When I first met Haya, she was cutting the throat of a dead deer. It was one of the hottest summer days of 2019 and in game path the shooting for an episode of Kitchen Impossible took place. The aim was to recreate a dish made by Viktoria Fuchs and have it tasted and compared by a jury of ten regular guests. Tim Mälzer sent Haya into this almost impossible-to-win battle: modern game cuisine in the Black Forest; two kinds of deer with Schupfnudeln, blueberries, deep sauce with stunning pepper aromas. After Haya’s energy had given the deer the rest, she nonchalantly braised a shoulder from the leg of deer and fearlessly worked on Baden Schupfnudeln. At that point at the latest, I finally fell in love with them – despite Fuchs’ one-on-one lessons, I haven’t really succeeded in them in my whole life. Family man Haya with the Fuchs family in Spielweg – at first glance that was the great love on all sides.
And you think to yourself: There can hardly be a more authentic way to publish a cookbook about your own family’s favorite recipes than by Haya Molcho. All the more regrettable that “Coming Home” didn’t turn out to be a good book.
Author, book and publisher
Haya Molcho, born in Israel in 1955, grew up in Bremen. She has Romanian roots and runs a farm in Romania where the vegetables for the NENI restaurants are grown. After graduating from high school, she studied psychology, married Samy Molcho and traveled the world with her husband for years – to this day she describes herself as a nomad. The family has lived in Vienna for many years, where Haya founded her first NENI restaurant in 2009 – the name is an acronym of the first letters of her sons’ names. The NENIs have now grown into a small gastronomic empire, including cooperation with the 25 Hours hotel chain and the SPAR retail chain. The focus is on oriental dishes, especially Israeli cuisine. Next to Yotam Ottolenghi, no other name stands for the rise of Levantine cuisine to the culinary favorite of the Germans as much as that of Haya Molcho. Since 2018, Haya has been seen more and more often on television – with her stunning cheerfulness and a “snout” that is in no way inferior to the malty brashness, Kitchen Impossible is the perfect molcho format.
“Coming Home – my family recipes” was published in October 2022 by Verlag Brandstätter. It has a sunflower-yellow cover with a linen feel and offers stories and very simple recipes on 208 pages, mostly on a vegetarian basis.
So far I have cooked:
Poached Eggs with Yoghurt Sauce, page 80
Stuffed peppers, page 145
Focaccia with zucchini, almonds, honey and thyme, page 33
categories and content
The actual categories of the book are the family members. Individual chapters are dedicated to Haya, her husband Samy and their four sons. In these, Haya opens private photo albums, and there are anecdotes in a conversational tone; she reports on family trips and their favorite foods. This sympathetic idea is responsible for the first weakness of the book: If in a few weeks I Ras el Neni Chicken I can hardly find it again if I want to cook. In the recipe register it is under “R” and not under “H” for chicken. So I should keep the spice, or at least remember that this recipe is listed in the Son Nuriel chapter. A listing by starters, main courses, dessert? none. Salads, soups, fish, meat? Unavailable.
The recipe editors were hardly present either. There is no other way I can explain how a cookbook with oriental recipes that repeatedly use hummus does not offer a single hummus recipe. For that there is next to that Ras el Neni Chicken with the prescription for the Jerusalem Count another classic from the NENI restaurants – only the recipe for the required “Jerusalem spice” is not included. Lapidary is in brackets only “Jerusalem spice: Neni”. What should I do with a recipe that I can’t cook because I’m missing out on an important ingredient?
In the recipe for grilled sea bream, sea bream fillets are offered as an alternative. Unfortunately, no one thought of the fact that instructions such as “close the fish” are just as obsolete as the specified cooking times for whole fish.
The recipe for the topped Focaccia calls for 34(!) g of honey. Thirty-four. Presumably Haya writes her recipes with English units of measurement. However, if the large quantities in gastro recipes are broken down into four people and no one in the editorial team thinks about not only “calculating down” but also adjusting, (probably) 1 cup of honey (= 340 g) becomes 34 g of honey in a German Cookbook, and not just “a tablespoon”. This annoyance continues in 26g of dill tips (poached eggs) or 16 g olive oil (ibid.).
In the recipe for stuffed peppers Surprisingly, the required amount of olive oil is again given in tablespoons. But I can fill a whole box of pointed peppers with 425 g cooked rice and 550 g Hamshuka + pine nuts and not just the four indicated in the recipe. Speaking of stuffed peppers: I’m supposed to use 500 g Tomato matbuha use. The list of ingredients refers to the basic recipe, page 187. However, on page 187 there is a recipe for harissa. So I search in the alphabetical index M to Matbuha. Unfortunately nothing. I do not give up. Among T I agree Tomato matbuha with harissa on page 155. Alone, I’ve lost the desire to do it now and frustratedly open a can of chopped tomatoes while cooking and then squeeze a load of harissa out of the tube. The book never tells me what Matbuha actually is, namely a salad made from boiled tomatoes and roasted peppers. None of the typical oriental ingredients, their origin or history is explained.
For He doesn’t go down should I add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste to 550 g of minced meat. Dear recipe editor, that doesn’t work! Even an EL would not be enough here. But I can calculate the required amount of olive oil as a “shot”. For Labneh I am supposed to use 1 kg of Greek yoghurt, the fat content is not revealed; as well as I don’t know if I can Semolina cake with almonds should bake with durum or soft wheat semolina. But now I’m already wumpe. Dousing a few olives with olive oil and filling them with a few spices in a screw-top jar is no longer a recipe, but chutzpah. (Olivenmix, page 79). The basic recipe for vegetable stock consists of onion, leek (also onion), celeriac and celery with some carrot and parsley root. Plus water. No salt, no bay leaf, no pepper, no acid.
Haya always says do your thing and the most important thing in cooking is love. I love Haya, but when it comes to cooking, recipes that work are more important to me. Whether the author wrote them with love is secondary. Haya Molcho is not a chef, but an entrepreneur. An attentive recipe editor would have been all the more important for this book.
“Coming Home – my family recipes” has become a nice book, but not a good one. The recipes are simple and the basic idea is also suitable for beginners, but unfortunately not in the book. The bumpy and inconsistent listing of ingredients, the lack of a list by category and the annoying mistakes (wrong page numbers, wrong quantities, missing spices) require a good deal of patience when cooking. And, unsurprisingly, that isn’t listed in the recipe register either.
I received a friendly email from the publisher along with a big thank you. The book will be completely revised for the next edition, my review is available to the editors and the program management – they can understand my comments well. I am just as happy about this appreciation of my work as I am about the next edition of “Coming Home”!
Brandstätter Verlag made this cookbook available to me free of charge for a review, for which I am very grateful. There was no specification of the content.