Hailing from opposite ends of the Earth, Jews of Ashkenazi and Sephardi origins have very different interpretations of a Jewish table – something that comes to the fore most strongly during celebratory feasts.
Jewish cooking in Eastern Europe, of Ashkenazi origins, is the more familiar homely, schmaltzy, stodgy (in a good way), food you might see at Katz’s Deli in NYC, or, closer to home, in the bagel shops and delicatessens of Melbourne’s Carlisle Street or Sydney’s Bondi Road.
The flip-side of the Jewish food coin is the Sephardi kitchen, more North African in influence, with dishes, flavours and spices usually associated with Morocco, Persia, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries. Sephardi food is veg-forward by nature, with an easy opulence – less starchy carbs, more nuts, dried fruit, spice and pulses like chickpeas and lentils.
This dish is a combo of both cuisines – a play on the Ashkenazi classic, tsimmes (sweet & sour vegetable stew) and Moroccan spiced carrots.
I love the colour this brings to the table: something fruits and vegetables always manage to do better than anything else. It’s a great accompaniment to lighter proteins, like chicken or fish, or as a lunchy centrepiece, served with dips and flatbread.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
For the carrots
2 bunches of Dutch carrots, washed and soaked for at least 1 hour.
For the orange honey glaze
Zest and juice of 3 oranges
1 tbsp orange marmalade
1 tbsp honey
1-2 tbsp good quality vinegar (sherry/red wine/whatever tickles your fancy)
1/2 cup raisins/currants
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp cumin
A rasp of fresh nutmeg
For the garnish
Fresh tarragon leaves, picked and refreshed in cold water
1/2 cup Pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
Marigold petals (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C.
Trim carrots and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking paper in a shallow baking tray and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by tossing all ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer away uncovered until the mixture has reduced by half (it should look like a glossy syrup).
Check on carrots and give them a toss, cooking for another 20 minutes or so, until they can be pricked through at their thickest point with a fork. Once they are tender, pour over the glaze and bake for another 10 minutes.
Once done they can be served as a delicious hot side dish with a smattering of chopped pistachios and a green soft herb such as dill, chives, chervil, parsley or in our case we are using tarragon as a salad leaf and throwing over some divine marigold petals
Before you pop the severed fronds from your two bunches of Dutch carrots into the compost, think again! Carrot tops make for a fantastic pesto base, whizzed up with parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice – adding a little extra salt to mitigate any extra bitterness. You can also use them as a minimalist centrepiece, arranging them in a vase as you would flowers.
One of the main aspects of Jewish cookery is making do with what you have at your disposal – hence the high contrast of flavours between the two subcultures. The Marigold petals and pistachios as garnish is just one option, so once you get the hang of it, start layering textures such as pomegranate seeds, dukkah, toasted pepitas, whatever’s in the pantry really.