Ashkenazi and Sephardi recipes-Claudia Roden

For the Ashkenazim, the specialities for Shavuot are cheese blintzes and strudel, cheese, kreplach, lokshen pudding with cream cheese, borscht with sour cream, cheesecake, and paschko. For the Sephardim, they are filas and sambousak with cheese, milk puddings like sutlach, and pastries like ataif, stuffed with cheese. Shavuot is also regarded as a harvest festival of fruit, and all kinds of fruit puddings and cake are eaten.

Ashkenazi Cheesecake
For the pastry base:
1 1/3 cups (200g) flour
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup (75g) sugar
4 oz (100g) unsalted butter; cut in pieces
1 medium egg, lightly beaten

For the filling
1 lb (500 g) curd cheese
2/3 cup (150 ml) sour cream or fromage frais
5 eggs, separated
7/8 cup (175 g) superfine sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
A few drops of vanilla extract

For the pastry base, mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and rub the butter in with your hands. Mix in the egg and work very briefly until bound into a soft dough, adding a little flour if it is too sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave for half an hour.

Line a greased 10 1/2-inch (26-cm) spring-form pan or flan mold with the pastry by pressing it all over the bottom and a little up the sides with your hand (it is difficult to roll out). Bake it blind in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 30 minutes. Let it cool before you cover it with the filling, or it will break up.

For the filling, mix the curd cheese with the rest of the filling ingredients except the egg whites and beat until smooth. Beat the egg whites to stiff snowy peaks and fold into the cheese mixture. Pour into the pan or flan mold over the pastry shell. Bake in a preheated 300 F (150 C) oven for 1 ½ hours. Let it cool slowly in the oven with the door open.


• Stir 1/2 cup (75 g) black or golden raisins soaked in water, rum, or kirsch into the cheese mixture after the egg whites have been folded in.
• Pour 1 cup (250 ml) sour cream over the top after baking.

Les Fila au Fromage
Small Cheese Triangles or Cigars
(makes about 60)

Shopping basket

These ever-so-light little pies, also known as filikas, ojaldres, and feuilletes, were always among the most popular items on the buffet and tea tables of Oriental Jews. Today people mix all kinds of cheeses for the filling — most often feta with Gruyere or cottage cheese and Parmesan. ( I made 240 of these cheese triangles for my daughter Anna's 30th birthday party while watching four programs over 2 weeks. I put them in the freezer -- uncooked and without brushing them with egg glaze — and baked them on the day straight from the freezer.)

½ lb (250 g) Edam, grated
½ lb (250 g) Gouda, grated
½ lb (250 g) Cheddar, grated
½ lb (250 g) cottage cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb (500 g) filo
6 oz (175 g) butter, melted
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 egg yolks, to brush the tops

Mix the cheese with the eggs. Cut the filo dough, brushing the pastry strips with a mixture of melted butter and oil and the tops with egg yolk mixed with 1-2 teaspoons water.


• Add 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill or mint to the filling and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.
• Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sesame seeds before baking.
• For an alternative filling, mix 1 lb (500 g) cottage cheese with 1 lb (500 g) feta cheese (both drained of their liquid) and 4 eggs.
• In Turkey, where the pastries are called filikas and ojaldres de keso, they mix feta cheese with Gruyere and fry the pies in oil.

Fragrant Milk Pudding (basic recipe with variations)
(serves 6)

flowing milk

Milk puddings with ground rice are ubiquitous in the Middle East. For the Jews they are the all-purpose dessert of the dairy table and the traditional sweet of Shavuot and Purim. In Turkey and the Balkans such a dish was called "sutlage;" in Syria and Egypt, as in the rest of the Arab world, it was "muhallabeya." Every community has its own traditional flavorings and presentation. Use the basic recipe, and add the flavorings from one of the variations that follow. Each one transforms the pudding into something special.

3/4 cup (150 g) rice flour
5 1/2 cups (1 1/4 liters) cold milk
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

For the flavorings and garnishes, see the variations

In a little bowl, mix the rice flour with a cup of the cold milk, adding it gradually and mixing thoroughly to avoid lumps. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil in a pan. Pour the rice flour-and-milk mixture in, stirring vigorously, then cook on very low heat, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens. If you don't stir every so often, the milk will thicken unevenly and form lumps.

Let the cream cook gently for a few minutes more (in all, 15-20 minutes). Stir in the sugar and cook until dissolved. Stir with a wooden spoon, being careful not to scrape the bottom of the pan, because the cream always sticks and burns at the bottom, and you want to leave that part behind, untouched. The cream might seem too light, but it does thicken when it cools. Pour into a large bowl or into small individual ones and serve cold.

Flavoring Variations

• The most common way is to add 1-2 tablespoons orange-blossom or rose water towards the end of the cooking and to garnish with a sprinkling of chopped almonds and pistachios.
• For a Judeo-Spanish version from Turkey, boil the milk with a stick of vanilla or add a few drops of vanilla extract or the zest of ½ lemon. Serve sprinkled with I teaspoon cinnamon.
• My favorite pudding is with cardamom — a popular flavoring with Indian, Iraqi, and Iranian Jews. Add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1 tablespoon rose water a few minutes before the end of cooking.
• Instead of rice flour, you can use cornstarch or a mixture of rice flour and cornstarch.

Serving dishes

sources The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York (with more than 800 Ashkenazi and Sephardi recipes) by Claudia Roden (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
author Claudia Roden travels extensively as a food writer. She has published several prize-winning books on cookery and received Italy’s two most prestigious food prizes for her London Sunday Times Magazine series “The Taste of Italy.”




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