha’olam, asher kidishanu be’mitzvosav vetzvivanu lehafresh challah” and separate a small piece of the dough (about the size of an average olive). Wrap this small piece of dough in a respectful way (for example, in paper or plastic) and then discard. This mitzvah – separating the challah from the dough – is one of the three mitzvos specifically given to women.
Form the dough into shapes. Let it rise again for half an hour. Paint with a beaten egg and sprinkle poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake at 180°C until the challahs are golden brown (it’s okay to open the oven to check them, as it’s a yeast dough not a cake) – approximately 35 minutes (but it will depend on your oven, your altitude, etc.).
There are many shapes for challah, but each shape should add up to six separate pieces (eg. one can braid with strips of dough or three strips and another three on top). My mother shaped a challah into an oval shape and put five little buttons on top to make six. This custom is to commemorate the miracle of the twelve loaves (the lechem hapanim) that the Kohanim baked each erev Shabbos (Friday) and put on the Shulchan (Table) in the Mishkan in the desert and, later on, in the Beis HaMikdash (the Temple) every Shabbos, one loaf for each tribe. The loaves remained there for an entire week until the Kohanim put in the fresh loaves the following Shabbos. When they took out the loaves from the previous week, the loaves were as warm and fresh as when they were put on the Table. The Kohanim then ate these challahs.
We have two challahs on our table on Friday night and Shabbos day to commemorate the double portion of manna that the Jews collected in the desert each Friday.
This delicacy evolved as a special Shabbos dish because it avoids the need to separate bones from the whole fish which could involve boreir (selecting or separating) – one of the 39 melachos (forbidden creative activities) of Shabbos unless done properly.
- 1–1½ kg of fillet fish (hake, if fresh, is very good)
- 2 large onions
- 10 carrots
- Salt, pepper, and sugar to taste (fish takes quite a bit of salt and I like a sweet taste, so be generous with the salt and sugar – I actually taste the raw mixture)
- 3 eggs
- Approximately 1½ cups of water
In a food processor with the regular blade, mince four carrots until fine. Remove from machine and cover with water. Allow to stand. Process four carrots and one onion until fine. Remove and place in a large bowl. Process the fish, eggs, and water together. (Depending on the size of your food processor, you might need to divide this step and do it twice.) Add to the carrot/onion mixture in the big bowl. Add salt, pepper, and sugar and mix very well. (I do this with my hands!) The mixture should be firm enough to form into balls. In a large pot, slice one onion and the two remaining carrots into enough water to cover the fish balls. Make oval balls from the fish mixture and add to the water. Bring to boil and continue boiling on medium to high until a small amount of the water is left. Shake the pot frequently to avoid the balls sticking to the pot and to each other. Strain the carrot mixture over the fish and continue to boil until there is a fair amount of gravy left. The fish will now have a lovely orange colour without using chemicals. Allow to cool and arrange on a platter, putting one slice of carrot from the pot on each piece of fish. This recipe makes about 20 pieces of fish. Fish is delicious eaten with chrein (horseradish) and homemade mayonnaise.
Process two whole eggs with a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of mustard powder. When this is well mixed and the machine is still going, add half a bottle (from a 750ml bottle) of sunflower oil drop-by-drop until the mayonnaise becomes thick. Then add half the juice of two lemons slowly to thin the mixture. Next, add the rest of the bottle of oil. The oil thickens and the lemon juice thins the mixture. It takes exactly three minutes to make this mayonnaise, and it’s delicious!
- One chicken, cleaned and fat removed
- One packet of giblets
- One large onion
- Five carrots
- Half of a small packet of pumpkin or butternut
- One sweet potato
- Salt to taste
Combine all of the ingredients and boil on low for approximately 3 hours (or even more). Remove the chicken, the giblets, the onion, and sweet potato, and strain the soup leaving the carrots and pumpkin/butternut. Liquidise the carrots and pumpkin/butternut and add to the soup.
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbl water
- 3 tbl of oil or Debra fat
- Salt to taste
- Matzo meal to make a loose mixture
Mix all of the ingredients together well. Refrigerate. When the soup is ready and boiling, wet your hands and form small balls from the kneidlach mixture and drop them into the boiling soup. Continue boiling for half an hour on a low fire.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 chopped onion
- ½ head of chopped fresh garlic
- Salt, ginger, paprika
Season the chicken with a little salt, ginger, and paprika. Combine the chicken with the onion and the garlic and add a little water. Roast covered at 180°C until the chicken is soft. Uncover for half an hour until the chicken is brown and there is just a little gravy left. Cool, cut, and arrange on a platter.
Carrot Tzimmes with Brisket and Helzel (stuffed chicken neck)
- 2 bunches of carrots, grated or cut into short strips
- 1 kilo of brisket and two soup bones
- Approx. 6 tbl of sugar
- Approx. 5 tbl of flour
- A little salt to taste
Place brisket and bones at the bottom of an ovenware pot. Cover the top of the meat with a thin layer of carrots. Add salt, sugar, and flour to the rest of the carrots and mix through lightly with fingers. Add to the pot and almost cover with water. Allow to simmer slowly for approximately one hour. Be careful not to cook on a high temperature as it burns easily.
- 1 small onion chopped finely
- A few small pieces of raw chicken fat or 1 tbl of chicken or parev fat
- 3 tbl of matzo meal
- 3 tbl of flour
Mix all ingredients together. Sew up one side of the skin of the chicken necks and half fill with mixture. Sew up the other side. Pour boiling water over the necks to clean them. Place them into the pot of the tzimmes making sure that some of the tzimmes covers them. If needed, add a little water. Any leftover mixture from the helzel can be made into dumplings and also placed into the tzimmes pot. Place covered tzimmes into the oven at approximately 180°C and allow to simmer for a long time until most of the water has cooked away and the tzimmes is golden brown.
- 4 large potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbl oil
- Salt to taste
Grate the potatoes and the onion on the fine side of the grater (this cannot be done in a food processor unless you have a kugel attachment, which is available in the USA). Add eggs, oil, and salt. Heat up two tablespoons of oil in an ovenware or Pyrex dish until very hot. Add the potato mixture to the oil and bake at 180°C until golden brown.
Boil half a packet of lokshen for a few minutes. Strain and pour cold water over the lokshen to separate them. Add two eggs and salt to taste. Heat up two tablespoons of oil in an ovenware or Pyrex dish until very hot. Add some of the hot oil into the lokshen mixture and then put the mixture into the rest of the oil. Bake at 180°C until golden brown.
- 2 red apples
- 2 yellow apples
- 2 green apples
Core the apples, but leave the skin on them. Cut the apples into quarters, cover with water, and boil on medium heat until soft. When cool, put the apples through a baby mouli or liquidise them.
Pour boiling water over one packet of dried prunes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Wash with cold water. Place in a pot, cover with water, and boil on medium heat until soft.
Serve the apple sauce with a few prunes on top – very refreshing and a change from sweet desserts.