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Keeping kosher and healthy

Tali’s Kosher Kitchen, written by television presenter Tali Shine, is filled with healthy versions of classic kosher dishes. She speaks with Rebecca Davis.

Television presenter, journalist and author Tali Shine
Television presenter, journalist and author Tali Shine

Q. With many kosher processed foods containing preservatives, artificial colours and flavours and palm oil, can kosher and healthy food co-exist? What are some healthier options?
While delicious, traditional kosher food, is not typically light or healthy (it’s often fried or contains lots of gluten, schmaltz and sugar). But I do believe that kosher food can be healthy – it just takes some thought, tweaking and home cooking, because prepackaged food is very rarely healthy or nutrient dense. I generally use dates and raw cacao powders, or when necessary, coconut sugar, agave or maple syrup, rather than more processed sugar. I substitute plain flour with gluten-free flours like coconut and chickpea flours, and I often make my own almond milk instead of using supermarket brands.

Q. In our fast-paced, modern world, what tips can you offer for maintaining a healthy, kosher diet and building it into every day?
I prepare healthy snacks ahead of time that I can keep in my bag, such as homemade hummus and vegetable sticks, chia seed and nut “bread”, and protein balls. When it comes to meals, I like to have vegetable soups, quinoa salads and vegetable cholent (that all last for a few days) on standby in the fridge. I can eat them the minute I get hungry, instead of snacking on processed and less healthy options. This stabilises blood sugars and also helps to adjust the taste buds, so I rarely crave sugar or processed food any more.

Q. What trends are you currently seeing in kosher healthy food?
With so many people experiencing different food allergies, I am seeing many now following a gluten-free, dairy-free (which makes pareve meals easy) and low sugar diets. Because there are not as many kosher restaurants here in Sydney, as there are in places like Melbourne and the USA, there is also more incentive to home cook traditional treats like pizza and burgers, which creates a great opportunity to make healthier tweaks (like a cauliflower or chickpea crust pizza) and “clean” salmon burgers that are easy, delicious and most importantly, healthy!

Q. Is it possible to make some of the quintessential Jewish classics healthier, without compromising on taste?
Absolutely, yes! I’ve been adapting recipes for the last few years. I make gluten-free latkes and baked doughnuts for Chanukah; baked fish balls, vegetable cholent, and dairy-free cacao and avocado mousse which actually tastes like normal chocolate mousse for Shabbat. I also bake gluten-free honey cake and honey biscuits for Rosh Hashanah – without the refined sugar. During Pesach, I make frittatas and use plenty of fish and vegetables, and for a treat, I indulge on almond meal macaroons, making sure that not every meal uses matzah. I love how our traditional dishes are a way to maintain family and community bonds. They are imbued with so much history and tradition. I never want to change that – I just want to make them a little healthier!

Q. Do you have any suggestions for keeping kosher and healthy on a budget?
Always buy seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s a fresher, healthier option – and more economical. I also like buying fresh frozen berries and vegetables and herbs when they are not in season, as when these foods are snap frozen, they retain their nutrients. Cooking soups, burgers and vegetable dishes in larger quantities and then freezing them is also much more economical and convenient.

Basil and spinach pesto pasta (serves 4)
Tali Shine shares her fresh take on an Italian favourite, perfect for the warmer months.

INGREDIENTS
For pesto:
1.5 cups of basil leaves
1 cup of baby spinach leaves
1 cup pine nuts
2.5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cup of olive oil (approx.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

For pasta:
300g gluten free pasta
1 cup frozen peas
2 tbs pine nuts, lightly grilled
1 cup of baby rocket leaves

Optional
1 avocado
Parmesan cheese (this can replace the yeast if you do not need a pareve meal)
Basil leaves, for garnish

METHOD

  • Blanch spinach and basil leaves by placing in boiling water for a few seconds and then placing into iced water (this will help to keep the vibrant green colour).
  • Place all pesto ingredients (apart from the olive oil) into a food processor and blend until it is finely minced. Add olive oil to make a thinner paste and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring water to boil for the pasta. Add a little salt and cook the pasta until it is al dente (usually 9-10 mins). Add frozen peas in the last minute. Drain.
  • Bring a frypan to medium heat and add the rocket leaves, pasta, peas, and pesto and stir through for a minute.
  • Once the pasta is in bowls garnish with pine nuts, basil leaves and optional avocado slices and parmesan cheese.

 

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