Please welcome reader Ruth Kilner for this week’s interview.
- Name, location, family: Ruth Kilner, originally from Scotland, currently from Jerusalem, married to James and mother of 3 adorable girlies: Esther (6), Shira (4 1/2) and Tehilla (3).
- Tell me about your mother’s cooking style and your family meals as a child. Meals were always eaten with the whole family together at the table. There was always soup to start, plus a main course. We normally ate dairy during the week, with a lot of fish, and meat or chicken on Shabbat.
- How is your cooking style the same or different from that of your mother? My cooking style is pretty similar— when my sister wants one of Mum’s recipes, she calls me first. However, I run a completely meat-free household.
- How old were you when you started cooking? How did you learn? I started as a preschooler by rolling cookie dough, decorating cakes, and adding ingredients that Mum had already measured out. I also made play-dough, with flour, salt, oil and water. Not edible, but cooking nonetheless. When I was 8 or 9, I discovered we could bake play-dough and keep the models. In primary school, I was allowed to peel and chop vegetables, and by 8 or 9 I was making dishes myself. By age 10, I took it upon myself to prepare school lunches for my brother, sister and myself. By secondary school, I was preparing whole meals for the family. At 15, I turned vegetarian, and was responsible for organising a veggie alternative when there was a meat meal being served (usually only shabbat). I try to involve my kids in the food preparation too. Even the wee one asks to peel carrots. Between them, they could probably get a pot of soup organised!
- Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date?
Generally, I only entertain on Shabbat and holidays.The biggest self-catered events I have thrown were our housewarming party and my husband’s 30th birthday, each of which had about 50 guests. I cooked and froze as much as I could in advance, and served buffet-style.
- Can you share a typical daily or weekly menu?
Cereal and milk. If the kids are good getting ready for school, I’ll treat them with some banana or raisins on their cereal. Choice of cornflakes, branflakes, yellow cheerios, and on Shabbat: Honey cheerios.
Morning snack: Sandwiches, a fruit and a vegetable (typically cucumber and apple) at school, crackers for me and hubby at home.
A pot of soup in the winter, or a big salad in the summer, and people can choose between that or sandwiches (or a bit of both) for lunch. Sandwich fillings are usually a choice of chumus, peanut butter, and cheese.
Afternoon snack: If needed, fruit or a biscuit.
Supper: A proper cooked meal. Pasta and sauce, rice and chilli, home-made pizza, jacket potatoes, omelet and noodles if I’m short on time, couscous and tuna if I’m even shorter on time. I try to keep the interesting meals for Shabbat, including lasagna/pasta bake, fish, stuffed vegetables, soy shepherd’s pie, soy minceballs, and kugels (vegetable puddings).
- How has your cooking style evolved over the years? I used to make more complicated dishes, but with small children I prefer to enjoy my family instead.
- What is your biggest cooking challenge now? I run a vegetarian household. I try my best to make sure that I feed my family a well-balanced diet full of foods that everyone will eat, with the time I have.
- Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you? I am in love with The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur, and the Covent Garden Soup book.
- Please share a favorite recipe.
Roasted Vegetable Soup:
- Peel 1 medium butternut squash and 2 sweet potatoes. Roast together until soft with a little oil spray and salt for 1/2 to 1 hour, it depends on the size of the chunks).
- Melt 25 grams butter
- Saute 1 chopped onion and 2-3 cloves garlic until clear.
- Add 3-4 roughly chopped carrots, 1-2 potatoes (depending on size) and a couple of Jerusalem artichokes (tapuach adama yerushalmi), peeled and roughly chopped.
- I sometimes add an inch or so of finely chopped root ginger.
- Cover, and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the roasted vegetables, fill pot with water, and add a a little artificial chicken stock powder.
- Bring to the boil, and simmer for 1/2 hour.
- Process in a jug blender, or use a hand blender.
- Please share a cooking tip that work for you. I keep a small plastic box with the bottles of all the condiments I use frequently on the worktop next to the cooker: canola oil, olive oil, salt, pepper, soy sauce. It keeps them together and to hand, but to clean the surface, it is just one box to move. I also keep a jug with the utensils I use more frequently next to it. So, if I need a wooden spoon, it is to hand, but my knife sharpener is firmly away in the utensil drawer.I keep a bowl in the freezer for leftover bread, to make breadcrumbs or croutons, when I have collected enough.
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