A shared convivial meal conquers any tightness
Pesach or Passover is a Jewish celebration that lasts 8 days, between the 15th and 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which this year 2022 corresponds to the week of April 15th to 23rd.
These days commemorate the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt. These dates, like Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, have a table full of symbolism.
The Pesach seder plate is the order in which a series of foods are consumed on the first night of Pesach in Israel. Each of the elements of the Seder has its own meaning.
The karpas is commonly parsley or celery, and represents hope and redemption. In the Ashkenazic tradition it is served in a bowl of salt water, and in the Sephardic case of vinegar. The brine and vinegar represent the tears shed by the Hebrew people.
In this group a bitter herb, or horseradish, is used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery. Sometimes the so-called Hillel’s sandwich is prepared, a combination of the bitter herb, with charoset in between two pieces of matza, the unleavened bread. This is done in memory of how Hillel used to it, with meat instead of jaroset, in the times of the Temple.
The chazeret is also a bitter herb, like lettuce or spinach. It can be used in representation of the bitter herb in Hillel’s snack.
Sweet combination of nuts, wine, cinnamon and other spices. The mixture is said to recall the mud with which the Jews built for Pharaoh.
The egg. Of great importance and great symbolic journey throughout many cultures and religions, the egg appears symbolizing in Pesach the life and the perpetuation of existence.
Classically represented by the bone of a lamb’s leg, it symbolizes the first sacrifice that took place in the temple. In many occasions, it is substituted by the bone of a chicken.
Being the spinach and the egg representatives of bitterness and hope, there are many Pesach recipes that include them. One example is the recipe compiled by Claudia Roden, a spinach, potato and egg pie. The origin of this recipe is Turkey.
As she relates in her book, the book of Jewish food an odyssey from Samarkhand and Vilna to the present day, the Sephardic presence had a great impact on the establishment of Turkish Jewish cuisine.
She states, that there are many books in France that collect Turkish Jewish recipes, under the name of Judeo-Spanish cuisine. This is due to the great influence of the arrival of the Jews expelled from Sepharad, Spain, five centuries earlier. Among many other things, they brought with them the use of olive oil in cooking, to the surprise of Muslims and Ashkenazi from Turkey.
Sfongo is a dairy dish that is accompanied by hard-boiled eggs during the week of Pesach in Turkey. Claudia Roden tells that she got the recipe from the mother of the journalist Lizi Behmoaras, a Jewish journalist born in Istanbul.
Boil the potatoes. Peel them and mash them with a masher or with the help of a fork. Add the butter, milk, salt, black pepper, eggs and grated cheese, reserving a couple of spoonfuls. Mix until smooth.
Wash and drain the spinach trying to remove as much water as possible. Cook over low heat until tender. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
In a baking dish, spread half of the potato mixture. Cover with the spinach and fill the last layer with the rest of the mashed potatoes. Add the remaining grated cheese and bake for 40 minutes at 200 ºC.
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