Our second Seder was really a Seder-lite. Certainly in comparison to the first night of 16 people sharing egg in saltwater, smoked salmon, gefilte fish, chicken soup with kneidelach, roast chicken, roast lamb, roast potatoes, chocolate cake, biscuits and fruit. In line with the levity with which all 5 of us needed on the second night, I cooked veal as a light(er) meat. To my delight, Nigella Lawson has a recipe for Veal in her Passover section of Feast. I marinated a boneless, tied-up loin of veal for 36 hours with rosemary, fennel, salt, 6 cloves of garlic and two glasses of dry Riesling.
On the day, we spent a lovely morning at Prahran market, shopping for salad. As well as salad leaves, the stallholder at the organic stall suggested baby beetroot, which we took his advice on. Strangely, given the immense meal the night before, I was hungry. I had made a matzo fry-up for breakfast – matzo soaked in milk, fried in olive oil, with cheese and eggs, but that had not filled me and I failed in my search for potato cakes, finding only donuts, muffins and focaccias, all of which are illegal during Pesach. I thus had a healthy banana with my cappuccino, and some melted cheese on matzo once home.
This time was incredibly becalming in comparison to the afternoon. Babe and I spent the days before hand preparing the house and food, and had a reasonable and strong belief that the day itself would be easy, with time to kick back and relax in between simple cooking tasks. I realised that I was wrong when tottering on my feet at about 4pm, drenched in sweat, and wishing beyond reason that I could have a shower and another lie down (I had stolen one earlier in the day, at 1pm, however was told to get up after only 45 minutes).
The crowdedness of the stove was possibly part of the problem, as in retrospect, there wasn’t a huge amount of work to do. The chicken soup had been made by Babe the day before, although it was reheated slowly on the stove, and she had to make an flourless orange cake, I had to peel some potatoes, and make a salad, and other than that, there was not a great deal to do. We had all been all been up since 5am, and our baby had not slept very well the night before, with frequent crying, possibly a result of being woken up when she left her grandparents house, and being confused about timing. She doesn’t mix that well with sleep at the best of night times. Hence, possibly the heat and tiredness caused the draining. In writing this, I certainly cannot think of any single task that was particularly messy or difficult. Rather, I think, a crowded menu, a small stove, hot kitchen, a small fridge and a baby who doesn’t yet know how to cook (just you wait – we have a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s instructions ready for her, once she can stand up and hold a whisk).
The final menu read: egg in saltwater, as per tradition; chicken soup; roast veal with garlic and lemon roast potatoes and a walnut, beetroot and carrot salad with ginger-honey dressing; and a flourless orange cake with after dinner mints. As I said, this was light in comparison to the first night, and most other family Seders that I have been to.
The veal, which I cooked for just under 2 hours with some beef bones (Nigella stipulated unavailable veal bones) and water, was moist, and fell apart in lovely chunks. It was light , lemony, tender and herby. I had made a gravy with the pan juices and some extra wine. I was worried that I had been sold Pork by mistake (being unfamiliar with both kinds of meat, knowing only that pork is light in colour), however my mother in-law reassured me on that. A Seder with pork would have been unusual.
No-one could be bothered with telling the rest of the Seder story after the food, so we never got to that bit. Still, we had a lovely, warm, and easy night at our second Seder-lite.