Seven Weeks in a Few Lines

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Our first secular vacation is round the corner; we are getting a ten-day break as from Friday. All in all it has been a very pleasant period: a successful exchange, a meaningful Yom Kippur followed by an unexpected meal in a Sukkah and lots of sunny and dry weather.

The most surprising feature of these seven weeks however has been my students. Those who read my blog regularly may remember that I have complained at lengths about the pupils’ behavior in my school and the administration’s passivity.

This year things seem quite different. Most of my students are quite agreeable and teaching them is much more pleasant than last year.

My favorite group is a class of 27 ninth-graders. They are full of enthusiasm. They arrive in the classroom and greet me and each other in English. The oral participation is dynamic, relevant and they like to use the vocabulary they learned in previous lessons. Even the weaker ones seem to enjoy the lessons and are eager to show they can say something, even if it is not much.

I am grateful that I have such satisfying students and savor every minute of it. This blissful atmosphere reminds me of why I wanted to go into teaching and makes me feel useful again.

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Communal Evening

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After spending Yom Kippur in Antwerp last week, I expected Sukkot to be disappointing in comparison. All the more so as I do not get the days off and still have not come round to building my own sukkah (an idea which is both tempting and daunting as far as I am concerned).

However on Tuesday I got a FB message from one member of our tiny community telling me that we were all invited for the Friday evening service followed by a meal in a family sukkah. Our hosts are a middle-aged couple with three children. His family comes from Algeria while hers is from Tunisia.

The hostess had prepared a very appetizing meal with a distinctly Sephardic flavor (pizzas, makoud, tuna-filled savory pastries, dates, …) I had contributed by making an apple cake (not a Sephardic dessert at all) whose recipe I had found in Kosher Revolution. This cake is absolutely delicious and I have made it three times in two weeks. It proved to be a success once again.

Quite a number of people turned up and it ended up being a wonderful evening and a meaningful continuation of the High Holidays.

Vegetarian Pyttipanna

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Pyttipanna is a traditional Swedish dish consisting of potatoes, onions, sausage/meat leftovers from past meals. You finely chop all ingredients and fry them in a pan, served with fried eggs and pickled beetroot. Here is my own vegetarian version.

Ingredients (per person):
– 1/2 onion
– 1 carrot, cubed
– 2-3 smallish potatoes, cubed
– 1/2 middle-sized beetroot or a small one, cooked and cubed
– 1 egg

Fry the onion, potatoes and carrots until they start to brown. Cover with a lid and turn the heat down. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your vegetables cubes and the freshness of the ingredients you use) or until the vegetables are soft.

Add the cubed beetroot and stir the mixture. Cover for another minute or so. Add the egg and cover again until the white is slightly set but the yolk is runny. Serve immediately.

Options:
– Use fresh mushrooms instead of beets.
– The egg can also be poached separately before being added to individual plates.

Finnish version with salmon

Swedish Fish Soup

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A couple of weeks ago when I was in Sweden we went to a fish restaurant where my colleagues had fish soup. I ordered salmon instead as the soup had shrimps. However it looked and smelt so good that I looked at it carefully to see what it contained. This morning I read a few recipes and here is what I came up with.

1 red onion
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 carrots, grated
pinch of saffron threads
2 dl white wine
2dl fresh cream
2 dl water
freshly ground pink peppercorn and black pepper
300 gr salmon
300 gr firm white fish (cod or flounder)
sprigs of fresh dill
crème fraiche

Gently sauté the onion and the garlic. When translucent, add the grated carrots and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Add the wine, cream, water, pepper and saffron. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally incorporate the fish and toss in the dill.

Serve hot with a dollop of crème fraiche in each bowl.