Ethel G. Hofman
Ethel G Hofman

I grew up in the only Jewish family living in the remote Shetland Isles, north of Scotland. You wouldn't think that it would be possible to cook Jewish in a Protestant environment where cooking was simple and basic. But while my playmates sat down to suppers of fried herring, I cut my teeth on pickled herring and gefilte fish, dishes my mother had learned from my Lithuanian grandmother who lived on the Scottish mainland. Along with steaming cups of tea, instead of bannocks and scones, my mother served mandelbrot and strudel to delighted friends and neighbors.

It was from my mother that I learned Jewish cooking - at least, Ashkenazi style. Local ingredients such as fresh caught fish ( which we ate every day), potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, milk and cheeses were similar to those that her Lithuanian mother cooked with. Although we lived in an environment totally isolated from any Jewish community, she quickly transformed these ingredients into the dishes she had been brought up with in Glasgow, Scotland where a large number of European Jews had settled in the early 1900's. My mother just combined these foods using different spices and techniques from that of our neighbors who incidentally, thought her cooking quite exotic and begged for the recipes.

Our family, the Greenwalds, observed the Sabbath and Holydays, and traditional Eastern European dishes were daily fare. Each summer, my Russian born father would hoist a barrel of salt herring into our garage to be on hand so that my mother could put up batches of pickled herring in five pound glass sweetie jars or pull out a few herring from the brine to make the chopped herring which he loved. We couldn't get the sweet and sour rye bread he had grown up with in Russia, but to me, the crusty brown bread fresh the bakery oven down the street, tasted absolutely delicious slathered with the herring spread studded with bits of hard-cooked egg and onion. Passover items such as matzos and matzo meal were unavailable in the grocery stores, which stocked only the basics. Why would they when there was no call for it except from one family? A Passover package, containing amongst other things a gallon of olive oil, was shipped to us from Morrison's Delicatessen in Glasgow, and as my mother never fails to point out, " I was cooking with olive oil long before it became fashionable." And indeed, in my mother's kitchen, whether it was fried fish and chips (French fries), the typical British weekend supper, or gefilte fish patties, they were all cooked in oil rather than the commonly used lard. 

Friday morning my mother did not go to work in our store. That was the time set aside for cooking and baking, the kitchen floor was washed and covered with newspaper and the brass candlesticks were polished ready to hold the Sabbath candles. When my brothers and I came home from school, the house was sparkling and filled with the delicious smells of chicken soup, gefilte fish and enough cakes and cookies to last well into the next week. It is these memories and my mother's Ashkenazi cooking that helped instill in me my Jewish identity. 

Ethel G. Hofman, CCP, has more than twenty years experience working in the kosher food and wine industry.
She has created a unique culinary approach appealing to today's home cooks. Her 3-step philosophy, "measure, mix and cook," fits into a new century lifestyle with its numerous demands on time. 

She notes "Almost any recipe, no matter how complicated, can be simplified using the thousands of high quality kosher convenience products available in every supermarket."

Ethel is culinary consultant to national companies. She conducts chef and restaurant staff training seminars on laws of kashrut, recipe adaptation and menu planning, and informs about new kosher items in the marketplace. 

Ethel's unique focus on kosher food preparation may be read in her syndicated columns, as food editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and in the Jewish holiday articles which have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mackerel at Midnight was published in 2005 by Camino Books, Philadelphia. The UK edition of Mackerel at Midnight has been published by Mercat Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the author of Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home, HarperCollins, 1997. She is also a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, a diverse group of talented and highly visible members active in the food and wine industries all over the world.

She has appeared on numerous television, radio and print media including Television Food Network with Sara Moulton and David Rosengarten, WXEL, Florida. National Public Radio Baltimore Jewish Times.

The UK edition of Mackerel at Midnight has been published by Mercat Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. There's a bright new cover, more than 70 recipes and an expanded prologue and epilogue. Available from Amazon.co.uk.

Mackerel At Midnight was featured at the International Book Festival, Edinborgh, Scotland, 2007.


Ethel is a kosher food consultant, cookbook author, and food editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. She is also a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and a member of the American Jewish Press Association.