Hag HaPesach, the festival of Passover, is a perfect opportunity to explore the different ways Jews embrace the ritual of preparing lamb during the Passover season.
“Ashkenazi Jews place a zeroa [“arm” in Hebrew] or shankbone on the Passover table because that is the symbol of God’s outstretched arm that lifted us out of slavery. And it is reminiscent of the korban Pesach, the Temple sacrifice made at the time of Passover,” says Rabbi Batshir Torchio of the JCC of San Francisco.
Those following strict tradition do not eat lamb at the seder meal, because traditional lamb offerings are intended only for Temple sacrifice, and with the Temple destroyed there is no place to bring that sacrifice. “The Sephardic community interprets this differently,” says Torchio. “They are re-enacting that last evening before the Jews left Egypt, and are literally ingesting the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt toward becoming a nation.”
Whether you serve lamb at the seder or after the seder, you can save yourself some time by preparing the Sephardic Lamb recipe the night before. Simply cook the lamb as directed, refrigerate it, skim off some of the fat when it’s nice and chilly, and then reheat slowly in the oven before your meal.
In place of couscous or rice, prepare the rabbi-approved, kosher-for-Passover supergrain quinoa to serve alongside the lamb.
Cookbook writer Claudia Roden’s classic Orange-Almond Cake is flourless and divine, and if you haven’t yet discovered it as an all-star end to a dairy meal during the eight days of Passover, don’t walk, run to your kitchen and get baking!
Sephardic Lamb with Lemon and Ginger
41⁄2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed, meat cut in 2×2-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs. corn oil
2 tsp. salt
1⁄8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. imported Spanish paprika (it has a smoky flavor)
1⁄2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground chile powder
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
2 medium onions, thinly sliced, divided
28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup chicken stock
1⁄2 cup orange juice
2 Tbs. honey
pinch of saffron soaked in 1 Tbs. water
2 carrots, peeled, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
2 small Meyer lemons, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices
1 cup pitted cured Moroccan olives
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh mint
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put meat in a large, heavy stew casserole or Dutch oven. Combine garlic, ginger, oil and spices in small food processor, and process to mince the garlic and ginger. Add half the onion and pulse to finely chop. Toss spice blend with meat in the Dutch oven until meat is coated. Place Dutch oven over high heat and cook, turning meat frequently, about 3 minutes, until the spices are aromatic.
Pour tomatoes with juice, chicken stock, orange juice, honey and saffron water over lamb. Stir. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add remaining onion slices. Cover pan tightly with lid. Transfer to preheated oven to braise for 1 hour.
Add carrots, lemons and olives to stew. Cover and braise for another 30 minutes. Uncover stew and keep cooking for 30 more minutes. At this point, the stew can cool to room temperature and then go into the refrigerator overnight. De-fat as desired and reheat in a low oven before your guests arrive. Serve over quinoa and garnish with cilantro and mint.
Quinoa with Currants, Raisins and Cashews
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cups quinoa, prewashed or rinsed well
1⁄2 cup white wine
1⁄4 cup currants
1⁄4 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. kosher salt
21⁄2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1⁄4 cup toasted cashews
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add shallot and sauté 30 seconds. Add quinoa and stir over medium-high heat to toast lightly (2 minutes, stirring almost constantly). Add wine, currants, raisins and salt. Stir. Add stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to reduce to simmer, cover and cook until liquid has been absorbed, 20-22 minutes. Scatter cashews on top, stir. Serve with lamb.
Claudia Roden’s Orange-Almond Cake
1 lb. sweet oranges, unpeeled
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 tsp. salt
11⁄2 cups almond meal/flour
1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
Wash and place whole unpeeled oranges in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 2 hours, adding more water as needed to keep oranges from drying and burning on bottom of pan. Let cool in the water or remove and set aside. The oranges can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours at this point. After they are cool, you can continue with the recipe.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, line bottom with parchment paper cut to fit, and grease paper again.
Cut cooled, softened oranges in half, remove the seeds and purée in a food processor. In a large bowl, whisk eggs together with sugar and salt. Add orange purée and whisk again. Add almond flour and baking powder and stir until just combined.
Pour into prepared pan and bake until the edges are starting to brown and pull away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Let it rest for 15 minutes and run a knife around edge of pan to loosen the cake. Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
When it’s cooled completely, either cover it and refrigerate for a day or so, or immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar forced through a sieve.
Josie A.G. Shapiro, who won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff, is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Her website is www.thechickencontests.com.