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OP: Sephardic Cuisine

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by the Sephardi Ladies Zimbabwe

Expelled from Spain in 1492, Jewish refugees scattered in all directions, commingling their Spanish-Jewish heritage and cuisine with that of their new homes. The results can be surprising.

For example, one might not expect to find a deeply rooted tradition of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors in a landlocked southern African country. However, that is precisely what we get in this 1986 community cookbook compiled by the Sephardi Ladies of Zimbabwe.

The use of Ladino—a Judeo-Spanish dialect derived from medieval Spanish—in the recipe titles emphasizes the dueling senses of stasis and cultural disruption at play with displaced peoples hanging on to threads connecting them to a homeland. 

Among the recipes you will find:

  • Kashkara reynada, broad bean skins—stuffed with minced meat, panade, and egg—fried in batter coating the seam side only then braised in a tomato sauce with the shelled beans
  • Arroz kon saffron, a rice dish which includes unspecified herbs in addition to saffron and piri-piri sauce
  • Bourikitas—spinach or potato and cheese-filled bourekas (translated as cheese pastries)
  • Saleb—a sweetened beverage, originating in the Levant, thickened with tubers, traditionally orchid bulbs; arrowroot is specified in this case

Recipes use a mix of measurements by weight in metric and by volume; oven temperatures are metric.

Spanish, Middle Eastern, African, and colonial influences appear at every turn. While headnotes and commentary are absent, much can be intuited with a little digging. The brief forward is written by Chairlady Stella Cohen who authored the somewhat more expansive and obtainable (though also out-of-print) book Stella’s Sephardic Table in 2012.

Our copy, spiral bound with a protective clear plastic cover, has suffered water damage to a top corner (perhaps a result of the same corner catching a stove flame, if we were to read into the scorch marks), which has caused rippling to the pages as well as rusting of the metal binding. The rust has stained the rear pages and the front and back covers. The interior remains fully legible and clean otherwise, likely to command a much higher price in better condition. Rare and illuminating.

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