My Passover Seder

I am Jewish and my upbringing was very much influenced by Judaism and all its traditions.  I believe the best part about being Jewish is the delicious food but the worst part is being a hairy girl!  My favorite Jewish holiday has always been Passover because it entails lots of eating, really fascinating food symbolism, and singing.  “Passover” means the order and it is a celebration of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  We use a Haggadah, which means “telling”, to retell the story of Passover.  Check out this HILARIOUS rendition of the passover story.

Since moving to South Africa, I have not observed the Jewish holidays.  I think this is partly because I am unfamiliar with the Jewish community but also because I am searching for religious meaning in my life.  Ty and I were just accepted to the Birthright program, which is an awesome opportunity to travel to Israel with an organized group of young Jews to learn about our heritage, the history of Israel, and reconnect with Judaism.

This year, Ty’s parents came to visit, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to host our very first seder together.  It was really special to share something so much a part of my Jewish-American upbringing with my South African family.  All throughout our seder, memories came flooding in from all the previous years of passover seders – the huge Racow seders in Woodbridge, Grandma Jean’s mystery matzoballs, classic brisket, and enthusiasm, and me bashfully singing the four questions.

My four favorite Jewish foods are served on Passover: charoset, matzoball soup, noodle kugel, and matzo-brei.  This year, I was in charge of the Passover kitchen, which was a huge undertaking without my mom’s experience.  Luckily, Ty’s awesome mom, Beth, helped me cook and prepare for the seder. Unfortunately, I was so consumed by the cooking and preparing, that I did not take any mouth-watering, close-up foody photography, but believe me when I say it was all so so delicious!!!

My mom always made homemade chicken soup and then my sister and I made the matzoballs.  She would cook the soup and strain it in the morning before synagogue and I would burn my fingers and mouth while stealing stringy, delicious pieces of steaming hot soup chicken from the strainer.  When we got home, my sister and I would fight over who had to make the matzoballs, which usually ended up being me because I was the youngest.

I was a bit nervous to make my own matzoball soup, for fear of sinking matzoballs, but luckily Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue as usual with an insanely tasty matzoball soup recipe.  When it came time to make the matzoballs, I passed the honor on to Ty, as his rite of passage, and they floated. Success!

Matzoball Soup (serves 4 + leftovers)


For the chicken soup

  • Have a roast chicken for dinner the night before (I highly recommend my Chicken a la Queen recipe), then use the chicken carcass with pieces of meat still on it for the soup
  • 3-4 celery sticks cut into big chunks
  • 3-4 carrots cut into big bunks
  • 2 onions peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbl whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbl coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3-4 liters water
For the matzoballs
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 4 tbl oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbl chicken broth
  1. Add all the soup ingredients to a very large pot
  2. bring to a boil and simmer all morning before synagogue (for about 3-5 hours)
  3. As the broth boils off, add some more water to top it up every so often
  4. My mom used to strain the soup and leave only the broth, but since I’ve grown up I have realized that the soup veggies and chicken are the best part! So, instead of straining the broth, which not only gets rid of the lovely veggies but is also a big scary mission, carefully ladle out all the chicken bones and leave the rest in!
  5. Have your favorite person mix all the matzoball ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes
  6. Then have your least favorite person use their hands to roll the mix into small ping-pong sized balls
  7. Bring salted water to a bowl, reduce the heat to a simmer, and carefully drop the matzoballs in to the water to cook for about 20 minutes (Within minutes of dropping them into the water, the matzoballs should (hopefully) begin popping up and floating on the surface and puffing up as they cook)
  8. Carefully remove the matzoballs from the water, place them in the chicken soup, and let them cook for another 10-20 minutes
  9. Serve the matzoball soup with the chunky veggies, two matzoballs to start with (so as not to lose your appetite for the main course), and freshly ground coarse salt and pepper

The best part of the seder plate is the charoset, which symbolizes the mud that the Israelites used to make bricks when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. I had also never made charoset and found a great and super easy recipe on

Charoset (serves 4 + snacks)


  • 2 peeled, cored, and shredded red apples
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl brown sugar

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together and spoon heaping portions of charoset on matzo

Although I grew up eating Grandma Jean’s famous brisket on Passover, this year I decided to make a beef roast, so adapted a great pot roast recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

Beef Roast (serves 4 + leftovers)


  • beef roast
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • handful fresh rosemary
  • handful fresh thyme
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • oil
  • 4 potatoes cubed
  • half a small butternut peeled and cubed
  • 2 onion coarsely chopped
  • 4 peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 tbl garlic diced
  • maizena (corn starch)


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Lightly oil the beef and rub lots of salt, pepper, and garlic all over it
  3. In a deep dish pan add the beef and create a bed of veggies, starch, and herbs
  4. Pour the stock and wine into the pan
  5. Cook the roast in the oven for about 1.5 hours and baste periodically
  6. When the roast is slightly pink inside, remove it from the oven
  7. Remove everything from the pan and pour the gravy into a small pot
  8. Create a maizena paste using about 2 tbl maizena and a tiny amount of water
  9. Bring the gravy to a boil, reduce the heat, add the maizena paste and stir until thickened. If the gravy has not thickened to your liking, add a bit more maizena and let thicken more until you are satisifed.
  10. Serve the beef with veggies covered in delicious gravy

My dad used to make sweet and oh-so-amazing matzo-brei as a special Passover breakfast. He taught me how to make it and I assure you that the tradition will carry on.  Then, in college, a friend taught me how to make savory matzo-brei.  So now I like to make both!

Matzo-brei (serves 2)


  • 4 pieces of matzo
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • maple syrup or golden syrup if you live in South Africa and cannot find maple syrup


  1. Run the sheets of matzo under warm water until they soften
  2. In a bowl, break the soft matzo into small pieces
  3. In a pan, saute the onions and garlic with a bit of oil
  4. In another bowl, mix together half the soggy matzo, 3 beaten eggs, paprika, salt, and pepper
  5. In the original bowl, mix together the rest of the matzo with 3 beaten eggs, sugar, and cinnamon
  6. Leave the mixture to marinade for about 5 minutes
  7. In the same pan that you sauteed the onions and garlic, add the savory mixture and fry up for about 10 minutes
  8. In another pan, add the sweet mixture and also fry up for about 10 minutes
  9. Serve the sweet matzo-brei with syrup generously drizzled all over it

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Growing up, my all time favorite food was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

INTERESTINGLY, and Inventors say that Kraft was introduced in the US and Canada in 1937 during World War II.  The rationing of milk and dairy products, in addition to an increased reliance on meatless dinners, created a great market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families.  Their advertising slogan was:”Make a meal for 4 in 9 minutes.”

By choice and absolute pleasure rather than war time hardships and food rationing, I pretty much lived off of Kraft Mac & Cheese for the large majority of my childhood and adolescence.  I loved all of the special pasta shapes, like pin wheels, spirals, and blue Blue’s Clues dogs, which tasted even better than the original elbows.  Unashamedly, I was able to gobble down an entire box myself, which is most likely why I was such a chunker. But who am I kidding? Kraft remained a staple food group in my life all through college as well.

Ty had never had boxed Macaroni & Cheese, which led me to believe that he had a sad and deprived childhood.  SO, when he came to visit me in the US, we had a Mac & Cheese eating marathon where we indulged in Kraft and two kinds of Annie’s. Luckily he liked boxed macaroni and cheese, which reaffirmed my love for him.

When I moved to South Africa, I began having intense night sweat-inducing withdrawal as the bright yellow, artificial, creamy, cheese left my system.  Luckily, my mom sent us an emergency package full of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese sachets.  Since we had a limited supply, we rationed ourselves to 1 packet per month (like during war times), which enabled us to effectively maintain our supply for nearly 1 year.  It was devastating when we finished our last sachet and were forced to go many months without it.  However, earlier this month, a sweet sweet girl named Ann organized one of her American friends to bring us a few boxes when she came to visit!  Ty and I were unable to control our urges and are down to one box again!  Luckily, my mom’s friends are coming to South Africa JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to refill our supply!

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese


Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (complete with pasta and sachet of cheese)
  • water for boiling the pasta
  • 2 heaped tbl butter
  • 1/2 milk


  1. add water to a pot and bring to a boil
  2. add the macaroni and cook on high
  3. strain the pasta when it is done cooking and pour it back into the pot
  4. place the pot on the warm burner and add the sachet of cheese, butter, and milk and stir vigorously.  Add more milk if you want the sauce to be thinner
  5. note: I am an extreme purist when it comes to Macaroni & Cheese so I would recommend adding NOTHING else

Foolproof Banana Bread

Growing up, whenever we had over-ripe bananas in the house, my stepmom and I would make banana bread with the beautiful and coveted Kitchen Aid mixer, which I can only hope that I have in my kitchen one day. My job was to measure out the ingredients and help pour them into the mixer and I remember watching with excitement as they swirled and blended together to make heaven.  The best part was and still is licking (or taking entire spoonfuls of) batter from the bowl and wooden spoon, even if it meant getting a tummy ache. Why does batter on a wooden spoon taste so incredible?

The spicy sweet aromas that float from the oven through the house during the excruciating hour of baking banana bread makes my mouth salivate and my tummy grumble.  Once the bread is done, I have no self-control and am unable to prevent myself from cutting a piping hot piece and tossing it back and forth in my hand as I take my first of many bites.

Last weekend I clumsily whipped up my stepmom’s famous banana bread in a matter of minutes and popped it into the oven an hour before having to leave the house.  An hour later, when we were getting ready to go, I stuck a fork into the middle of my bread and was strangely greeted by goo.  I stalled for as long as I could but finally took the bread out of the oven so that we would not be late and it proceeded to collapse on itself. I sadly accepted the fact that this banana bread was a dud but there were too many confounders to identify where I went wrong.

This week I was determined to get back on that horse and bake a successful banana bread.  I decided to try a different recipe and chose Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked Up Banana Bread.  I meticulously measured every ingredient and followed every direction to the T, which is not my MO, but I figured I needed a guarenteed win after last weeks failure.  The batter looked and tasted amazing (check), the smells coming from the oven were salivating (check), the bread was rising, browning, and cracking down the middle (check), and lastly my fork came back clean (check).

Foolproof Banana Bread 


  • 3 over-ripe mashed bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


  1. preheat the oven to 350F (176C)
  2. melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds and mash the bananas
  3. mix together the butter, mashed bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
  4. slowly add the flour and mix thoroughly
  5. stir in the chopped walnuts
  6. pour the batter into a buttered bread pan and bake for about 1 hour or until your fork comes out clean
  7. if you have self-control and are able to wait for the bread to cool, it will easily slide out of the pan

Ty’s Worms and Mince

From a very young age, Ty absolutely loved eating worms and his favorite type of worms were those slathered with mince and tomato sauce.  His second love was Portuguese Chicken Spice, a spicy blend of chilies, lemon, garlic, and paprika, which his dad taught him to put on everything.  So, when Ty became a teenager and started cooking dinner for his family, he inevitably made his famous Worms and Mince with Portuguese Chicken Spice every time.

Over the years, Ty became a Worms and Mince Masterchef and when he moved down to Cape Town, he effectively sustained himself by eating this ultimate comfort food for days on end.  On Sunday evenings he would pull out the largest pot in his kitchen, prepare 1200g of Worms and Mince, eat some for dinner, and store the rest in in as many tupperware containers as he could find. For the remainder of the week he would dig into his reserve and prepare solo Worms and Mince or carb-on-carb Worm Sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

When I met Ty he wooed me with his Worms and Mince, which no doubt worked because the only way to my heart is through my stomach.  He shared his Worms-cooking secrets with me but no matter how many times I cook it, I am never able to re-create the perfect blend of mince, tomatoes, and spices that Ty accomplishes with ease every single time.

As a food-venturist, I am always experimenting and changing up recipes with new ingredients, but If I ever attempt to deviate from Ty’s original recipe, he protests vehemently because “A Classic’s a Classic”.  However, over the years I have worn him down and sometimes he allows me to incorporate mushrooms, green peppers, or cabbage.

Ty’s Worms and Mince

A Ty Classic


  • 3 chopped garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 500g minced beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 heaped tsp portuguese chicken spice
  • 1 can of tomatoes and onion mix
  • 300g pasta of your choice
In a large pan, saute the garlic and onions in oil until lightly browned.  Add the mince and at this time you can also add any veggies you would like (although Ty would be disappointed by this). Next mix in the basil, portuguese chicken spice, salt, and pepper.  Once the meat is nearly finished cooking, add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.  At this point cook your pasta of choice, which is spaghetti for Ty because they resemble worms of course and penne for me because I enjoy spiking it with my fork and am convinced that the flavors are better retained due to its ridginess.  Once the pasta is ready, you can either do the Ty method which is to mix the pasta into your sauce or the Kim method which is to spoon large amounts of sauce directly over your pasta. And sometimes we even grate lots of cheese on top.  No matter which pasta you use or how you serve it up, nothin’ is better than coming home, falling on the couch, and not lifting a finger as your man cooks you Worms and Mince after a long day at work…

Zingy Asian Salad

Asian food has always been one of my favorite food genres.  Growing up we went to the same Chinese restaurant every week.  We were like part of the family and they always knew what we were going to order – which was Moo Shoo Chicken with hoisin sauce wrapped in tortilla-like pancakes for me.  Although I have had to convince Ty of its awesomeness over the years, the pivotal moment for our kitchen was when Ty fell in love with sushi and wholeheartedly began endorsing experimentation with Asian flavors at home.

Sometime last year we decided to have steak for dinner and I was determined to try out something new.  When I first began cooking, was my gateway website to experimenting with ingredients, cooking gourmet, and following food blogs. So, I consulted Epicurious for a recipe and found a great one that included all of my favorite Asian flavors.  It turned out to be really excellent, which was confirmed by Ty, who claims that he does not like soy sauce, although I put it in my dishes all the time and he continues to love my cooking.

This afternoon I was craving something cold, fresh, and zingy, so I adapted the original recipe to make an Asian salad that was super delicious.

Zingy Asian Salad


For the dressing

  • 1 1/2 tbl soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl lemon
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 heaping tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbl water
  • a dash of red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the salad
  • 2 stalks chopped spring onion
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 grated zuchinni
  • 1/2 julienned red or yellow pepper
  • a handful of mange tout
  • 1 tbl sesame seeds
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander

In separate bowls, mix together the dressing ingredients and the salad ingredients.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until nicely coated.

A Seafood Story

Although I grew up on the East Coast, my sister and I loathed seafood.  I blame my parents because they didn’t expose us, being Jewish because Jews don’t eat shell fish, and seafood itself because sometimes it is smelly and chewy.  All of these factors combined produced an unwarranted prejudice against creatures of the sea.

Dullstroom Trout 2010

When I first moved to Cape Town, I desperately needed a job and kharma landed me a job at a seafood restaurant.  On a daily basis I had to handle seafood, sell it, and hear my customers rave about it, which disgusted me at first but wore me down until I finally gave in and tried white fish.  Incorporating seafood into my eating repertoire is probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my tastebuds; it is the ultimate food lover’s food-gasm!  In an attempt to make up for lost time, I eat seafood whenever I can, especially prawns, and still cannot believe I lived so long without it.

Recently I started exploring the joys of cooking seafood at home.  Last year Jacquie (my cooking buddy) and I made paella for Darren (her husband) and Ty.  Having never made it before, we clumsily went for it adding copious amounts of everything, and ended up with paella flowing out of our ears.  Luckily it was delicious because it proceeded to sustain us for quite a few days thereafter.

This year, we decided to refine our recipe and put a bit more finesse into it.

K&J’s Paella (serves 4 + some leftovers)


For the seafood

  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tbl oil
  • 2 tbl margarine
  • 500g calamari
  • about 20-30 jumbo prawns (de-headed and de-vained)
  • 6 sliced crab sticks
  • 4 sliced chorizo sausages
  • 2 tsp salt
  • lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbl paprika
  • 1 tbl portugese chicken spice
  • 1 tbl garlic powder
  • 1-2 squeezed lemons
  • 2 cups white wine

For the veggies

  • 2 sliced onions
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 julienned red pepper
  • 1 julienned yellow pepper
  • 250g chopped brown mushrooms

For the rice

  • 1 ½ cup jasmine rice
  • 1 tbl turmeric
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • few dashes of salt


Cook the jasmine rice in chicken stock, turmeric, and salt for about 25 minutes.  While the rice is cooking, in a large wok, sauté the garlic in margarine and oil.  Add the seafood, chorizo, and spices, and sauté on high for a few minutes until fragrant.  Next add the white wine and lemon juice.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to medium heat for about 10 minutes. At the same time while cooking the seafood, but in another pan, sauté the onions and garlic in oil until golden.  Then add the veggies and a dash of salt and pepper.  Once the veggies are partially cooked, add them to the seafood.  Stir and let the paella simmer for a few more minutes.  Spoon copious amounts of paella on top of the rice and enjoy with a glass of white wine and great company!

Our Yearly Paella Parties