I took this image last October when we were in Marrakech because it was just a great combination of items. I’m sharing it now as I introduce a post series that I’ll be doing over the next week. Today Hanukkah begins. I’m not Jewish, we don’t celebrate this holiday, but Morocco has a long history with Judaism. The history of Judaism in Morocco dates back over 2,000 years to Berber Jews in the Atlas mountains. It’s interesting to note that these early Moroccan Jews are not genetically Jews, rather they likely became Jewish as they had contact with others. Alternately there were two waves of who emigrated to Morocco. The first group migrated after the destruction of the Second Temple and the final wave from Spain in 1492 after the Alhambra Decree. Until the late 1940′s, at least 10% of Morocco’s population was Jewish – over 250,000 people. Today there are fewer than 5,000 Jews living in Morocco. The majority of the population left for Israel in the late 1940′s. Today small pockets can be found in Casablanca and Fes.
I decided to do this Hanukkah series after learning that Daniel Saraga of Haggis and Herring had passed away in September. Daniel was a frequent reader and often emailed me with comments, family anecdotes and thoughts on recipes. He was a Canadian/Moroccan Jew and shared so much with me about his family and their experiences in Morocco and Israel. I always looked forward to his comments and learning more. After I learned of his death I wanted to do something to honor him. But, at the time there wasn’t anything. Instead I decided to wait until Hanukkah, the festival of the lights, and dedicate all of these posts to his life and memory. (By the way, this image was a favorite of Daniel’s. He had requested it to frame, not sure if he ever did but it seemed fitting).
Moroccan Jewish Hanukkah food is nearly identical to traditional Moroccan food, though must also be kosher. Interestingly enough the majority of Moroccan recipes are kosher without needing any alternations. Meat and dairy are rarely, if ever mixed and while shrimp is eaten, there isn’t much shellfish eaten. It’s interesting to note that the foods and traditions of Ashkenazi (European) Jews and Sephardic (Middle Eastern) Jews are different. I’m not a Jewish scholar or expert on the subject but found this resource interesting and useful to understand the differences.
You likely won’t find a latke on a Moroccan Jewish Hanukkah table (but you may find ma’akouda). Mofleta’s are common and in many ways resemble msemmen. Sfinge are also an important part of the holiday. Couscous, dafina, tagines, and briouats (or pastellitos) are all potential meals for the week. It’s extremely difficult to find recipes that are Moroccan Jewish. When MarocBaba and I called my mother in law to get ideas from her she drew a blank. We asked another, older, friend of the family if she had any idea, specifically about dafina. She started but couldn’t remember. I was afraid the project was going to be lost. Just recently I received the cookbook Grandma Elmaleh’s Moroccan Cookbook. It’s all Moroccan Jewish recipes! I’ve used it as a guide to write these posts.
My hope over the next week is to do justice to some of these foods, of which I’ve had limited exposure too. This blog celebrates multiple cultures and I think it’s important to recognize everyone. Here’s what you’ll see in the coming week;
- Pomegranate and Walnut Salad
- Haroset (normally a Passover food but I love it too much to pass it up!)
- Crispy Fish Croquettes with Harissa Sauce
- Roast Chicken with Almond Stuffing
- Sesame Cookies