THE SEPHARDIC TABLE
Author: Stella Cohen
Publisher: The Gerald & Marc Hoberman Collection
Zimbabwean-born Stella Cohen’s family come from the rich tradition of the Sephardic Jewish community dating back to 1492, when Jews fled Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and settled on the Greek island of Rhodes, and in other countries. It was on visits to this island as a child with her parents that sparked Stella’s longing to understand and document Sephardic culture, food and traditions.
The book is a documentation of the rich and diverse foods, many of which have been passed down the generations. Filled with history, anecdotes and family photos, this beautifully illustrated book will give interested foodies a lot of information about the rich Jewish culture.
The recipes are a collection of everyday food as well as elaborate festival dishes, many of which are for next week’s special festival of Rosh Hashanah.
Stella shares some of her favourite recipes from the book with Angela Day.
RED SNAPPER ROASTED ON A BED OF POTATOES
1.5kg whole red snapper or striped sea bass, cleaned, with head intact
¼ (60ml) cup olive oil, plus extrafor brushing
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (10ml) tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 whole garlic cloves
450g new baby potatoes
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
1 large red onion, thinly sliced lengthways
5 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 tbsp (15ml) tomato paste
1 tsp (5ml) dried Greek oregano
a handful black olives, pitted
1 tbsp (15ml) capers, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp (30ml) fresh lemon juice
1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Oil a shallow roasting pan, large enough to lay the fish in whole. Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Score diagonal slits on each side of the fish with a small sharp knife to ensure that it cooks evenly. Rub the fish well with oil and sprinkle both inside and outside with salt and pepper.
Stuff the cavity with 1 tsp thyme leaves and 3 garlic cloves and refrigerate.
Boil the unpeeled potatoes in a pan of salted water to cover for about 20 minutes, or until knife tender. Drain and cut them in half.
Lay the potatoes in the prepared pan. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.
Cut the fennel bulb lengthways and cut into 4mm (¼ inch) thick slices. Blanch in hot water for 1 minute.
Combine onion, tomatoes, fennel, pepper strips, tomato paste, oregano, remaining garlic and thyme and salt and pepper in a bowl. Spread half the mixture over the potatoes.
Remove the fish from the fridge and lay on top of the vegetables. Scatter the remaining vegetables, olives and capers over the fish. Combine the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice and wine and pour around the fish.
Cover the pan with foil, sealing well, and bake for 20 minutes, basting 3 or 4 times with the pan juices, until the vegetables are cooked through and the fish is opaque throughout when cut along the spine. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes. Top up with hot water if the fish and vegetables start to dry out.
Drizzle with olive oil and serve straight from the roasting pan with lemon wedges.
BLACK-EYED BEAN SALAD
175g dried black-eyed beans, soaked for 2 hours in cold water, drained and rinsed
1 whole small onion, peeled
2 dried bay leaves
1 carrot, cut into chunks
5 tbsp (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp (45ml) red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp (5ml) sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced lengthways
3 tbsp (45ml) roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (30ml) chopped fresh dill
2 hard-boiled eggs
a handful pitted oil-cured black olives
6 bottled or canned anchovy fillets
Put the beans in a large pan with enough cold water to cover by 2.5cm. Add the onion, bay leaves and carrot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1¼ hours or until the beans are soft but not mushy. Add the salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
When the beans are cooked, drain well and discard the onion, bay leaves and carrot. While the beans are still warm, tip into a serving bowl with the sliced onion, parsley and dill.
Pour the dressing immediately over the beans to absorb the flavours. Toss well to combine.
Garnish with finely chopped or quartered eggs, some pitted olives and anchovy fillets and serve.
LEEK, POTATO AND FRESH HERB FRITTERS
500g young leeks, ends trimmed and dark green tops discarded
1 medium onion, peeled
300g potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp (15ml) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp (15ml) finely chopped tender celery leaves
1 tbsp (15ml) finely chopped dill
sea salt and finely ground white pepper
2 tbsp (30ml) dried breadcrumbs or matza cake meal
vegetable or grapeseed oil for frying
Remove the outer layer of the leeks, cut in half lengthways and across into chunks. Wash thoroughly.
Put the leeks, whole onion and potatoes in a pan of generously salted cold water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and let the vegetables cool.
Place in a tea towel and twist the tea towel tightly, squeezing out excess liquid. Blitz the leeks, onion and potatoes in a food processor, pulsing a few times until combined, while still retaining some texture. Do not purée.
In a large bowl, combine the leek-potato mixture with the eggs, parsley, celery leaves and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in as much breadcrumbs or matza meal as necessary to make a mixture that holds its shape. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
SHAPE THE PATTIES: With a small bowl of water nearby, dampen your hands and shape the mixture into round patties, about 5cm wide and 1.25cm thick. Place on a tray lined with plastic wrap. Heat 1.25cm oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, gently drop 4 or 5 fritters in the oil and fry for 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Add more oil as necessary. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature.
ALMOND SEMOLINA CAKE SOAKED IN A HONEY-CITRUS SYRUP
1 cup (250ml) castor sugar
1 cup (250ml) clear honey
1¼ cups (310ml) water
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tbsp (15ml) fresh lemon juice
2.5cm strip of lemon zest
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup (180ml) castor sugar
½ cup (125ml) vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
¾ cup (180ml) cake flour
½ cup (125ml) fine semolina
2 heaped (10ml) tsp baking powder
170g unblanched almonds, finely ground
1 piece of mastic, ground with 1 tsp sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
30 whole blanched almonds, toasted
SYRUP: Combine the sugar, honey and water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon juice and zest.
Boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Let cool and discard the cinnamon stick and lemon zest.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil a rectangular or oval 30 x 22cm ovenproof dish and dust with flour. Place in the fridge.
Cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the egg yolks and sugar on high speed, until pale and thick. Beat in the oil.
In a bowl combine the flour, semolina, baking powder, almonds, mastic and cinnamon.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form.
In two batches, gently fold into the egg and sugar mixture. Then fold in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until well incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish, smoothing it out evenly. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C. While the cake is still in the dish, cut deeply into approximately 4cm diamond shapes with a sharp knife. Gently spoon the cooled syrup evenly over the entire hot cake.
Press a halved toasted almond on to the centre of each diamond shape.
Return to the oven for 5 minutes for the syrup to be absorbed.
Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours for the syrup to soak in. - The Star