When the festival of Yom Kippur approaches, it is marked with a flurry of activity in the kitchens of all Jewish homes. There are several special dishes linked to this festival. Yom Kippur is a time of prayer, meditation and fasting. It lasts for 25 hours, starting on the eve of the festival and ending on the evening of the next day. The fast is usually broken with “Challah”, a type of bread and cake. This is usually followed by a meal of special dishes.
The concept of kosher
Before we get into a discussion of the various Jewish dishes and recipes, it is important to understand the concept of kosher. There are some very strict dietary laws laid out according to the Torah or the Jewish law.
- Vegetarian food: All fruit and vegetables are generally considered to be kosher. There are a few restrictions to this such as grape juice (as it may ferment and become wine). Wine is allowed if it is made according to kosher rules. All dairy products are allowed if not derived from animals without cloven hooves. However, dairy products cannot be consumed along with meat. A good example of non-kosher food is a cheeseburger.
- Non-vegetarian food: The flesh of all animals with cloven hooves and which chew cud can be consumed. Therefore sheep, cattle and deer are allowed. However, the animals should also be slaughtered in the kosher style – they should be slaughtered in a single swift chopping of the esophagus. Fish with gills and scales are considered kosher. Thus shellfish is not kosher. Except scavengers, all birds are kosher.
Now, with a better understanding into the concept of kosher, let us discuss the various Yom Kippur dishes. Even though Yom Kippur is characterized by fasting, as with similar occasions in other communities, there is quite a variety of food to be eaten before and after the fast.
Before the fast
The dishes before the fast are usually less salty and low in spice. The food is light but wholesome.
- Shepherds’ pie: This is a meal in itself. It is consists of a filling (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) sandwiched between two layers of mashed potatoes. The ingredients are placed in a glass (preferably square) baking dish and it is baked in an oven.
- Zucchini Moussaka: This is made of mashed potatoes mixed with egg. Mushrooms, garlic, onions, tomatoes, red bell peppers and zucchini are all sautéed in oil and seasoned with soya sauce, salt and pepper. The sautéed ingredients are layered with the mashed potato in a baking dish and baked for about an hour. It makes a very wholesome pre-fast meal.
- Lamb stew: It can be a quick fix or a long intricate recipe depending on the time at hand and personal preferences. The basic method is to marinate the lamb in wine for about 2 hours. It is then fried and stewed with carrots, onions and celery, seasoned with soya sauce, rosemary, garlic and pepper.
- Honey cake: This cake is made of honey, coffee, cinnamon and dried fruits. The cake batter is made more or less the same way as in regular cakes. The baking time is about an hour in a hot oven. Even though it is mentioned in the “before the fast” section of this article, honey cake is popularly eaten for breaking the fast as well.
After the fast
- Kasha Varnishkes: This a very popular vegetarian dish with the Jews. It is a porridge made of “kasha” which is essentially buckwheat but can be made of other grains too like millet, oats, wheat, rice, or barley. It can be made as a meal in itself or a side dish depending on the ingredients. The seasoning may be onions, mushrooms and pasta.
- Blintz Soufflé: This is a combination of two dishes. The blintz is a pancake, fried or baked; stuffed or plain. Blintzes can be bought readymade from shops, or can be prepared at home. This is made into a soufflé which is a kind of baked cake made of beaten eggs, flour and sugar. Blintzes are placed in the pan and baked into a soufflé.
- Apple Cake: This is a favorite dish and very popular for breaking the fast. The apples are cored and peeled and chopped. They are then mixed with sugar and cinnamon and stewed. Finally, the batter (basically made of flour and eggs) is mixed with the stewed apples and it is baked in a hot oven for about an hour.
Quiche (pronounced as “keesh”): This is also a dish which is made over the Yom Kippur holiday. A Quiche is a kind of open pie stuffed with vegetables, meat or both and baked in an oven. It makes an ideal meal to eat while breaking the Yom Kippur fast.
So we see that even though Yom Kippur is a festival prominently of fasting and prayer, it is by no means a festival without food. The dishes which are consumed before and after the fasting period allow for sufficient enjoyment to food lovers.
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