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Steven Morris photographed by his son, Rick Pushinsky
13th October 2017

Just Not Kosher: Q&A with Steven Morris

“The Helzel was made and I duly began to cram it into the turkey,” writes Steven Morris in his recipe for roast chicken with helzel. “At that moment my recently widowed mother, who was staying with us for the holidays, bowled into the kitchen and immediately burst into gales of laughter. She’d caught sight of me ramming the helzel into the turkey with the end of a big wooden rolling pin, in the manner of a gunner forcing wadding down the barrel of a cannon.”

It is these sorts of anecdotes that make Just Not Kosher, a series of 21 recipe cards created by Steven Morris and photographed by his son Rick Pushinsky, not your everyday cookery publication. Rick’s beautifully abstract photographs (think a banana cosying down in an oven glove turned sleeping bag) juxtapose with the glossy 70s-esque laminate of the recipe cards and, as a distinctly personal project, the cards are joyously littered with family photos and anecdotes.

For Steven and Rick, food means more than just a meal; it’s the glue that bonds families together, a maker of memories, and a statement of both cultural and personal identity. Steven is not a professional chef but rather a Jewish dad with a talent for crafting timeless dishes. The recipes that feature in Just Not Kosher are, according to Rick, “a selection of perennial favourites that myself, my mum, dad and brother have all agreed on following a few months of discussion (heightened hostility)” and are the result of a long-existing family recipe archive.

Below, Steven gives a no-nonsense rundown of Just Not Kosher. Dad jokes and all.

Like father like son, Rick Pushinsky and father Steven Morris

So let’s get this straight, whose idea was Just Not Kosher?

Rick’s.

What’s it been like working with your son on a project like this?

Great. He lives in London, I live in Manchester.

How did you decide which recipes would feature?

By committee: Rick, his brother Harry, my wife Helen and, when included, me.

What kind of people do you hope will buy it?

Those inquisitive about Jewish food, those attracted by the nostalgic nature of the work, and those who already know and enjoy Rick’s work.

What reaction do you hope it will get?

I’d hope that people who buy the cards enjoy making and eating the dishes as much as I do.

Just Not Kosher: Vegetable Couscous

Be honest, how do you feel about the way Rick has interpreted your recipes in his photographs?

Most are brilliant and then there are some others.

Obviously, you must be proud of all the recipes in there, but do you have a personal favourite?

I enjoy them all, that’s why they’re here. If I had to choose it would probably be the couscous – I make it about once a month and always say “I really enjoyed that.”

How would you describe your style of cooking?

Enthusiastic, self-critical and, if you listen to others, oblivious to the resultant wreck in the kitchen.

Has it changed much over the decades?

My approach? No. My method? A little bit. The range or variety? Sure, I pick up ideas, I revisit dishes that have become unfashionable and find new ingredients and ideas I want to try. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.

Just Not Kosher recipe cards

How much does Jewish culinary tradition shape the way you cook?

It does to some extent. If I’m cooking salt beef and latkes it obviously shapes it a lot, if it’s tuna polpettini, relatively little, but my approach is basically the same regardless.

Have you ever met a dish/ingredient you didn’t like?

Tofu.  

Who’s your favourite chef today?

Probably, Anthony Bourdain, he has a no compromise approach that appeals to me. His food isn’t eye candy, it’s just good grub!

Steven Morris as a child with his parents.
Just Not Kosher: Vegetable Couscous
Fancy trying out the recipes for yourself? Order the Just Not Kosher recipe cards here.
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