Saturday, March 15, 2014

Anything but hamantaschen!

 Here's a change from hamantaschen (Haman's hats), the traditional triangular pastries pictured below and associated with Purim, the Feast of Lots, which

begins tonight.

Katherine Romanow has discovered what Iraqi Jews eat especially on Purim: lots of sweet things, such as hadgi bada (almond macaroons), but also a deep-fried savoury turnover called sambusak (b)el tawa. Here she explains the symbolism:

"The chickpea filling of sambusak el tawa is a traditional ingredient on both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Purim tables because it is a reminder of the vegetarian diet which consisted of legumes, nuts and seeds that Esther maintained while living in the king’s palace in order to keep kosher. The turnovers with their filling is also representative of the secrets, the intrigues and the hidden elements of the Purim story."


Sambusak el Tawa (Iraqi chickpea turnovers)
From Gil Mark’s The World of Jewish Cooking
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, chilled
¼ cup vegetable oil or 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon mild vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
About 5 to 10 tablespoons ice water or chilled seltzer

Chickpea Filling
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
About ¼ salt (if required add more salt after all the ingredients have been combined)
Ground black pepper to taste
2 cups cooked chickpeas, mashed (one 15 ounce can is the perfect amount)

  1. Stir the vinegar or lemon juice and salt into the ice water or seltzer. Sprinkle the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over a section of the flour. Gently mix with a fork to moisten. Push the moistened section aside and continue adding enough water to make a soft dough that just holds together. (The dough should be neither wet nor crumbly, as too much liquid and overmixing reduce tenderness.)
  2. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead briefly with the heel of your hand. Form into a ball, flatten slightly, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 week. The dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months. (Chilling makes the dough easier to handle and more tender.) Let the chilled dough stand at room temperature until workable, about 1 hour, before rolling.
  3. For the filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Add the chickpeas and cook until dry.
  4. Form the dough into 1-inch balls. Flatten slightly, then press the bottoms into the sesame seeds. Roll into 3-inch rounds.
  5. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each dough round. Fold an edge over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp the round
    1. Place the flour in a large bowl or on a pastry board and make a well in the center. Place the butter or margarine and oil or shortening in the well and, using the tips of your fingers, a pastry blender, or two knives cutting scissor fashion, cut in the fat until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
    ed edge or press with the tines of a fork. (The pastries can be prepared ahead to this point and frozen. Do not thaw; increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.)
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Place the sambusak on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.  
  8. Read article in full
More about Purim

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