Cook | Cookbook offers tasty bits of Jewish Australian culture

Cookbooks chronicling Jewish food as part of the immigrant experience are always an interesting mix of memories and meals, but “Monday Morning Cooking Club” has a different twist. It documents the Jewish experience in Sydney.

Six women selected 100 recipes with reminiscences from 60 home cooks. The stories are as compelling as the photographs of the dishes. Some cooks tell how a recipe evolved. Others tell of how a recipe helps recreate a taste of the old world.

Recipes range from traditional Ashkenazi and Middle East-ern through less familiar Jewish fare from Iraq and India. Other recipes feature an Aussie twist. The book was written for an Australian audience, but there is a measurement conversion chart and glossary. The recipes below are adapted from the book.

Elisabeth Varnai migrated from Hungry in 1956. Her Chicken Paprikash keeps her family’s “heritage alive.”

Sharon Fink’s grandmother, Buba Nita, was born in Australia. Fink’s grandmother bakes this eggplant dish for Friday night dinner.


Elisabeth Varnai’s Chicken Paprikash

Serves 4-6

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika

4 lbs. chicken parts (bone in and skin on)

1/3 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup coarsely chopped tomato

2 tsp. flour

1/4 cup water or chicken stock

Heat oil to high in a large, deep frying pan that will fit all the chicken. Cook onion until browned. Add paprika. Cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken. Brown well on both sides. Add green bell pepper and tomato. Cook covered on medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked through (turning once halfway through). Remove chicken from pan.

Sprinkle flour over sauce in pan. Stir well, stirring up any browned on bits. Raise heat to medium. Bring to low boil then spoon sauce and vegetables into a fine sieve and push through the solids, returning strained sauce to pan. (Be sure to scrape off and use purée on the outside bottom of the strainer.) Discard remnants. Add water. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Add chicken with accumulated juices. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, basting occasionally, until cooked through.


Sharon Fink’s Buba’s Eggplant

Serves 6-8 (as side dish)

2 large eggplants

1 1/4 cups olive oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

3 Tbs. finely chopped garlic

1 Tbs. tomato paste

2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes

salt and ground black pepper

Cut eggplant into slices 1/3-inch thick. Lay on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle both sides with salt. Leave 10 minutes, then wipe dry with paper towel.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in saucepan on medium heat. Add onion. Cook 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste. Cook 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8×12-inch baking dish with 1 Tbs. oil. Heat remaining oil in a large frying pan. Fry eggplant in batches on both sides until just golden. (Add more oil if needed.) Drain on paper towels. Spread 1/4 of tomato sauce on bottom of baking dish. Layer eggplant on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat sauce, eggplant and seasoning for second and third layer. Spread remaining sauce on top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until browned and eggplant is very soft. Cool slightly. Spoon off excess oil. Serve at room temperature.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. She blogs at Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].