Earlier this month I went to a cooking class at the Cornersmith Picklery with the Monday Morning Cooking Club (MMCC). The class was all about Jewish Comfort Food, and the day the class was held was so cold it was a perfect day to be cooking and eating warming comfort food. We all sat and watched three of the lovely MMCC ladies demonstrate each dish, then we got to sample them.
First we ate egg & onion dip with challah, a staple at the Friday night table. I have been wanting to make challah myself for years now and just never got round to it, but with the amount of it I eat I really should have had a go! The egg dip was super simple, boiled eggs grated and mixed with onions cooked until they were soft and golden with little salt and pepper. The combination doesn’t sound much, and this is probably why I’ve never tried making it before, but it was heaven. I knew I would be making both these things, very very soon.
We then had matzo ball soup, a traditional dish of Passover. I made some of my own over the Passover/Easter long weekend this year, and it was nice, but the MMCC’s one was so much better. I had used a recipe in Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem, because it made a smaller quantity and used more herbs which I hoped would add more flavour to the soup. But I will definitely be using the MMCC’s recipe next time, as mine didn’t have nearly as much flavour as I had hoped.
We then ate brisket with a salad. Now, I haven’t eaten red meat in at least 20 years - I have never been able to stand the taste and the texture. But I did try the brisket and I didn’t mind it. The sweetness of the honey and caramelised onions was really nice, and sliced really thinly I could imagine myself eating it on a really good reuben sandwich.
Then came the Blintzes, a dish often served during the festival of Shavout. Consisting of individual crepes filled with a cream cheese filling and then baked with more cream, it was a decadent dessert and definitely worthy of the title comfort food.
As the MMCC ladies were making each dish, we heard tips and tricks they had for each recipe, sometimes learnt from the person whose recipe it had been originally or things they had worked out themselves after making it many times. The stories behind each dish were fascinating to me, as I love the history of food and the preservation of heirloom recipes. Which is of course in part why I love the MMCC so much. The stories contained in each of their books are just as interesting to me as discovering the recipes held within each book. Then the recipes themselves have opened up a whole new world of cooking and flavours for me and my family, that we now can’t live without.
To that end, and after being inspired by this wonderful class at Cornersmith, I decided the following weekend that it was finally time to make my own challah and serve it with egg and onion. Since I was cooking only for me, I made a much smaller quantity of the egg and onion, and once the challah’s had cooled I sliced them up and placed each loaf in a zip lock bag and froze them. I found they defrosted really well, and of course toasted really well too. The egg and onion also keeps well in the fridge if stored correctly.
Here are links for the MMCC’s Challah recipe and the egg and onion, but I have also included my paired down version of the egg and onion recipe here - something I have since gone on to make 3 times in about 2 weeks! For this recipe, the idea is to cater for one egg per person.
Egg & Onion
x3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 small/medium brown onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Peel and dice the onion, and heat the oil in a small fry pan. Add the onion and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is nice and soft and golden in colour.
Meanwhile, place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold tap water. Bring to the boil on a high heat, and continue to cook for a further 8 minutes once the water comes to a boil. The eggs should not be boiled for longer than 8 minutes. Once the eggs have cooked for 8 minutes transfer to a bowl of cold water.
Once the onions have finished cooking, take them off the heat and set aside.
When the eggs are cool enough to handle peel away the shells. Using a grater sitting in a wide but shallow bowl, grate the eggs into the bowl using the coarse side of the grater. Add the cooked onions to the eggs, allowing most of the oil to remain in the pan. Add a pinch of salt and ground pepper, and mix with a wooden spoon until combined and the salt has dissolved.
The mixture should lightly hold together if you try to roll it into a ball with your fingers, so if it is too dry add a little more of the oil from cooking the onions.
Serve at room temperature with slices of challah.
If not serving immediately, cover the egg and onion with plastic wrap ensuring the wrap is touching the mixture and directly covering it, not just covering the bowl.
Left overs can be kept covered in the same way in the fridge, and will last a few days.
These recipes can also be found in ‘Monday Morning Cooking Club - The Food, The Stories, The Sisterhood’ by Merelyn Frank Chalmers, Natanya Eskin, Lauren Fink, Lisa Goldberg, Paula Horwitz and Jacqui Israel (HarperCollins, 2013), pp.78 & 263.