Spanish cuisine cannot be understood without the culinary heritage of the Sephardic Jews, namely Jews from Spain and Portugal (Sepharad, in Hebrew) and their descendants. The vigil soup, marzipan and tuna patties, to name but a few, have a clear Sephardic origin. On the other hand, prasa keftés, leek dumplings, are an example of adaptation of local preparations to the religious customs, habits and tastes of the Sephardim.
Many believe that there is no single Sephardic cuisine, but as many as geographical areas, especially after the expulsion edict of 1492, which forced the Sephardim to leave Spain for the Balkans and North Africa, where its cuisine absorbed the influences of the Ottoman and Arabic cuisine.
Still, some typical features can be highlighted, such as respect for the kosher laws in the choice of ingredients and techniques in preparation. Thus, hen, chicken, lamb and beef replaces pork while vegetables - especially the aubergine – is no longer a simple garnish and becomes the main food item.
The obligation to rest for the 'shabbat' explains the existence of dishes like Orissa, a stew made with meat and barley that is simmered throughout Friday.
Another important feature of Sephardic cooking is its strong connection with religious festivals. On Rosh Ashana, New Year, people usually eat a slice of apple dipped in honey or a teaspoon of sweet apple so that the year that has just begun should be sweet. They also usually eat pomegranates so that their merits might be many, like the grains of this fruit.
During the Passover, when we commemorate the exodus from Egypt, dishes are usually reminiscent of desert elements - such as moraur, the bitter herbs of the desert - and all products containing yeast are banned. Harosset, a compote of apples, dates and nuts, is also often eaten.
Another aspect is the oral transmission of Sephardic culinary culture through the women, which explains the absence of cookbooks until very recent times and the lack of precise information on the quantities in recipes.
If you want to try some Sephardic gastronomy specialties, most of the year in Toledo monthly meetings are organised in which over twenty restaurants and tapas bars keep this culinary tradition alive through dishes and selection menus.
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