After heavy grocery shopping (literally), gift shopping and decorating the house for the new year its time to prepare the things for the seder on the Rosh Ha Shana Table. The table which in a few hours time will be surrounded by the near and dear ones from far and near. The table which will be full of delicacies waiting to be gulped down. The table which today has some symbolic food prepared only on this day for this day.
The day before Rosh ha Shana takes me back to my family home in Mumbai, India where preparations used to be on high swing to welcome the Jewish New year. The Beetroot was boiled for the next day, but we waited to have the sweet water in which it was boiled to drink as a healthy drink. The string beans (black eyed beans) were boiled the aroma of which made it difficult to wait until the Seder. Apple with honey does not every taste sweeter than on this day of the year. Brain which symbolizes the head reminding us to be the head and not the Tails, being responsible leaders and not the followers is marinated with the right spices to fry the next day – a delicious treat. The kitchen produces the best of food on this day.
The special dish that every bene Israeli household makes even on this day whether in India or in Israel is the non-dairy sweet dish called "Halva". It is prepared in a metallic bowl cooked on slow gas, stirring continuously for about 5-6 long hours so that it does not stick to the bottom or the sides of the cooking bowl. Once it is cooked to desired consistency, it is poured in different metallic and glass plates and instantly poppy seeds and dry fruits are sprinkled over so that it sticks to the Halva and does not fall off while cutting and serving. This dish is best enjoyed with spicy lamb curry.
For "Kara" on the Seder plate, Bene Israelis eat the bottle gourd. It’s a popular low – calorie Asian vegetable known for lots of health benefits. It’s kind of a long squash. On the Seder table it is just boiled with either salt or sugar. Most of it is then used to make a savory called Dudhia Halwa – breakfast for the next morning. It is very easy to prepare this delicious dish and does not require any expert cooking skills. The use of condensed milk and plenty of dry fruits provides nice creamy texture with cardamom giving out irresistible aroma.
Dudhi (Bottle Gourd ) Halwa:
2 1/2 cups grated dudhi
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
10 cashewnuts chopped
10 almonds chopped
1/2 teaspoon Cardamom powder
· Grate the bottle gourd – to grate, first peel the bottle gourd, wash it in running water, grate it from all sides and discard center part having seeds.
· Squeeze out the water from the grated bottle gourd completely; to reduce the bitterness if any.
· Heat butter in pan and added grated bottle gourd
· Sauté it on medium flame for 5 minutes, stir continuously
· Add Milk and then condensed milk and bring the mixture to boil
· When it boils, reduce the flame to low and cook until all the milk is absorbed. This will take approximately 15 minutes.
· Keep stirring to prevent sticking of the mixture to the sides of the cooking vessel. Add sugar, chopped cashew nuts, chopped almonds and raisins.
· Stir continuously and cook until all moisture is evaporated and mixture turns thick, approximately 5 minutes.
· Turn off flame, add cardamom powder and mix well.
· Delicious Bottle Gourd Halva is ready. It can be served both hot as well as cold.
This was a sneak peek into an Bene Israeli household preparing and celebrating the Jewish New year. I wish everyone A very happy and prosperous new year with a table full of your loved ones – which is a blessing for a fulfilling coming year and for Life !