Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Sweet and Spicy Ethiopian Style Haroset

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I was surprised to learn from many Jews who had grown up in Ethiopia, that haroset simply had never been a part of their Seder meal. But for those few who did have it, the addition of fresh ginger was essential to creating a paste that was both sweet and spicy. Because the Ethiopian diet traditionally has very little in the way of sweets, the haroset also became the dessert, spread over matzah either at the end of the Passover meal or during the long holiday week.

Recipe from “Too Good To Passover,” Section 1: Africa, Chapter 3: Ethiopia

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ETHIOPIAN STYLE HAROSET
(Date and Fig Spread with Fresh Ginger)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 pound Medjool dates (about 8 large), cut in half, pits discarded
1 pound dried Black Mission figs, quartered, stems discarded
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 to 3/4 cup cold water

Steps:
1.
If your figs are dry and hard, place them in a small bowl filled with enough cold water to cover. Let the figs soak long enough to soften slightly, 1 to 2 hours. Drain well. (Figs should be soft enough to squeeze between your fingers.)

2. Place dates, figs, ginger root, and 1/2 cup water in a food processor and pulse until a smooth and thick paste (if you need to add more water, do it one tablespoon at a time so that it doesn’t become too watery).

3. Place in a small, decorative bowl and serve at room temperature with matzah.

 

Recipe Testing Continues with an Eclectic Menu and an Intimate Crowd.

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On a cold February evening, during the last few days of school’s winter break, I organized a small recipe testing dinner for those few recipes I had left to test and taste. The menu was the following, and although a mix of cuisines and cultures, came together very well at the dinner itself:

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Ethiopian T’ej: Quick Chilled Honey Ginger Wine. (Notes: I added a small amount of a light bodied beer to this version of T’ej to impart a slight yeasty flavor to the wine, and served it very cold at the beginning of the meal.)

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Ethiopian Injera: Quick Yeast “Pancake” Bread with Teff Flour. (Notes: I mixed the traditional Ethiopian teff flour, which is naturally gluten-free, with regular white flour so that the flavor would not be too strong and the final texture would be soft and pliable. Traditionally Injera is supposed to sit for several days to allow the batter to ferment, but because my version is meant to be made quickly at the end of Passover as a way to break the fast of leaven for the holiday, I allowed to sit only an hour before baking in the skillet. The result was a bread that was less yeasty in flavor than the traditional bread, but one that still had a spongy texture and tasted delicious with either savory dishes or spread with honey like a crêpe.

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Ethiopian Chickpea Wat: Spicy Chickpea Stew with Carrots, Potatoes, Ginger, and Berbere Spice Mix. (Notes: Chickpeas are not necessarily prepared during Passover, but I wanted to test another vegetarian Ethiopian recipe that could be served with my Injera bread, and possibly as a savory Passover break-fast option. What I liked about this dish is that it was slightly hot, but not so much so that you could not taste the flavor. I used my own homemade Ethiopian spice mix known as Berbere, made up of black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, red pepper flakes, hot chili pepper, and hot paprika.)

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Iraqi Plau: Basmati Rice with Tomatoes, Turmeric, Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon Stick. (Notes: Jim felt that this was a simple recipe to follow, and was surprised in the technique of steaming the rice over a very low heat with the tomatoes and spices instead of boiling it more like pasta. The guests also commented on the pretty yellow color acquired from the turmeric, and liked that it was served in a long platter as opposed to the more western style in a bowl. The overall flavor was reminiscent of Indian cooking, with the addition of whole cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, which are ingredients that are used in some parts of Iraqi cooking as well as by the Baghdadi Jews that once migrated and settled in India.)

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Iraqi Kubbah Shooendar Hamuth: Sweet & Sour Beet Stew with Stuffed Meatballs. (Notes: Brian said that the recipe was very different from what he was used to preparing, and he was struck by the very bright red color from the beets and its unusual tangy-sweet flavor. He felt that it was a little tricky to stuff the meatballs into the rice dough and then form it into a torpedo shape, and that if he ever did it again, would work on making the outer shell even thinner.)

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Spanish Bolo de Laranxa: Orange-Olive Oil Cake with Ground Almonds, Farina, and Orange Blossom Water. (Notes: Kasaya noted that the recipe was very easy to follow and that she didn’t feel that anything needed to be noted or changed. She was concerned about whether it had been baked properly, but when I tasted it I was very pleased and thought that it was prepared perfectly!)

 

Ethiopian Kit’ta: Matzah that’s made to order.

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Shmuel Legesse

One cold January morning, I ran down to meet with Shmuel Legesse and learn how to make Ethiopian style matzah. In Ethiopia, matzah is made just like it it had been done for the first Passover when the Jews were fleeing Egypt through the desert: By hand. And FAST. In each home, the women form an assembly line to produce each matzah one at a time, diligently following the 18-minute time limit from start to finish. After the flour, salt, and water have been mixed, the dough is quickly formed, rolled out into a pita-like size, and placed onto a flat clay pan called a Mitadt. The bread then bakes in this pan until it is crispy and browned on both sides, and brought to the table to be eaten immediately. The resulting bread is more like a thick cracker that is slightly pliable, with a taste that is nutty and earthy.

(Known as Kit’ta in Amharic,
and Kicha/Kitcha in the dialect of Tigrinya).

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YHAFESECA KIT’TA (Soft Ethiopian Passover Matzah)

Yield: Makes One 8- or 9-inch matzah

Dry Ingredients:
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 teaspoons black sesame oil (not light brown Asian kind) or sunflower oil
2 ounces cold water

For Baking in Pan:
1 tablespoon black sesame oil or sunflower oil

STEPS:
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.

2. Begin heating an 8- or 9-inch skillet (preferably non-stick or cast iron) over a medium-low heat.

3. Mix wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Once liquid has been fully absorbed,
gather dough into a small ball.

4. Grease your hands with a little oil and briefly pound the ball with your fist in the bowl,
then quickly press ball down with your palm into a disk about 4 inches wide.

5. Place disk into the heated skillet and being careful not to burn yourself, gently press disk down
until it fills the size and shape of the pan. Using a dinner fork, press the back of the tines all over
the surface.

6. Raise heat to a medium-high flame and continue to cook until bottom becomes flecked with very dark brown spots, about 5 minutes. Flip bread over and cook second side an additional 3 minutes until browned. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Continue to prepare additional matzahs, one at a time (or if you can keep track of time, two at a time in two separate skillets.)

Time to sort the rice: Let the preparations for Pesach begin!

Rice_BlogNow that Purim is over, many individuals begin their Passover cleaning as early as today, one month before the holiday begins. It can be a meticulous period, especially if you have a large house with multiple rooms and floors. One of the most time consuming and important tasks to complete for many of the communities that I had interviewed was the process of sorting and cleaning large quantities of rice for the holiday, as it needed to last the entire week for the whole family. Some individuals even explained how it could take weeks to do, as only small portions would be sorted through each day, grain by grain, only to be sorted again two more times before being considered clean for Passover. While many may only do a good cleaning a week or just days before, I spoke to some individuals who went as far as the following in their homes:

Iran, Syria, India, Iraq: The purchasing and sorting of rice grains (this could take several weeks to do as each grain was individually checked, discarding any broken pieces or grains of wheat that might have gotten mixed in).

India: Purchasing, sorting, roasting, and grinding of fresh spices
(this may have been done as early as 2 months ahead!)

Morocco: Removing the stuffing from all pillows and mattresses, washing the outside cases,
then re-stuffing them with new, fresh cotton (that has been sorted for cotton seeds or bugs).

Ethiopia: Making all new ceramic dishes, bowls, cups, and even pots by hand in time for the holiday
(the previous year’s dishes and pots would ALL be broken then discarded a few days before Seder).

Egypt, Morocco, Iran: Washing and painting of all the interior walls of the house.

Yemen, Egypt, Iran: Buying a young lamb and raising it on the terrace or in backyard before slaughtering it for the Passover Seder night (this might have started 2 months before).

QUESTION:
How early did your family start preparing for the holiday,
and what were the first things that you would do?

Did you know?: New Passover dishes in Ethiopia

Did you know that in Ethiopia it is the custom every Passover
to break all the old ceramic dishes from the previous year and
replace them with brand new ones for the upcoming Seder?
These dishes (including bowls, cups, and even pots) are then
used for the rest of the year until the next Passover begins.

Out with the old and in with the new!

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