EVEN if Pesach lasted for six months, one could enjoy a different
dish every day from Jennifer Felicia Abadi’s Too Good to Passover:
Sephardic & Judaeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia
Although many of Abadi’s recipes might seem exotic and novel, her
goal was to present traditional dishes.
An example is nargesi, a turmeric-flavoured spinach frittata with
tiny meatballs embedded in it; it’s a popular Persian- Jewish Passover
A Libyan-Jewish Pesach dessert is butternut squash pudding with
ginger, cinnamon and almond milk.
“When I first set out to research Passover food, my initial motivation
was to preserve familial and communal recipes that were on their
way to being forgotten,” wrote Abadi.
For her book, Abadi interviewed more than 100 people from 23 Jewish
communities about their memories of Pesach recipes and family customs
for celebrating the holiday.
Many Ashkenazi have the mistaken impression that all Sephardim
and Mizrahim have the same customs.
Yet communities differ regarding which foods are permitted during
Among non-Ashkenazim, wrote Abadi, the restrictions on kitniyot
“vary according to community, rabbi and perhaps even... family”.
The Algerian Jews she interviewed eat no rice during Pesach, like
Ashkenazim, and even no potatoes, but Egyptian Jews eat both and
for the seder might serve sofrito, a rich meat stew, with potatoes.
Jews from Algeria do eat legumes, such as green fava beans and
peas. A popular Pesach dish among Algerian Jews is meat patties
with cumin, saffron and peas.
Naturally, Abadi came across a variety of charoset recipes. Her
Algerian acquaintances use fresh ginger in their charoset, which
they make from dried figs and dates, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds,
pears, apples and wine.
Iraqi charoset is more of a sauce than a spread; it’s made of
silan (date syrup) served with chopped toasted walnuts, almonds,
hazelnuts and pistachios.
Some of the featured recipes are only suitable for Sephardim.
SOFRITO is a beef stew with a rich, fragrant sauce, with potatoes
or fava beans sometimes added.
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1.4kg lean boneless beef chuck (shoulder) stew pieces, excess
fat trimmed, cut into 2.5cm chunks
4 cups coarsely chopped onions
5 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 to 1½ tsp coarse or kosher salt
¼ tsp ground white pepper or freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp turmeric
1 cup water
1½ cup chopped coriander or parsley leaves, or mixture, plus more
900g baking potatoes, peeled (optional)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high
heat for one full minute. Add meat chunks and brown on all sides,
stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Pour meat and its juices
into a large bowl.
Add remaining oil to the pot and heat over medium-high heat for
1 minute. Add onions and cook, over medium-high heat, stirring often,
until soft and transparent, but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add
garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg,
ginger, cloves and turmeric and mix well.
Return meat and its juices to pot. Pour in the water, add the
chopped herbs and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil
for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and cook for 1½
Uncover, stir and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes until meat
is soft enough to easily cut with a fork and sauce has reduced to
a thick gravy.
If adding potatoes, cut each potato in slices. Scatter potato
pieces over top of stew, cover and cook without stirring for 30
to 45 minutes until fork tender. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander.
THE name Nargesi comes from the Farsi word for the narcissus
plant or daffodil, a springtime flower that symbolises renewal,
wrote Abadi. Before serving, some sprinkle this frittata-like dish
with crushed Persian dried limes for a slight tangy flavour.
1 large onion, pureed in food processor and drained
450g ground turkey (preferably dark meat) or beef
2 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
large coarsely chopped onion
1 tsp sea salt
A pinch of ground white or freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
1 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1 cup finely chopped coriander leaves or a third cup tarragon
½ cup finely chopped dill leaves
110g coarsely chopped baby spinach leaves
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (light green and white parts only),
rinsed in cold water and drained
¾ cup hot water
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
For meatballs: Mix puréed onions with ground meat in a
For pie: Heat oil in large 5 or 6-litre pot over high heat
for 1 minute. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and transparent,
about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, turmeric and cumin and mix well.
Cook for 1 minute.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Wet your hands lightly with cold water.
Taking only 1½ teaspoons of meat mixture, form it into a small,
smooth meatball the size of a large cherry. (Meat will be soft and
wet; be gentle).
Drop meatball into pot; continue until all of meat mixture has
been used. Cover pot and steam until meatballs are solid and cooked
through, about 20 minutes. Once they are solid, you can stir gently
to prevent sticking.
Drop in parsley, coriander, dill, spinach and leeks and cover.
Steam until herbs and spinach have softened, 10 minutes.
Pour the hot water over top and mix gently so as not to break
meatballs. Bring to the boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat
to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature,
about 20 minutes. Eggs will cook too quickly if added to very hot
Rewarm cooled mixture over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually
pour in beaten eggs, while gently mixing to distribute evenly. Partially
cover and steam over lowest heat, until eggs have solidified but
are still soft and slightly wet in centre, 35 to 40 minutes.
Score pie, scoop out large pieces, and arrange in layers on a
serving platter. Serve warm. Serves six to eight.
FOR Pesach, these Algerian-Jewish meat patties are coated with
matzo meal and served over steamed crushed matzo. During the rest
of the year they are coated with semolina and served over couscous.
For meat patties:
350g ground lamb
225g ground beef
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 matzo squares, soaked in cold water 10 minutes, then squeezed
¼ cup finely ground almonds
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
¾ tsp coarse salt
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground allspice
A pinch of ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
l ½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp saffron powder or threads (optional, but recommended)
½ cup finely chopped mint leaves
½ cup finely chopped coriander leaves
¾ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
½ to ¾ cup vegetable oil
½ cup matzo cake meal, poured onto a medium plate
4 large eggs, lightly beaten in a small bowl
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1½ tsp coarse salt
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp saffron threads or powder (optional)
2 tsp sugar
4 cups water
450g frozen peas, thawed and drained
2 squares matzo, broken into small pieces (for serving)
Combine all meat patty ingredients in a large bowl. Knead until
meat is soft and smooth.
For frying: Heat about ½ cup oil in a large skillet over
medium-high heat for 3 minutes. To test, drop a small piece of meat
mixture in oil; if it fries immediately, oil is hot enough.
Take ¼ cup of meat mixture and form into a meatball. Gently roll
meatball in matzo cake meal to coat all sides, then dip completely
into beaten eggs; shape of patty should be oval.
Place patty in skillet of hot oil and fry about 5 minutes on each
side or until medium-dark golden-brown. (Patties will cook more
in next step).
Place patty on a plate lined with paper towels. Continue coating
and frying remaining patties, several at a time.
For broth: Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot over high
heat for 1 minute. Add onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until transparent
and soft. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, saffron and sugar and cook
for 1 minute.
Add water and bring to the boil over high heat. Arrange patties
overlapping in a spiral to fit them all in, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and pour peas over top. Cover and simmer for
45 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve patties hot over broken matzo, with peas and broth spooned
over top. Serves 10 to 15; makes 36 patties of 10cm.
THIS Libyan butternut squash Passover flavoured with ginger,
cinnamon and vanilla, wrote Abadi, is like a lighter version of
American pumpkin pie, and can be served topped with whipped cream.
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for greasing pan
1.1kg fresh butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2.5-cm cubes
½ cup almond milk or other nondairy milk
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
¾ tsp ground ginger
A pinch of cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
A pinch of salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 175°. Grease a 20cm square or round baking pan
(preferably not metal) generously with oil and set aside.
Warm 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat
for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and mix in squash cubes.
Cover and cook until very soft and slightly browned, about 20 minutes,
stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning.
While squash is cooking, whisk milk with egg yolks, ginger, cinnamon,
sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
Reserve 8 small squash cubes for garnish. Pour remaining squash
into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Scrape puree into
bowl of milk mixture and gently mix to combine.
Scrape mixture into prepared baking pan, spreading it evenly with
spatula. Place pan on middle rack of oven and bake for 1 hour until
centre is slightly firm and edges are pulling away from the pan.
(Mixture will still be a bit soft to the touch but not liquid, and
overall top colour will turn deep orange-brown). Remove from heat
and cool for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap or foil and
refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Serve cold, sprinkled with cinnamon. Serves eight.