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Hummus - where does the recipe originate?

Israeli hummus

Uri Levy of Hummus Talpiot in Jerusalem with hummus dishes

Home cooked hummus at Bat El's house

Ruth Tavour runs Hummus Ashkara

Israeli cuisine (המטבח הישראלי)

Israel has an enormous wealth of cuisines. Jewish cuisine is heavily influenced by the economics, agriculture, and culinary traditions of the diverse and unique international Jewish communities. Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) and Jewish festival and Sabbath traditions have shaped these influences into a unique International cuisine.

Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European)

There are many styles of Jewish cuisine:

Claudia Roden - the history of Yiddish food

The classic Yiddish cooking famous from New York to Tel Aviv. Ashkenazi Jews trace their origins back to medieval communities along the Rhine from Northern France to Western Germany. In modern Israel the Ashkenazi Jew is identified by Yiddishkeit, which means "Jewishness" in the Yiddish language, and encompasses many Jewish movements, idealogies, practices and traditions.

Ashkenazi cuisine is founded in Eastern European peasent food. Classic Ashkenazi dishes include; the smoked salmon bagel, blintzes (Jewish crepes), Challah (sweet egg bread), chollent (slow-cooked stew of beans and barley - no meat), gefilte fish (fish meat loaf mixed with onion, carrot and parsley, served cold with horseradish and carrot), holishkes (cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat in a tomato sauce), knishes (potato and flour dumplings stuffed with potato, onion, chopped liver or cheese and baked), kugel (a steamed ball of noodle dough encasing a fruit filling), matzo balls (AKA 'knaidelach' or dumplings served in soup) and tzimmes (a sweet stew of carrots, sweet potatoes and/or prunes).

Janna Gur - Israel's 2 Ashkenazi favourites

Sephardic or "Judezmo" and Mizrahi Judeo-Arabic cuisines

This food includes Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian, Libyan, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi cuisines.

"Judezmo" or "Ladino" refers to Judaeo-Spanish an endangered language that evolved from Castilian Spanish, Portugese, Hebrew, Aramic and Eastern Mediteranean languages. The language has a rich history and has been used right around the Middle East, from Spain to the Balkans, Greece and Turkey, the Holy Land and across Northern Africa. Sephardic refers to Jews whose customs and traditions were founded on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugual) but includes North Africa and the Middle East.

Sephardi cuisine features salads, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, olive oil, lentils, fresh and dried fruits, herbs and nuts, and chickpeas. Meat dishes feature lamb or ground beef. Fresh lemon juice is added to many soups and sauces. Meat and rice dishes use dried fruits and pine nuts are used as a garnish. Cumin, cilantro, mint, cinnamon and turmeric are popular. Caraway and capers were introduced under Muslim-ruled Spain. Pickled vegetables including the Moroccan delicacy; pickled lemon.

Much, much more

Italki Jews have roots in Italy, Romaniote Jews hail from Greece. There are distinct cuisines of the Persian, Yemenite, Indian and Latin-American Jews. There are also distinctive dishes from Jewish communities ranging from Ethiopia to Central Asia. Each group adopted and adapted local food making Israeli cuisine one of the most diverse.

Heimishe Essen

Yossi Miller at Heimishe Essen old style Yiddish cooking in JerusalemYossi Miller at Heimishe Essen old style Yiddish cooking in Jerusalem

Heimishe Essen is a restaurant in Jerusalem's Rehavia district (19 Keren Kayemet St) that serves traditional Ashkenazi or Yiddish foods of Eastern Europe. Heimishe Essen is Yiddish for 'home cooking" and that's very much the style of the food here, as though it is made in the stereotypical Jewish mama's kitchen. But at Heimishe Essen it is a young Israeli guy, Yossi Miller, assisted by an older Palestinian chef, who are stirring the pots in the kitchen. Their slogan is "The Taste of Food You Once Loved". Here you can get all the Yiddish favourites, chicken soup, cholent, tzimmes (sweetened carrots), chicken liver, gefilte fish, potato latkes, kugels and many more. It's both an 'eat in restaurant' and provides 'take-out' for the local community.

There aren't too many of these styles of Yiddish restaurants in Israel any more. Israel is now dominated by many different styles of cooking influenced by the kitchens of the Sephardic Jews of the Middle East. It's what Janna Gur calls 'fusion food' as in a popular favourite hummus with schnitzel and salad in pita.

Yossi Miller's chicken soup at Heimishe Essen JerusalemYossi Miller's chicken soup at Heimishe Essen Jerusalem

Claudia Roden says, "the basis of the 'Jewish food that we know of is the peasant food of the shtetl - the provincial townlets and villages that represented the Jewish experience in Eastern Europe during the past three centuries. It was the 'poor food' of people whose life was a perpetual struggle between crushing poverty and insecurity, for the history of the Ashkenazi communities from the 12th century - the time of the Crusades - was one of flight and destruction, with a succession of restrictions, expulsions and massacres. Some of the dishes represent a grander life-style, and the legacies stretch beyond the shtetl into the deep past".

Yossi explains how to make traditional chicken soup at Heimishe Essen

Yossi Miller was a great host touring us through his kitchen and recipes. The food here was fabulous, particularly the chicken and knaidlach (matzo balls), one of my eternal favourites.

In March 2012 Heimishe Essen was embroiled in an unfortunate religious controversy.

Protests begin at restaurant banning thursday night waitresses

Fusion cuisine

Janna Gur - Israel's multi-cultural cuisine

An Israeli "fusion cuisine" has evolved with new dishes based on regional cuisines and produce as well as modern international food.

Israeli cooks and chefs have new kinds of fruits and vegetables produced by local agriculture and have come up with uniquely Israeli dishes. They also use "biblical" ingredients such as honey, figs, and pomegranates, and indigenous foods such as prickly pears (tzabar) and chickpeas. Local dairies produce handmade cheeses and local wineries produce world-class, semi-dry and dry wines. Handmade breads and high quality olive oil are available and aquaculture supply fresh fish.

International cuisine, cooking with wine and herbs, and vegetarianism have become very popular. Cookbooks, such as "From the Kitchen with Love" by Ruth Sirkis, published in 1974, introduced international cooking trends, and restaurants now serve Chinese, Italian and French cuisines. Sushi, in particular, has taken hold as a popular style for eating out and as an entrée for events. In restaurants, fusion cuisine, with the melding of classic cuisines such as French and Japanese with local ingredients has become widespread.

The trend of "eating healthy", with an emphasis on organic and whole grain foods, has led many to the 'Mediterranean diet'.

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