The smell of raw fish is something that I never liked, but it certainly features very strongly in my childhood memories.
I remember all the cold air in the house on the days that my Mother O’H made the fish – every window and door open, to eliminate the smell. Those who know the smell will attest to the fact that to endure the strength of the aroma, is an acquired attribute. I think that this is what put me off eating the end product – Gefilte Fish
My mother’s fish was renowned as being one of the best. There is even a story of how one year she was cooking with my daughter Chumi. They had been at it for a week when my mother, whose garage was in the garden, asked my daughter if she noticed there were less things in the freezer. My daughter looked and thought to herself ‘maybe bubby is right, there is less stuff in the freezer’. My mother asked my Father, “Have you taken anything out of the freezer” he answered “No”. This went on for 2 days. On the 2nd day Chumi, who was upstairs, heard my mother yelling from the kitchen “Go Away”, “Call the police!” She came running down to see what was happening and saw my mother running in the garden waving a broom stick screaming at 2 little kids 8 or 9 years old who had a cache of frozen food in their hands. These culprits were never found, but in the Rubin-Schreibhand history of it, these children and their Parents opened the defrosting fish loaf and ended up in the hospital from eating raw fish. All jokes aside, cooking the fish was a true test for her. My mother had an aversion to smells and was extremely sensitive to them. She would change all her clothing and for days after she would always ask “How do I smell; can you smell the fish on me?”
The reason I give all of this backstory, is because though she couldn’t take the preparing of fish, my mother always went out of her way to buy and make gefilte fish. As a youngster I could never understand why she would put herself through this process. I remember saying “mummy,” “I like the fish from the jar better,” yet she continued as if I had not said anything. The truth is, I must have been the only one who didn’t like the fish. Everyone else seemed to love it. Years later after I gave birth to my first child, we were spending a Shabbos together with my parents and, as usual, my mother served her Gefilte Fish – she knew not to serve any to me. But on this occasion, for some reason, I decided to give it another try. After 4 slices I finally understood what everyone was saying, and her reason for making it. She even had a method of slicing it that everyone had equal slices with a carrot on top.
The years passed with all her grandchildren knowing about her delicious fish, and I was sure that things would continue as they were, forever. On what became her last Pesach, as we cooked together in the kitchen, (or I should say – as I watched her cook in the kitchen.) whilst I made cakes and peeled veg, she was the REAL cook; I had this feeling of things changing. It could be that she said she wasn’t going to over-cook or perhaps it was that she sat more while she prepared or just the fact that I was approaching 55, there seemed to be a turning point. All I know is I asked her to teach me how to make the fish. She asked me “What’s the problem – I make it?”. So, I said “I just have no idea where to start, and if I ever have to make it, I won’t know how”. Her answer is with me in everything I do until today. She said,“I will be there to guide you.”
After her petira, I felt lost in so many ways but cooking for the family in order to continue her legacy really weighed on my mind. After Purim, as we started preparations for Pesach, I looked for her Pesach Gefilte Fish recipe. Lo and behold, my daughter, who had all her recipes as she had been making Pesach for a while, said that she had it. I also found it in the book of Pesach recipes, all I was missing was which fish she used, and, with the help of the Fish Shop in Manchester, who had her standard order, all the ingredients came together, the only thing I now had to do was actually make it. 9
My mother was at my side every step of the way during this first try as the fish was a success and all the family said “JUST LIKE BUBBY’S”
Gefilte Fish (Pesach)
- 10 Eggs
- 3 Carrots
- 3 Medium Onions
- 1.5 Cups Sugar
- 3 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp White Pepper
Blend the above ingredients for 20 minutes and pour into your mixer bowl. Now add:
- 6 Ib Minced White Fish
- 1 Cup Ground Almonds
- 1/4 Cup Oil
- Hand mix all the ingredients, and then, using the dough hook, on medium let it mix until the fish has solidified.
- It is now ready to either cook as fish balls, or to form logs which can be frozen till the night before you serve.
- To make a log:Place 2 pre-cut grease-proof paper on top of each other Sprinkle water on the top sheet. Squeeze of the water and lay flat. Put 5 heaping serving spoons of fish mixture into the center. Roll into a log shape.
- To cook, place the frozen logs in a fish pot adding water to reach 1/2 way up the side of fish logs.Add 3 tbsp. of sugar, 1 tsp of Salt, Pepper to taste and 2 peeled carrots to garnish. Bring the water to a boil then put on a low flame for 1-2 hours.