Maqrūt and Neulas Encanonadas

Sephardi: Cooking the History, Hélène Jawhara Piñer’s 2021 cookbook, delves deep into Jewish history to illuminate dishes that were once prepared in times fraught with anti-Semitism: food was a way to reveal and preserve Jewish identity. This recipe for Maqrūt and Neulas Encanonadas is excerpted from the book with the author’s kind permission.

Maqrūt is another type of fried honey pastry typical to Jews and Muslims from Morocco, and this recipe dates back to thirteenth-century al-Andalus. These tasty pastries flavored with honey and dates are now associated with the holidays: Muslims eat maqrūṭ when breaking the fast of Ramadan, and Sephardim of Morocco and France eat them for Rosh Hashana. This Jewish holiday corresponds to the Jewish New Year, and in celebration, Sephardim traditionally eat sweet dishes like apples dipped in honey or dates. Maqrūṭ is also eaten for Hanukkah.

Maqrūt: Fried Diamonds with Dates and Walnuts Recipe

INGREDIENTS

2 ½ cups (400 g) medium semolina
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup (80 g) melted butter
5 oz (150 g) dates (or date paste)
3 tbsp of orange blossom water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp neutral oil
1 tbsp walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120 ml) of water with 1 tsp orange blossom water
Neutral oil (not olive oil)
1 cup honey (340 g) (with 1 tsp orange blossom water optional)
Toasted sesame seeds to decorate

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix semolina, salt, and butter in a large bowl until the fat is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the date filling: carefully chop the dates and put them in a saucepan. Add the orange blossom water, cinnamon, and neutral oil. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped walnuts. Mix and set aside in the fridge for 2 hours.
  3. Then, mix the ½ cup water flavored with orange blossom water with the semolina and butter with your fingertips.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 parts, and make rolls about 1 inch (2-3 cm) in diameter and 9 inches long (20 cm).
  5. With your index finger (or a knife), make a slit length-wise in the center of each roll without cutting through it.
  6. Roll a little date paste and put it in the slit.
  7. Close the edges of the dough over the date paste and seal. All the stuffing needs to be covered. Prepare all the long rolls in the same way.
  8. Take the rolls and flatten them until they are 0.4 inches (1 cm) thick. Cut into lozenges about 1.5 inches long (2.5 cm). Take a knife and draw marks like a star.
  9. Pour some neutral oil into a frying pan until 1.5 inches deep (3 cm). Heat over medium heat.
  10. Fry the first side of the maqrūṭ for 2-3 minutes, then fry the other side for another 2 minutes.
  11. Pour the honey and blossom water into a saucepan.
  12. Once hot (not boiling), immerse the maqrūṭ carefully into the warm honey for at least 3 minutes.
  13. Be careful when you take them out, as they will be soft.
  14. Line a plate with baking parchment and put the fried maqrūṭ over it. Sprinkle immediately with toasted sesame seeds.

Neulas Encanonandas: Brik Pastry Rolls with Almonds And Honey Recipe

In Le Roman d’Esther, written in the fourteenth century by Crescas du Caylar, a Jewish physician from southern France, there is a mention of a banquet held by King Ahasuerus in honor of the third year of his reign. Crescas mentions a dish called neulas encanonadas: a pastry confection in the shape of cigars. Another reference to the dish comes from the Spanish city of Almazan, where conversos were reported to the Inquisition tribunal for preparing rollillos (rolls) during Semana Santa, a feast whose dates coincide with Pessah.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups (230 g) ground almonds
1/2 cup (110 g) sugar
1/8 tsp bitter almond essence
1/4 tsp orange blossom water
1 egg
15 brick pastry sheets (round)
1 cup (340 g) honey
1/4to 1/2 cup (35 g to 70 g) sesame seeds (preferably toasted)
neutral oil (for frying)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine the ground almonds, sugar, bitter almond essence, orange blossom water, and egg in a bowl. Chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Take the brick pastry sheets and cut them in half down the middle, using a knife. Place one half so that the round side is to the left.
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Pour the honey into another saucepan and heat it over low heat (it must never boil).
  5. Prepare a tray for the rolls and a small plate with sesame seeds.
  6. Take the almond mix out of the refrigerator. Take the equivalent of 1 tbsp of dough and roll it into a ball. Then, shape it into a sausage.
  7. Place it a finger’s width away from the edge and start rolling the pastry sheet tightly.
  8. Then, fold the two edges of the sheet inward. Continue rolling to the end, keeping the edges in. Do the same for all pastry sheet halves until you run out of the almond mix.
  9. Fry the rolls in the oil for about 3 minutes, turning them.
  10. Take each out of the oil and soak it in the hot honey for 3 minutes. Take out the honey and coat with the sesame seeds. Cover all sides. Place the rolls on the tray and serve.

Cook with Hélène Jawhara Piñer:

Sweet Fried Eggplant

Eggplants and Sephardim have become a true culinary love story. There are so many eggplant dishes consumed by Sephardic Jews from Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Morocco, and more. Nowadays, eggplant dishes are traditionally prepared to break the fast in Jewish communities.

Ifseng

Also called sfenğ, this fried pastry is common among Jews and Muslims especially in Morocco and Israel. It is also calledesponja (“sponge”) in Spanish, a word derived from the Arabic term sjenğ of the same meaning. The recipe dates back to the thirteenth century, when this and similar dishes were popular in al-Andalus.

Tortitas de Acelga

Piñer’s Tortitas de Acelga recipe combines some of the main ingredients of Sephardic cuisine from Spain: Swiss chard, eggs, garlic, and olive oil. This perfect Passover dish uses chickpea flour.

And a special Hanukkah 75 cocktail from TABLE Magazine!

Sephardi: Cooking the History can be purchased through your favorite bookstore or online. For the rest of our article on Sephardi, click here.

Story by Maggie Weaver / Photography by Scott Goldsmith/ Styling by Keith Recker / Food by Veda Sankaran and Cécile Desandre-Navarre

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