Emma Spitzer has always loved cooking, having made herself comfortable in the kitchen from the age of eight years old. It was there where she learnt the cuisine of her forefathers, who originated from Russia and Poland, and was exposed to the doyennes of Jewish cuisine Evelyn Rose and Florence Greenberg, courtesy of her mother. ‘My family wasn’t religious and didn’t keep kosher, but we had a strong Jewish identity and food played the biggest part in shaping this,’ says Emma, who also attributes her early culinary influences to days of travelling with her sisters through the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Although Emma established a career in advertising and later started her own travel business, she always had a love of food – a calling which was reignited by her Jewish mother-in-law, who was known for her impressive cooking skills and decadent Moroccan-style feasts. So Emma entered MasterChef UK in 2015 to see if cooking was just a passion or something more. Her unusual flavour combinations more than made up for her lack of formal training, and Emma progressed to the finals – a turn of events that gave her the belief she needed to release her very own cookbook (Mitchell Beazley; R345, available from Exclusive Books).
‘My newfound confidence has resulted in this book where I share with you my favourite recipes from a heritage of which I am fiercely proud, and that I think every home cook can easily recreate in their own kitchen,’ she says of Fress, which literally means ‘to eat copiously and without restraint’. Starting with a list of essential ingredients and spice mixes that Emma recommends you keep permanently in your cupboard, the easy-to-follow cookbook is packed with moreish and inventive dishes beautifully photographed by Clare Winfield. From turmeric-battered cauliflower and spiced cod falafel to sweet honey chicken and sea bass over chickpeas with cherry tomatoes and Moroccan pesto, you’re in for a wide array of offerings full of flavour. ‘Above all, I see my food as comfort food – in a good way,’ says Emma. ‘It is uncomplicated and (mostly) unfussy, as well as enjoyable to cook!’