A Pesach Tradition - Joanne's Gelite Fish

Joanne's Gefilte Fish

The undisputed symbol of Ashkenazi cuisine for centuries, gefilte fish, which means stuffed fish in Yiddish, is more than just a part of the Jewish culture that I have embraced: cooking it has become a tradition that I would pass on to my children.

The first time I tasted it was 5 years ago at a friend's house in Beverly Hills. We bought it from a Deli and my friend refused to try it. While I was dipping it in chrein (a delicious horseradish sauce), at every bite I thought of all my friends who had warned me of how terrible gefilte fish was: I did not understand the reason for so much hatred towards a fishball and I wanted to give it another chance. The second time I ate it was in a restaurant in Vienna: I fell madly in love with it and decided to try to cook it.

Daniella is one of my best friends and she comes from Israel. Her mom Joanne was born and raised in Australia and is really one of the best cooks I know, at the same level as my mom Sara. Two years ago, on Rosh Hashanah, I managed to get Joanne’s recipe and I cooked it with Daniella: it was certainly an interesting experience also because we had to remove all the scales from the fish (I do not recommend that to anyone). Since then, gefilte fish has been a success every time I've cooked it. I also made it for some non-Jewish friends to taste who, without knowing what it was, loved it right away.

Some like it sweeter, others peppery. Some only use only the carp while others like using more types of white fish. Have all the prejudices you want but the gefilte fish I make is very good and I want to share Joanne’s gefilte fish recipe with you.

Ingredients for gefilte :

1 kilo sea bass, filleted (keep the bones, head and skin)

1 kilo sea bream, filleted (keep the bones, head and skin)

2 onions

3 teaspoons salt

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

2 teaspoon sugar

2 slices of toasted white bread + 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs or, for Pesach, 3 tablespoons of matzo meal

1 hard-boiled egg

Ingredients for fish stock (soup to cook the gefilte fish in) 6 cups of water

 3 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

Some parsley

The heads, skin and bones of the fish 2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon pepper

1 ) Prepare the fish stock in a large shallow saucepan with all the ingredients (for the stock) and heat till boiling

2) Soak the toasted bread in a glass of water, then squeeze out the water and place in a big bowl

3) Peel the onions and the hard-boiled eggs, and grind them in a food processor and then place them in the big bowl

4) Grind the fish in a food processor and also place in the bowl with the bread, eggs and onion. Mix all together

5) Add salt, pepper, sugar, raw eggs and bread crumbs to the bowl and mix well

6) By now, the stock should be boiling. Reduce the heat and shape fish into "cakes": measure 1/4 cup of the fish mixture and form an elongated smooth cake with your hands. Put into the stock very gently. Repeat until you use all of the fish mixture.

7) Cover the pot and keep the heat on a low simmer. Simmer this way for 2 hours. Check occasionally

8) Remove from the heat. Lift the fish cakes and carrot slices from the stock with a slotted spoon and arrange on a plate. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a bowl, and then pour some over the fish. Keep in the refrigerator.

Tzvi’s advice: the best condiment to grace the top of gefilte is chrein. I like it red and, if possible, homemade.


Tzvi Tosetti