Making Shabbat sparkle
How to make the last Friday night dinner of 2021 super special.
It’s been 11 years since Shabbat fell on New Year’s Eve, and it won’t happen again for another six years. It may not be our new year but after last year’s festive wipeout, I don’t need much of an excuse to make a Friday night even more festive.
Set the mood by making the table look lovely. Add a layer of sparkle with some table glitter — food writer, Judi Rose (Judi Rose Cookery) suggests star of David confetti in gold and silver. “It will add a smile to people’s faces when they sit down.”
Dani Tucker, stylist and author of The Social Kitchen, also suggests going for gold. “I would buy some small gold floating candles, gold and silver tinsel and maybe a gold or sequinned table runner. Use a selection of different glass containers of varying sizes — jam jars, glasses and small vases — and fill them with water at varying levels, for the candles to float in. Or use mini disco balls or fresh flowers to float in the water instead if you prefer. Chooose flowers of the same colour.”
She also suggests cutting small lengths of tinsel to wrap around the napkins; or scattering disco balls along the runner with tea lights.
Rose advises setting the scene by building ‘layers’ on the table: “Place a charger at each place setting, then a large dinner plate and a flat soup bowl on top of that. You can add a colourful napkin and napkin ring and perhaps give each guest a chocolate. Leftover Chanukah gelt would be perfect. Keep table centres low to allow guests to chat over the table.”
“Don’t be afraid to use your best candlesticks, cutlery and kiddush cup. This is the night to make use of the bits you keep for best” says Rose, who says her mother, Evelyn Rose, would use every Friday night as an opportunity to entertain and celebrate. “I grew up with the idea of Shabbat being a party.”
With sunset especially early at this time of year, the evening is a long one — so you may want to spread out the food. Perhaps make kiddush with a sparkling wine and canapés. Sarah Mann of kosher butchers Louis Mann suggests tiny salt beef rolls with mustard and pickles; little cups of spiced nuts and olives; mini (parev) Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and horseradish; and tiny baked new potatoes with a spoon of parev sour cream and some fish roe. “You can make them all in advance and leave them on the hot table, but make sure you have a double layer of foil below them and keep them covered so they don’t dry out.”
You can take the idea a step further with mini versions of Friday night staples — shots of chicken soup in glasses or espresso cups with tiny matzah balls on cocktail sticks to dip in; egg and onion or chopped liver on crostini or small crackers would all be suitably festive. “Or if you are serving other soups, you could add a little toast or crouton baton on the side to dip while you eat it,” says Mann.
If you want to create a party-style atmosphere, you could dispense with table service and make the entire evening a series of canapes. Mann advises six-to-10 savoury canapes per head. Or upping the portion sizes to make a bowl food party. “You could serve sweet and sour chicken; cottage pie and lamb tagine on couscous — all options that will keep well once Shabbat comes in.”
If you prefer a traditional sit-down, main course option, then Mann suggests coq au vin with mash and green beans or duck a l’orange, both of which will keep well on a hot plate.
Rose suggests giving a festive feel to every element of your traditional Friday night meal: “Instead of regular roast potatoes, why not make Hassleback potatoes, and maybe add some bay leaves to make them more festive. Braise your peas ‘à la Française’ instead of serving ordinary boiled petits pois. Rather than keeping vegetables warm for hours, serve a couple of nice fresh salads on the side instead.”
You could also shape your challah into ‘2022’ — or buy them if your baking skills are not up to it.
Other twists to the traditional menu that Rose suggests may be to turn your normal chopped liver into chicken liver pâté with brandy (see: facing page) and a pile of salad leaves on the side. “You could serve it with some seasonal poached pear marinaded in a homemade tarragon vinaigrette. Or you could serve the chopped liver in a small mason jar, with challah and some tiny cornichons, bistro style.”
A benefit of the long evening is that you can create a gap between the main course and dessert and then make a meal of dessert.
Sally-Anne Thwaites (Sassy Cooking From the Heart author of charity cookbook, Cooking From the Heart ) suggests a grazing table for your feast: “I would either do it as a buffet table and change the dishes for each course, or just do one for dessert. Lay the table beautifully with a candelabra, or battery-operated candles as well as your Shabbat candlesticks to create the right ambiance that would last the duration of the evening. If I was doing all three courses on my grazing table, I’d leave nuts, crudites and fruit on it so people can nibble throughout the evening — especially if there’s a big gap between courses.”
Thwaites’s dessert suggestions include a large platter of fruit skewers to dip into melted chocolate (that could be held on a warm enough hot plate) together with a large pavlova plus mini desserts like chocolate mousse, tiny fruit crumbles and sticky toffee puddings as well as lots of truffles and chocolate bark. “You could place a 2022 stencil on the pavlova and bring in 2022 with desserts and champagne.”
Rose advises doing as much as you can in advance. “You can make and freeze soups; bakes and things like crostini, which you can crisp up in the oven. The less left to do on the day or day before, the more likely you are to enjoy the celebrations.
Charity cookbook Cooking from the Heart is available from Jewish Care
See full article here: https://www.thejc.com/lets-eat/all/making-shabbat-sparkle-HcsuQPvC9TxYFXQFDHHjU