In my About page, I mention dates among the foods that I absolutely dislike, stating that if you find any recipes containing them then it’s most probably on request of my husband, family or friends. I don’t particularly like beef, either, yet I found a way to cook it in a way that I would not only eat it but also love it (my stir-fried ginger beef recipe shared with you last week). Today’s recipe is also one of those that transform an ingredient I really don’t like into a dish that I can’t get enough of. Meet haroset — my family’s version of the traditional Jewish paste served during Passover featuring a heaping load of dates, apples, sweet red wine, cinnamon and walnuts — otherwise known as the only date recipe I truthfully look forward to eating.
Commemorating the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery in Ancient Egypt, Passover begins with a large family dinner held on the first and second nights of the eight-day holiday. We begin the meal by reading through the story of the Exodus from Egypt, stopping to eat symbolic foods to remember each and every moment our ancestors went through. Haroset is one of those symbolic dishes, its reddish color recalling the mortar used by slaves in Egypt to construct bricks.
There are as many ways to make haroset as there are fish in the sea, some that are typical of Sephardi Jews while others are more commonly found amongst Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews typically combine sweet red wine, walnuts, apples and cinnamon, whereas Sephardic Jews use a variety of dried fruit, such as dates, raisins and figs. Some Jewish communities even add coconut as a sweetener or swap chopped walnuts for chestnuts. In my multicultural home, we’ve chosen to mix Sephardic and Ashkenazi recipes to create our own version of this traditional sweet paste.
This haroset recipe needs to be cooked — some are made and eaten raw but I really love the flavor of the cooked version best. The dates and apples are slowly simmered in water and sweet red wine until tender and ready to be mashed. Many recipes require processing the haroset to obtain a paste, however I really love a chunkier consistency that doesn’t ressemble baby food, so I mash it until I obtain the desired texture.
I cannot explain why I love this recipe when dates are really not my thing. Although it calls for 1 kilo of dates I don’t find the taste to be overpowering at all. I love this haroset so much that I even enjoy it for breakfast throughout the holiday. And who says you need to celebrate Passover to enjoy it? Store the paste in a jar in your fridge, just like jam, and enjoy it over toast bread any time of the year.
- 1 kg dates, pitted and chopped into small pieces
- 2 red apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sweet kosher red wine (or any other sweet red wine)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- In a large saucepan, combine the dates, apples, water and wine. Bring to boil, then lower heat, and let simmer for 15 minutes uncovered until the apples are soft. Keep a close eye on the mixture so it doesn't dry out. If all the liquid has evaporated add a bit more water to liquify it.
- With the heat still on low, mash the mixture in the saucepan until it reaches a spreading consistency. I like my haroset quite chunky, so feel free to mash it up until you reach your preferred consistency. The mixture will become sticky when it cools down.
- Add the cinnamon and walnuts and mix to combine.
- Put the haroset in jars to cool. Once cooled down to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
How did your haroset come out? Share photos of your recipe on Instagram by tagging #savormania