April 7, 2020
A Sephardi Seder Tradition
The rituals of Pesach, or Passover, are observed and interpreted in different ways by different Jewish communities from across the world. In anticipation of the Sydney Jewish Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Jews from Islamic Lands, which features the stories and traditions of Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews who have made their way to Australia, we are sharing a special Passover recipe from Morocco.
The Moroccan recipe for haroset – a paste of fruit and nuts that is meant to resemble the mortar that the Israelites used in Ancient Egypt – is sweet and full of dried fruits, spices and dried rose petals.
This recipe, given to the Sydney Jewish Museum by Harry Cohen, was made by his grandmother in Morocco, as a dry mixture, and shipped around the world in small boxes to family members, to be reconstituted for the Passover seder by adding some wine.
1kg stoned dates, soaked in boiling water
100g almonds, lightly toasted
1 tbsp pomegranate juice
1 tbsp sweet red wine
1/2 an apple, grated
1 tbsp ground dried rose petals
1 – 2 green figs
Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mace to taste
1 – 2 tbsp ground toasted chickpeas
Grind all ingredients finely together and ensure an even mix. Adjust to taste. Roll into small balls, which are then rolled in cinnamon.
To reconstitute, add wine.
Harry’s parents, Shemtov and Zarita, were from Morocco. They can trace their family history as far back in Morocco as 1492, when Jews were expelled from Spain. Harry is related to Rabbi Isaac Bengualid who was the Chief Rabbi of Tetouan, Morocco, in the 1950s. Hundreds of people still make annual pilgrimages to his grave and there is a street named for him in the city.
Harry’s parents were sent to Manchester as part of the business to procure raw cotton goods to be processed. After World War II, the cotton business in Manchester all but disappeared. Harry’s parents moved back to Tangier, Morocco. Harry eventually moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where he lived for 30 years before joining his daughter in Sydney.
For more information about our upcoming exhibition, Jews from Islamic Lands, click here.
Image: Seder plate, Egypt, undated. Courtesy Veronica Selinger; Haggadah in Hebrew, Arabic and English, London, undated. Courtesy Myer Samra.