Getting Ready to Spend Passover in London (w/ Matzo Pizza Recipe)

matzoThis year Passover is going have a different meaning than it has over the last few years.  We’ll be with in London with  my husband’s family on our annual trip over.  My kids will be with their first cousins, grandmother and aunts and uncles, and we’ll be in another culture.  Another culture we know very well, no less.

But still, the Jewish life in Britain is very unique for me.  First of all, my Jewish UK experience starts as soon as I board the plane tomorrow night.  There will be a lot of black hats and Yiddish speakers, many of whom “daven” or pray on the plane.  When we arrive in Manchester, we will head to parts of town where our family and friends live that are predominantly Jewish.  Then we head to London, to Edgeware, Finchley, Highgate and Golder’s Green, very Jewish areas where we will drive by very religious people walking the streets, Kosher restaurants and shuls one right after the other.  One would be lead to believe from my experience that everyone in England was Jewish!  But of course, that is not the case.  There are 300K Jews in the whole of England, and it is an extremely tight community.  When I lived in London at age 23, I certainly did not experience the Jewish side of London and I personally remember a very difficult search for matzo (where I live in NY, the Passover aisle in my local grocery is a mile long).  In London, Kosher food for Passover was impossible to find.

I’m going to launch in a quick over-view of the Jewish population in Manchester and London.

My husband grew up in a close-knit Jewish community in Manchester. Last year, on our annual visit, I took the kids to the city’s Jewish Museum and we learned  that the Jewish community of Manchester dates from roughly 1780, but by 1865 there were less than 5,000 Jews in Manchester.  The population increased as a consequence of of the intensified persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe, and the Jews who came over took great care to maintain their traditions and rituals.  The synagogues are mainly Orthodox, and there are many Kosher butchers and bakeries to cater to families who keep Kosher.  My husband grew up with a very positive view of religion and of the State of Israel.  Many of his friends moved to Israel as young adults and all of the ones who stayed in Manchester have solid connections to Judaism.  The Orthodox movement does have a stronghold in the synagogues, but they do have a few “liberal” or reform shuls, which are slightly more religious than the ones in the U.S. but not as strict.  They have a number of Jewish State schools that kids attend, where they get a 50/50 Jewish/English education which instills a deeper sense of who they are, living as a minority.

Over in London, which represents 2/3 of the total UK Jewish population, Jews are segregated into certain neighborhoods, just as other religions and ethnicities are.  Most of my husband’s friends moved to London after University, and they are extremely educated and are thriving in this metropolis.  They have remained close to each other and seem to look out for one another.  Most of the synagogues are Orthodox, with men and women separated on two sides of the shul, but I am sure there are more options for non-religious folks like us.

Let’s leave the British Jewry discussion for now.

Anyway, we’ll be in London at my sister-in-law’s house for Seder and she’s very strict.  She is serious about when we start the seder, when we finish, the food will be strictly Kosher and the entire Hagaddah will be read.  The Seder will be beautiful and it will be wonderful for all of us to be with family.  It will be long, and I’m not sure how we will deal with my young children and their even younger children, but we we’ll manage.

But even more than that, I’m wondering how I’ll be able to keep Passover while staying in a hotel part of that week. It’s not an ideal situation when you’re trying to teach your kids that by a certain age, it’s time for the whole family to keep the holiday.  I have always caved in on the 2nd or 3rd day when I realize that their eating pickings are slim, particularly my son who is on the thin side.  However, I think it’s time for them to participate in all the customs that we, ourselves, partake in.  They go to Sunday School; they’re learning about their heritage and history.  It’s time to turn them into Passover keepers!

So, the question is how will get my two fusspot kids to keep Passover this year, particularly when we’re in a London hotel?  My mother-in-law makes the yummiest matzo pizza in the world.  My kids love this recipe and it’s fun to make, and I’m sure that we’ll make it at my SIL’s house and bring some with us to the hotel.  And I’m posting it here:


MATZO: Thin, crisp matzo makes an idea layer in this pizza-lasagna mash up. It softens when baked but holds all the wonderful toppings together. There’s no dough to stretch or noodles to boil..it’s just two favorite meals combined to make one killer casserole.

1 medium onion chopped

4 oz. cheese

5 pieces of matzo

1/4 lb. mushrooms

sugar, salt, pepper, oil

2 eggs

jar or tomato sauce

lemon juice (optional)

How to make it:
-Soak matzo in cold water for a few seconds and drain in between paper towels.
-Fry onion until golden.
-Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, lemon juice, seasoning and cook gently until mixture thick – take from heat and add 1/2 the grated cheese.
-Grease lasagna dish and put layer dampened matzo, cover with pizza sauce, then another layer matzo, then more sauce, mushrooms sprinkled on top and the rest of cheese.
-Pour over heater eggs and let it soak in.
-Cook at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.


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