Rosh Hashanah Starters

Tradition, Tradition! I feel I have to keep the traditions of my childhood going, and my mom always made fish starters on Rosh Hashanah. For me it is always a dilemma whether or not I should serve a four course meal, as once people have eaten the fish course, the chicken soup and perogies (perogen), they have no room left for the entree or main course. So each year I debate with myself, what should I do – leave out the fish course? eliminate the soup?  and each time I arrive at the same conclusion, TRADITION, you just cannot break it! When thinking what fish dishes to make, the first thing that comes to mind is gefilte fish. However, I no longer live in Johannesburg, and I cannot easily get fish bones etc. to make the traditional broth my mother used to make, but fortunately my mother-in-law taught me many years ago that she does not use fish bones, she seasons her water very well, and the fish tastes equally good. I have to make one further confession, this is America, and I am not aware of any supermarket in my city that will grind fish for me, as they used to do in Johannesburg, so I now use the gefilte fish loaves to make my gefilte fish. I prepare it in different ways.

Of course many of our fish starters included herring – chopped, pickled, Danish or mustard herring, but I have not included these on my blog because the recipes are not mine, but are available in many kosher cookbooks or sights on line.

“Traditional” Gefilte Fish with Sweetened Horseradish Sauce


1 loaf unsweetened gefilte fish
3 large carrots, peeled
2 large onions. peeled
celery salt
salt and pepper
8-10 cups of water

Place water in a large pot.
Add the carrots and onions –  I do not slice them.
Bring the water to a boil and then add the loaf of fish that is still wrapped in the paper.
Add a generous amount of celery salt (1-2 tablespoons), about one tablespoon. salt and 2 tsp. pepper.
Let the fish cook in the broth for an hour.
Remove the loaf carefully from the broth and place on a plate to cool. Remove the paper.
Remove the carrots from the broth and cut them into rounds to use for garnishing. You canleave the fish as a loaf and place the in refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. When you are ready to serve it, cut the fish into slices, platter and decorate with the sliced carrots.

On Rosh Hashanah we are encouraged not to eat bitter or sour foods, so I made a slightly sweet, yet still strong horseradish sauce to go with the fish. Instead of putting the sauce into dishes, I made little serving “bowls” out of fresh cucumber.

Horseradish Sauce Ingredients
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
2 Tbs. Kinneret or Rich’s whipped topping
2 tsp. red or white horseradish

Mix all the ingredients together.
Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Place some sauce in the cucumber “bowl” and use to decorate your platter of gefilte fish.

Another delicious way of cooking the gefilte fish loaf is to bake it with a sauce. This is my favorite baked gefilte fish loaf.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf with Mushroom Marinara Sauce Ingredients
1 gefilte fish loaf, I prefer unsweetened
1 onion
1 cube frozen garlic or 1 clove chopped garlic
1 punnet sliced mushrooms
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped or 1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbs. fresh oregano chopped or 1 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbs. olive oil

Heat oil in a skillet and fry the onion and the garlic until the onions are soft and translucent,
Add the mushrooms. Season with the salt and pepper.
Allow to cook until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.
Add the canned tomatoes, sugar, basil and oregano.
Mix well and allow to simmer for 10 minutes so flavors blend.
Remove fish from package and remove the loaf from the white paper it is wrapped in. Place fish in a casserole dish and pour the sauce over the fish.
Bake at 350 F for an hour.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
You can serve this dish hot, at room temperature or cold.
I refrigerate it, and slice it when I am ready to use it. I spread the sauce over the sliced fish and decorate with some fresh parsley.

Another family favorite is mock crayfish, flaked white fish in a creamy tomato sauce. Try it.

Yael’s Version of Mock Crayfish


2 packets frozen Pollock
6-8 cups water
2 bay leaves
Peppercorns – 12-15
2 tsp. salt
1 onion, peeled

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp. Hot Sauce
salt and pepper

Bring the water to the boil with the spices and onion in it.
Add the frozen fish.
Cook for approximately 20 minutes, you don’t want the fish to get too soft, but you do want to be sure it is cooked.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish from the broth, and place on a plate to cool. Cover it and refrigerate it until it is properly cold, at least 2 hours or even better, over night.
Mix the mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce together.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove fish from refrigerator and carefully flake with a fork. Try not to mash the fish.
Gently stir the mayonnaise sauce over the fish and return to refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.
This dish does well if prepared a day or two in advance. Serve on a platter –  I like to decorate it with sliced avocado. It is also great served in half an avocado pear. 300

I love fish cakes! I have been dreaming of making fish cakes for a while now, but I have not done so for two reasons. The first is, because our house is such an open plan, design, the smell of anything cooking permeates every corner of the house, and the thought of the smell of fried fish is more than I can handle. The second reason is that I really don’t fry food anymore. It is so unhealthy. So, I decided to experiment and come up with a baked fish cake recipe, and guess what? –  it worked, and according to my unbiased husband the fishcakes are delicious! Note too that I have developed a recipe that can be gluten free.

Baked Fish Cakes (makes 12 cakes)

1 loaf unsweetened gefilte fish
3 carrots peeled and sliced in chunks
1 onion, peeled and sliced in chunks
1 handful of fresh parsley
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 potatoes peeled and quartered
1/4 cup cold (from the fridge) water
Olive oil

Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with water.
Add 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil.
Simmer until the potatoes are soft and easy to mash.
In a food processor chop finely the carrots, onion and parsley. Remove defrosted fish loaf from wrappers and place in a mixing bowl.
Add carrot mixture and blend well.
When potatoes are cooked, remove them from a water to a small bowl and mash them well.
Add them to the fish mixture.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Add the cold water to lighten/fluff up the mixture. Note the mixture is very sticky at this point.
Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and lightly coat it with olive oil.
Place heaped tablespoons of fish onto the try, and flatten slightly with back of spoon to form cakes
303 Lightly drizzle some olive oil over each cake and spread it on the fish with your finger.
Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool. When cool enough refrigerate until ready to serve.

These fish cakes can be served on their own, with the horseradish sauce above or (using the delicious recipe of the “other” Yael in Peter’s life, his administrative assistant’s),  parev Ranch sauce made by mixing a packet of ranch dressing with some mayonnaise and a little coconut milk to thin it out.
Please note that the gefilte fish loaves have wheat in them, so if you want to make these fish cakes gluten free, you can grind your own fish. I would use one packet of frozen pollack, defrosted. Then when you grind the carrots, onion and parsley you can add the fish too. Once you have done this. Add an extra large egg to the mix to bind it all together. (It is not necessary to add an egg to the loaves as they already have egg added to them) Then continue the recipe as above.

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