Emma Spitzer’s kind of cooking is my kind of cooking—unfussy and uncomplicated, from the humblest of ingredients and without spending hours in the kitchen.
Spitzer, a finalist on Britain’s Master Chef, has published her first cookbook, Fress: Bold Flavors from a Jewish Kitchen, and it’s fabulous. Her melting pot of inspiration embraces Poland and Russia; Jewish recipes learned from her mother, travels in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and North Africa; and Algerian recipes shared by her mother-in-law. Spitzer describes it as Ashkenazi meets Sephardi.
From Slow-cooked Moroccan Chutney to Duck with Black Za’atar and Puy Lentils, Baharat Spiced Chicken to Apricot and Orange Blossom Frangipane, these recipes are packed with punchy flavors and aromatic spices. Spitzer also includes delicious family recipes, from Grandpa ‘Bugga’s’ Turkey Schnitzel to Mummy’s Golden Chicken Soup. This is the kind of cookbook that I’ll be cooking from again and again.
Spitzer was born and raised in Brighton to Jewish parents of Polish and Russian descent. Her love of cooking started at a very early age. “Fress” she writes, “is the realization of a dream to bring classic, Jewish dishes into the modern day in a book where the recipes are both accessible and exciting for the home cook to create.” Fress, in Yiddish, means: “to eat copiously and without restraint.” What a perfect title for this wonderful cookbook.
And just in time for Shavout, Spitzer is sharing her delicious no-bake cheesecake recipe below.
Israeli White Chocolate Cheesecake
Courtesy of Fress: Bold Flavors from a Jewish Kitchen by Emma Spitzer, published by Mitchell Beazley
From Spitzer: You wouldn’t necessarily see cheesecake as a spiritual thing, that is unless you are Jewish. This ubiquitous dessert is the subject of many a Jewish argument as to its origins, about which there lots of different opinions and very little consensus. My food hero Claudia Roden once said that cheesecake was one of the first foods that Jews assimilated from their Central European neighbours. The famous New York-style baked cheesecake may be popular among many cheesecake fans, but the lesser-known Israeli version is something quite spectacular. I make this cheesecake a lot, as it knows no boundaries in terms of the type of occasion it’s appropriate for. I make catering-sized trays of it for parties and it never fails to receive a chorus of praise from the lucky recipients. Because it’s a no-bake cheesecake, it means there is little that can go wrong. Just ensure that you use good-quality cream cheese and don’t try using any other kind of biscuit – they are the key ingredient. This needs no accompaniment other than some fresh raspberries to cut through the sweetness. It’s rich, velvety and incredibly moreish, so eat with caution.
Makes around 12 slices, or 10 if you’re greedy
200g petit beurre biscuits
120g unsalted butter, melted
150g white chocolate, broken into pieces
200g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
250g good-quality cream cheese (Spitzer recommends Philadelphia)
200g full-fat crème fraîche
To prepare the biscuit base, add the biscuits to a food processor and blitz to crumbs, then mix with the melted butter.
Press two-thirds of the mixture into a 20 × 27cm baking dish, flattening it out so that it forms an even layer. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes until it is set.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Put the chocolate in a glass bowl and either set over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring that the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, or heat in the microwave in 30-second bursts, until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly.
While the chocolate is melting and cooling, beat the softened butter, sugar, whole egg and egg yolk together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until fluffy (or in a bowl with a wooden spoon and develop some muscle at the same time!); this will take around 10 minutes.
Beat the cream cheese and crème fraîche together in a bowl, then stir in the melted chocolate. Add to the butter and sugar mixture, then carefully fold all the ingredients together.
Spread the mixture evenly over the biscuit base and top with the remaining biscuit crumbs. Leave to set in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours, but 24 hours is preferable.