Shavuos in Merril’s Kitchen

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By: Merril Elvey

Trying to discover the roots of my cooking odyssey has been an interesting journey in self-discovery. It seems that my love of food and cooking is inextricably linked with my personal teshuva journey. I have always known how to cook, and always enjoyed cooking (I come from a family of excellent cooks). But my real love of food began in earnest with the chagim as a young married wife and mother. As every Yom Tov rolled around I would start thinking of the foods associated with that special day, honey and apples on Rosh Hashana, kreplach to start the fast on Yom Kippur, delicious salads and desserts for all 9 days of Sukkos and Simchas Torah/Shemini Atzeres, deep fried anything for Chanukah, homemade sweets and liqueurs for Purim, and, of course, the uniqueness of Pesach cooking (any foodies delight and dread).

Each chag has a spirituality attached to it that is reflected in the foods we eat on that day. It became not only a food journey for me, but also an opportunity to grow in my relationship with Hashem. My love of cooking, creating amazing flavour combinations, and feeding my family and loved ones is deeply connected to my love of Torah, Yiddishkeit, and Hashem’s incredible world.

Shavuos posed an interesting dilemma for me, as there are no specific mitzvos or minhagim associated with the chag. My husband and sons go off to Tikkun Leil and immerse themselves in learning Torah, but where is my connection? Enter my relationship with food… here was my way to connect. I produce a beautiful milchik meal (really the only time I get to entertain with milchiks all year!) and we created a new family minhag – as my husband and sons return home from a full night of learning Torah, together with a whole group of friends, and I lay out a magnificent hot breakfast: a variety of eggs and toast, cereals, fruit, yoghurts, cheesecakes, blintzes, etc. It is a highlight of our year, and something my kids have as a treasured family tradition.

Dual-Coloured Soup

This gorgeous looking soup is such a hit. It looks spectacular, and is so easy to make. The trick is in the presentation. It’s important that both soups are the same consistency for this to work.

Cream of Tomato Soup

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 2 tins chopped tomato
  • 1 sachet of tomato paste
  • 1 litre parev chicken stock (2 tbsp stock and 1 litre boiling water)
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Fry onions in a splash of oil till fragrant and glassy
  2. Add garlic and fry till soft.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.
  6. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to a thick, creamy consistency.

Cream of Brocolli or Baby Marrow Soup

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 peeled, cubed potato
  • 2 punnets kosher broccoli or 400g chopped baby marrows (skin on)
  • 1 litre parev chicken stock (2 tbsp stock and 1 litre boiling water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Fry onions in a splash of oil till fragrant and glassy
  2. Add garlic and fry till soft.
  3. Add broccoli or baby marrow, potato, and chicken stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to a thick, creamy consistency.

To Serve

  • Have both soups ready to serve on the counter with a soup ladle or tea cup in each pot.
  • Take a ladleful/cupful of each soup and carefully pour at the same time into a soup bowl.
  • The soups should meet in the middle.
  • Add a dollop of pesto or sour cream into the centre of the bowl and swirl with a toothpick
  • Serve with a crispy soup topper on the edge of the bowl.

Crispy Soup Toppers

This is a fun way to serve soup. They are delicious to serve with dips as well.

  • 1 roll defrosted puff pastry
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Za’atar
  • Garlic Salt
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Pink Himalayan Salt
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle ½cm thick
  2. Brush with Extra virgin olive oil
  3. Sprinkle rows of zaatar, garlic salt, sesame seeds, salt, and parmesan (if using) onto the pastry.
  4. Use a pastry cutter or sharp knife to cut into 2cm wide strips.
  5. Take each strip and twist it into a spiral. Place onto a baking tray
  6. Bake at 180oC for 5-7 minutes until puffed and crispy.
  7. Store in a large Tupperware until ready to serve.

Teriyaki Salmon

This is one of my favourite fish recipes. The sauce is the perfect blend of sweet, sticky, and umami and it takes minutes to make. It also looks beautiful. The sauce works really nicely with chicken as well.

  • 6 fresh salmon fillets (3cm thick)
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves freshly chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (if available) or rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sesame seeds
  1. In a glass bowl, mix together the soya sauce, rice vinegar, honey garlic, and ginger, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  2. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, place in the sauce, cover with gladwrap, and marinade for up to 2 hours.
  3. Cook fish as per your preferred option:

Fried option:

Heat a large frying pan with a drizzle of vegetable oil until smoking hot.

Add salmon, skin side down.

Fry for 2 minutes, then pour over reserved marinade and cook for a further minute until the fish is cooked halfway through.

Turn the fish over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, basting with the sauce so that the salmon remains coated and glazed.

Baked option:

Heat oven to 200oC

Place the salmon on a foil lined baking sheet (reserve the marinade)

Bake for 13-15 minutes until fish is flaky and cooked through.

While the fish is baking, place the marinade in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

Reduce until a thickened glaze.

Remove fish from oven and brush with teriyaki glaze.

  1. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over Jasmine rice and stir fried vegetables.

Stir Fried Vegetables

  • Red, green, and yellow peppers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Red onion
  • Baby corn
  • Vegetable oil
  • Soya sauce
  • Sesame oil
  1. Slice peppers into thin strips
  2. Slice onions into leaves
  3. Slice baby corn in half
  4. Leave sugar snap peas whole
  5. Add a drizzle of vegetable oil to a wok or large frying pan and heat till smoking hot.
  6. Add vegetables and stir fry till cooked but still crunchy.
  7. Add a drizzle of soya sauce and a few drops of sesame oil to flavour.
  8. Serve with teriyaki salmon and jasmine rice.

Two-Ingredient Ice Cream 4-Ways

This is an easy, egg-free, milky ice cream base. It needs no specialised equipment or churning.

  • 250ml fresh cream
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  1. Whip the cream till thick (careful not to over whip)
  2. Fold through the condensed milk till well mixed.
  3. Add your choice of flavouring and fillings.
  4. Freeze in a suitable container.

Flavour 1: Strawberry Swirl

Blend 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries with ½ cup sugar and 2 tsp lemon juice. Swirl through the base and freeze

Flavour 2: Chocolate

Melt 100g cooking chocolate with the condensed milk, fold through the cream and freeze.

Flavour 3: Honeycomb

Add 1 cup crushed honeycomb (homemade or bought) and 1 tsp vanilla essence to the base and freeze

Flavour 3: Choc Mint

Add 1 cup grated chocolate and 1 tsp mint essence to the base and freeze.

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