Sephardi: Cooking the History. Recipes of the Jews of Spain and the Diaspora, from the 13th Century to Today

Sephardi: Cooking the History. Recipes of the Jews of Spain and the Diaspora, from the 13th Century to Today

by Hélène Jawhara Piñer




In this extraordinary cookbook, chef and scholar Hélène Jawhara-Piñer combines rich culinary history and Jewish heritage to serve up over fifty culturally significant recipes. Steeped in the history of the Sephardic Jews (Jews of Spain) and their diaspora, these recipes are expertly collected from such diverse sources as medieval cookbooks, Inquisition trials, medical treatises, poems, and literature. Original sources ranging from the thirteenth century onwards and written in Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Occitan, Italian, and Hebrew, are here presented in English translation, bearing witness to the culinary diversity of the Sephardim, who brought their cuisine with them and kept it alive wherever they went. Jawhara-Piñer provides enlightening commentary for each recipe, revealing underlying societal issues from anti-Semitism to social order. In addition, the author provides several of her own recipes inspired by her research and academic studies.

Each creation and bite of the dishes herein are guaranteed to transport the reader to the most deeply moving and intriguing aspects of Jewish history. Jawhara-Piñer reminds us that eating is a way to commemorate the past.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781644695319
Publisher: Academic Studies Press
Publication date: 06/15/2021
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 10.88(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Hélène Jawhara Piñer holds a doctoral degree in Medieval History and the History of Food. In 2018, she was awarded the Broome & Allen Fellowship of the American Sephardi Federation (asf), dedicated to recognizing outstanding academic accomplishments and services to the Sephardic community, as well as encouraging continued excellence in the field of Sephardi studies. As a research associate of the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance(CESR) and of the Cooking of Recipes of the Middle Ages (CoReMa) research program in Tours, Dr. Jawhara-Piñer’s main research interest is the medieval culinary history of Spain through inter- and multiculturalism, with a special focus on the Jewish culinary heritage in Arabic.

Her recipes have appeared in Sephardi World Weekly, Tablet Magazine, The Forward, and S&P Central’s Newsletter. She attended The Great Big Jewish Food Fest (May 2020) as a presenter for an historical-cooking demonstration. With the collaboration of the ASF, she gives live historical cooking classes for the show “Sephardic Culinary History with Chef Hélène Jawhara Piñer,” available on Chaiflix.

Table of Contents

Preface by David Gitlitz


Bread and Snacks

El Pan de los Siete Cielos: The Bread of the Seven Heavens
Mufakhkhar: The bagel from Syria
Empanaditas with spinach and cheese
Empanaditas with eggplant
The making of peot: The challah of Spain in the thirteenth century
Baked muğabbana: Cheese pies
Falafel: Simple chickpea croquettes
Matza: Unleavened bread
Calentita: Chickpea flour cake
Corn tortillas: A Passover Mexican crypto-Jewish dish

Vegetables and Eggs

Güesmo: A Swiss chard dish
Huebos hammados: Red hard-boiled eggs
Eggplant almodrote: Eggplant, garlic and cheese dip
Acelgas con garbanzos: Swiss chard stew with chickpeas


Eggplant isfīriyā croquettes
Almoronía: Eggplant and meatballs
Sweet fried eggplants to break the fast
Caçuelas: Eggplants with saffron and Swiss chard for a converso wedding

The Explicitly Jewish Dishes

“A Jewish dish of chicken” with stuffing
“A Jewish dish of chicken”
”Jewish partridge,” stuffed
”A Jewish dish of partridge”
”A stuffed buried Jewish dish”
”A Jewish dish of eggplants stuffed with meat”
Makābīb la’nūhā al-yahūd: Meatballs cursed by the Jews

Meat and Fish

Adefina: The iconic slow-cooked chickpea and beef stew
Cecina and namkasūd: Dried meat
Tharīd: Thick soup with unleavened bread and chicken
Oriza: Wheat grain and chicken stew
Meat pie of the Fernandes conversos from Bahia
Converso fish stew
Converso fish pie

The Yom Kippur “Menu” of the Conversos from Mexico

Gaspar Váez, 1640
Salomón Machorro, 1650


Fidāwīsh: Short vermicelli noodles with tuna, saffron, and mint
Puchero: Maimonides’ Chicken Soup

Maimonides' Regimen of Health Menu

Green vegetables sauté
Gazpachuelo: Lemon broth
Quince, Pear, Apple and Pomegranate Juice

Desserts and Pastries

Murakkaba: The Moroccan mufleta
: Almond rice pudding
Nuegados: Orange and honey fried dough
Isfenğ: The Andalusian donut
Maqrūṭ: Fried diamonds with dates and walnuts
Hojuelas, fazuelos or fijuelas
Rice and honey pudding
Berenjenas confitadas con canela: Candied eggplants with cinnamon
Neulas encanonadas: Brik pastry rolls with almonds and honey
Maimonides Cake

Own Creations Based on Historical Sources

Manioc cheese balls with candied pimentas biquinho vermelhas
Cottage cheesecake
Batbot: Flat and chewy Moroccan bread
Tortitas de acelga: Chickpea flour croquettes with Swiss chard
Pão de queijo: Tapioca cheese balls
Rose apple tart
Spinach mina




List of Illustrations

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Sephardi is truly the only cookbook of its kind. Hélène is cooking enticing and delicious cusine of Sephardic Jewry while telling the story of migration and rich history that is part of my family’s ancestry. Mazel Bueno to Sephardi!”

— Michael Solomonov, Chef and Owner, Zahav; James Beard Award Winner

"A vibrant scholar and a very talented cook, Hélène Jawhara Piñer has written a brilliant book that is as appealing as it is enlightening. From showing us that Swiss chard was mentioned in the Talmud to revealing that Jewish dishes were featured in prominent Muslim cookbooks, she makes every page one worth reading—and every recipe one you’ll want to make. Her research expands our idea of edible Sephardic culture, charting its geography and anthropology to places as far-flung as Brazil and Mexico, in the process serving up important context for an impressively rich culinary heritage. Sephardi reminds us that there’s always lots to learn about even the most time-honored traditions, and it’s a work that encourages us all to dig deeper into our own individual histories, no matter where in the world they originate."

—Adeena Sussman, author of Sababa: Fresh Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen
"The gorgeously illustrated book, accompanied by uncomplicated instructions, offers dishes with spices and herbs, some similar to those in Middle Eastern cooking. Several of the author’s personal recipes are drawn from historical sources adapted from her academic research."

San Francisco Book Review

Sephardi: Cooking the History strikes an elusive balance between being a ‘can’t put it down’ history book and ‘must immediately get into my kitchen’ cookbook.”

— Leah Koenig, author of The Jewish Cookbook

"Can you tell if someone’s Jew­ish from how they pre­pare their food? Can you tell a Sephar­di from an Ashke­nazi by what they are eat­ing? Had major Jew­ish thinkers, like Mai­monides, have any­thing to say about food, apart from dis­cussing kashrut? Hélène Jawhara Piñer has spent years research­ing such ques­tions and now offers read­ers a tasty Sephar­di buf­fet — some fifty recipes of the Jews of Spain and their dias­po­ra, from the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry onwards — as a frame­work for her answers."

—Jewish Book Council

“Hélène Jawhara Piñer's Sephardi: Cooking the History is a critical new work of Jewish culinary history. The book sheds a much-needed light on the foods of Jews from the Iberian peninsula while elucidating the community's rich culinary legacy. The role that ingredients, dishes, and cooking practices played in signaling one's religious identity under the inquisition speaks to the centrality that food played—and continues to play—in Jewish life. Jawhara Piñer's cookbook is deeply researched, and in addition to providing thorough historical context to foods commonly associated with the Sephardic diaspora, the book also provides many unique and rare recipes that bring Sephardic Jewish history to life in the kitchen.”

—Jeffrey Yoskowitz, author of The Gefilte Manifesto

“Reading these recipes I could almost smell my grandmother’s kitchen, and the dishes she cooked which descended directly from the Sephardic community in Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey) and before that medieval Spain. Hélène Jawhara Piñer’s historical research has uncovered details that have been mostly forgotten, and I am certain that this book will have readers running to the stove to taste this largely unknown, opulent cuisine.”

—Ken Albala, Professor of History, University of the Pacific

“Sephardic Jewish culture was important not only in the Iberian peninsula, but in a vast international diaspora, especially in the modern age.

Historical investigation of primary sources uses texts, images, artifacts and other documents to analyze the past. The history of food has a fundamental repertoire for getting to know the food of yore: cookbooks.

The work of the historian Hélène Jawhara Piñer retrieves the most important medieval and modern recipes of Sephardic food to reconstruct these dishes and understand them as part of a persecuted culture that maintained its identity based on the precepts of kashrut, the Jewish commandments, but, in the face of anti-Semitism and of the Inquisition, he also often had to hide his Jewish condition in order to survive.

A kitchen that reveals and hides, expresses and delimits identities, serves as a border landmark of belonging to a community. In this universe, Jawhara Piñer not only observes, but tastes, when rereading the recipes not only with a look, but through the contemporary experimentation of the old recipes.

The result is an extraordinary book, which unravels the Sephardic past with the lenses of a cook historian, who not only reads the story, but cooks it over a slow fire, like the one needed for Shabbat dishes remained warm.”

—Henrique Soares Carneiro, Professor of Modern History, University of São Paulo

"The recipes in Sephardi reflect the lush and multifaceted culinary traditions of the Iberian Peninsula, influenced by Celtic, Iberian, Roman-Mediterranean, Germanic and North African flavors and techniques. Many of the recipes are the first recorded versions of dishes that are still made today — peot (challah), adefina (Sabbath stew), puchero (chicken soup) and even matzo — albeit with some modernized techniques."

—Julie Giuffrida, Los Angeles Times

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