Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer’s recipe for fishballs ahead of Jewish food festival Gefiltefest

Rugelach will be at the Gefiltefest. Picture: Steve Ingram

Rugelach will be at the Gefiltefest. Picture: Steve Ingram - Credit: Archant

Katarina Poensgen learns about the annual Gefiltefest where foodies can explore Jewish culture through food with workshops, demonstrations, debates and mouthwatering stalls of Kosher delights.

Emma Spitzer

Emma Spitzer - Credit: Archant

Annual food fair Gefiltefest runs at JW3 this Sunday with cooking workshops, demonstrations, mouthwatering stalls and lively debates exploring Jewish culture through its varied cuisine.

Jewish and non-Jewish foodies are welcome along to the community centre in Finchley Road to hear from food writers, chefs and speakers, try helpings from the pop-up Kosher food market such as kosher prawns, vegetarian caviar and smoked salmon or learn to bake babka, rainbow doughs and halva.

Sessions include discovering Italian Jewish cooking, Eastern European cuisine from Hungary, finding out what Jesus would eat, and discovering the links between Jewish food and comedy.

Celebrity cooks include East Finchley-based 2015 MasterChef contestant Emma Spitzer, who is offering the chance to win a dinner cooked by her.

“It’s a celebration of a cuisine which people have interpreted very differently depending on where Jewish people have settled around the world,” she says.

“The festival celebrates all these styles, from eastern European to South American food, it brings the world together under one roof.”

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Spitzer, who also has her own travel business, says MasterChef was a big boost to her culinary ambitions and is enjoying her new life appearing at food events and writing a book.

“It has opened up so much: I am launching a cookbook, which I’ve always wanted to do, I get to teach and demonstrate at food festivals, do some catering, and travel around a little.”

Hailing from an Ashkenazi Jewish background, Spitzer has “a huge passion for Jewish food”.

“It reminds me of my upbringing. A lot of the food that my mum cooked was fairly eastern European style, which is the more traditional dishes without spice.”

And her mother-in-law of north African heritage who was brought up in Israel, has also influenced the flavours in Spitzer’s kitchen.

“I have taken the traditional Ashkenazi dishes and combined them with flavours of North Africa, a perfect combination”

Even her favourite Jewish dish, fried fishballs, (see below) get their own little twist.

“Fishballs are a little weakness of mine, I absolutely love them. My mum used to make them a lot. Interestingly, there is no spice at all in them, but I make my own cream which is red horseradish with beetroot, salt and vinegar.”

Other cooks who appear on the day include such as the head chef of Jerusalem-inspired eaterie The Palomar, Tomer Amedi, Ben Tish of Salt Yard Group, seasonal eating guru Amelia Saltsman and the winner of Israeli MasterChef 2014, Dr Nof Atamna Ismaeel.

Gefiltefest was founded in 2010 by East Finchley publisher Michael Leventhal as a registered charity whose mission is to bring people together to explore the relationship between Judaism and food, heritage, ethics, culture and traditions.

This year every ticket holder goes into a draw to win a pair of return tickets to Israel with Monarch.

Tickets: £22 per adult.

Fish Balls (Makes about 45 fishballs)


1 large carrot

1 onion

1kg minced white fish

1 egg

2 tbsps of medium matzo meal

2 tsp of sugar

½ tbsp of salt

Cracked black pepper

2L of Mazola oil for deep frying


Peel and grate the onion and carrot, or add to the bowl of your food processor.

Put the minced fish in a large bowl and add the onion and carrot and remaining ingredients, mixing well with your hands till everything is incorporated.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan to 170 degrees. Take a small walnut size amount of the mixture and using a slotted spoon, drop carefully in to the oil and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until it’s a deep golden brown. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, then shape the mixture into ping pong size balls.

Cook in batches making sure the fish balls cook for a minimum of 7 minutes to ensure the inside is properly cooked.

Remove with a slotted spoon to a tray lined with kitchen towels and allow to cool completely before serving; or even better, make the day before and chill until required.