Brisket, the Classic Recipe

Every Passover, at least one guest asks us how we made the brisket.  Here’s my mom’s recipe for brisket, or as we used to call it af Idish, flanken.  It uses the classic Eastern European “gedempt” or braising cooking method.

Slab(s) of brisket, about 100g (just less than 1/4 lb) per serving
Onions, about 1 per serving
Bay leaves
Olive oil

Brown the onions in olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  Use lots of them, I really mean lots, as in about 10 medium onions per kilo of meat – this is what gives an otherwise bland dish its flavour.  To brown the onions, start them on high heat, and reduce the heat as the onions begin to brown to prevent burning.  You’ll know they’re done when they are a translucent golden brown.  Don’t forget to run your extractor fan!

Cut the slab(s) of brisket into pieces that will just fit into your casserole dish. Preheat your oven to 180C = 350F.

Clean the skillet you just used for browning the onions, and dry thoroughly.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in the skillet, and then brown the slab(s) for about 5 minutes each side.  Place the browned slab(s) in the casserole dish, smothering the slab(s) in the browned onions.  Layer if necessary, slab-onion-slab-onion. Squish any excess browned onion around the sides of the slabs.

Pour in enough boiled water to cover the slabs.  Add a bay leaf or two, and as many whole peppercorns as you’re comfortable with.  Cover the casserole dish, and bake for 3-4 hours, turning the slabs and adding water to ensure they’re covered every hour or so.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing the slabs from the broth and carving into long slices, cutting against the grain with a very sharp knife.  Serve with the broth as gravy.

Noodle Kugel

I love to cook.  After a day of mental exertions and various people- and process-related stress, there’s nothing like combining some ingredients, getting your hands gooey, controlling physical and chemical reactions in the process known as cooking, and then serving a satisfying meal to a group of appreciative people.

Ethnic food is wonderful, and recipes from my eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish roots have a very special place in my heart.

One family recipe that I often get asked for is for noodle kugel, a vegetarian egg-based recipe, suitable as a main course or side dish.  It’s easy to make, lasts a long time warming in the oven, and is good for those evenings when everyone is arriving home at different times, or as a dish to take to a party where it will eventually be re-warmed in a microwave.


300g pasta (I normally use cut lasagna noodles, medium egg noodles, or penne)
250g cottage cheese
250g sour cream
3 eggs
2 small onion
3 Tbsp dill (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 190° C
Boil pasta as per instructions on packet until al dente
While the past is boiling, lightly beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.  Add the cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and optionally dill, and lightly mix.  Chop the onions into small pieces, and mix them in the bowl as well.
When the pasta is finished cooking, rinse under cool water in a colander, separating the noodles.  Drain.
Grease a covered baking dish with small amount of butter or oil.
Place the pasta in the baking dish, and then pour in the mix of other ingredients.  Mix well in the dish.
Cover the baking dish, and place in the oven for 45 minutes.  Uncover the dish, and allow to cool and set for a few minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8.

Breadmaker Challah

175ml Boiling water
150ml Cold water
100ml Canola oil
1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp Yeast
4 Eggs
650g High-grade flour (6 1/2 Cups)
50g Poppy or sesame seeds


Add the boiling water to the cold water, giving 325ml in a large measuring cup.  Stir in the sugar, salt and yeast (use fresh yeast from your local bakery for best results).  Mix well until all of the ingredients are dissolved, and pour into a large breadmaker or mixing pan.  Add the oil.  Very lightly beat three of the eggs, and mix this in as well.  Add the flour, and gently stir for 30 seconds.  If you are using a breadmaker, set it to “dough” and let rip, otherwise knead the mixture by hand in a large mixing bowl for 10 minutes or so.  The resulting dough ball should be just lightly stick to your finger when poked; if not, add more water or flour to obtain the right consistency.

Let the dough rise for an hour or so, and then punch it down.  Let it rise for another hour, punch it down, and remove from breadmaker or mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 195° C on “fan bake”.

With well-floured hands, divide into three equal sized balls, roll them into long cylinders, and braid them in situ on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Allow the braided loaf to rise for 18 minutes.

In a small cup, beat the remaining egg with an equal amount of water.  Paint this egg-wash mixture onto the loaf, and then sprinkle the loaf with poppy or sesame seeds.

Put the loaf into the oven for 18 minutes.

Take the loaf out, re-paint with egg-wash, especially the bits which have expanded and are now not covered with seeds.  Sprinkle more seeds on the loaf.  Put back in the oven for another 18 minutes.

Remove the loaf, allow to cool for at least 18 minutes.

Basil Pesto Kugel

Here’s a variation on kugel … not as bland as straight kugel, but not as in-your-face as pasta-pesto.

500g pasta
250g sour cream
250g cottage cheese
250g milk
2 eggs
1 plant, fresh basil chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
75g pine nuts
75g parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 190°C.

Boil the pasta until for about 5 minutes, until very al dente, rinse in cold water, and drain.

In a large bowl, lightly scramble the two eggs, and mix in all of the rest of the ingredients.  Pour this mixture into a lightly greased casserole.

Bake for 50 minutes at 190°C

Serves 6.