Eva Grinston, now in her 80s, is a devoted mother, grandmother and culture vulture (and the mother of one of my closest friends). And a fabulous cook and baker. Ohmigod, what a baker. Eva’s also a survivor of Auschwitz and for years, I watched her cooking up feasts from a battered old recipe book.

It turned out to be a book with a story.

Eva lives in Sydney Australia but was born in Bratislava in Slovakia. She was a child when WW2 began and a teenager – and a different person – when it ended, after she’d been held for months in the death camp of Auschwitz. Her mother, aunt and her little sister Vera had been killed there.

Eva’s sister Vera Silberstein and her mother Elisabeth Silberstein. (ww.foodislove.co)

When Eva returned to her family home after the War she was alone, a gaunt, bereft 16-year-old. She found that little remained of her past until she discovered a box in the cellar. In it was a kaleidoscope she had played with as a child, and the last pictures her sister Vera had drawn before the Nazis forced them into the ghetto.

And there was her grandmother’s cookbook.

Eva’s grandmother’s cookbook. (www.foodislove.co)

Eva describes leaving her old family home and sitting on the outside fence, as she had when she was a little girl, and lifting her kaleidoscope to the sky. It was still working. She saw the images of her happy early life – her Granny, all the members of her family, the ladies who visited Granny, and the children she played with as a child.

“My face was wet with tears. I had no hanky. I opened the cookbook and there were the recipes of my Granny, and Granny’s friends,” says Eva.

Eva Grinston (www.foodislove.co)

She’s been cooking from this book ever since, keeping alive the tastes of that vanished world. It’s a link to her past, and as she cooks from it for her grandchildren, also to her future.

COOKING UP A BOOK

I’ve interviewed more than 20 grandmothers – and 2 grandfathers! – from across Russia, Europe and North Africa for a new book, Just Add Love – Holocaust Survivors Share their Stories and Recipes.

The stories are varied, and so is the cuisine. Just Add Love features mezze from Greece and Libya, dumplings from Central Asia and fabulous cakes from Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Actually, fabulous cakes from all over the world.

These are special women. They survived genocide and are the last eyewitnesses to the terrible events of World War Two.

But in spite of everything, it’s a joyful book, with its focus on recovery, resilience, and triumph.

Eva Grinston and grandson Nicholas Rice (www.foodislove.co)

Many of these women arrived in their new countries with only the clothes on their backs and the recipes inside their heads. For those who didn’t have even a single photo left from their family, the smell and the taste of the food from home was memory.

Please support our Kickstarter campaign. Pre-order our book Just Add Love, with stories and recipes, including this one from Eva Grinston and enable us to fund the printing of this unique book. Link: hyperurl.co/shbwdb

CHOCOLATE, SOUR CHERRY AND WALNUT CAKE(DAIRY)

This cake was Eva's grandmother's favourite, and it's the cake that Eva has baked for all her grandchildren's birthdays. It’s gluten free, and suitable for Passover.

This cake always works well. The main unknown is whether the egg whites will consent to be whipped up into firm peaks – which gives the cake its airiness. Once you've done that, it's almost foolproof!

INGREDIENTS

  • 200 g / 7 oz butter
  • 200 g / 7 oz sugar
  • 200 g / 7oz dark chocolate, melted
  • 7 eggs
  • 200 g / 7 oz grated walnuts or almonds - both work well
  • 400 g / 14 0z jar of pitted sour cherries, drained

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 325 F/ 180 C. Butter and flour a large rectangular tin 35 x 25 cm / 13 x 11 inches. Drain the juice from the cherries and leave in colander till you need them.
2. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Let cool a little. Cream butter, egg-yolks and sugar, till light and fluffy. Add melted chocolate.
3. Whip egg whites to a stiff meringue. Adding ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar can help this process.
4. Carefully fold whites into the chocolate mixture, alternating with nuts.
5. Spoon chocolate mixture into baking tin and smooth it down.
7. Sprinkle cherries evenly over the cake mix.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Less if your oven is fan forced; test by inserting a toothpick. It should come out dry, with a few crumbs sticking to it.

TO SERVE

You can serve as is, or dress it up with a ganache for a special occasion. (200 g dark chocolate melted in the top of a double boiler, with 100 ml cream beaten into it.) It looks irresistible with sour cherries and pomegranate seeds piled on top.

CUPCAKES

For a less glamorous occasion, like a picnic, or if you want to leave everyone to have a sweet taste rather than a whole piece of cake, tiny cup cakes are a great option! One batch of cake mix makes lots - more than 60. Place one sour cherry on each cupcake and bake for no more than 5 minutes. You don’t want them to be too dry. Remove as soon as you think they are done.