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Friday, November 23, 2007

How Religious Curbs Lead To Great Food

Fascinating article by Vikram Doctor in The Economic Times, titled How religious curbs lead to great food.

In it he talks about the culinary restrictions put on foods by members of the Jewish and Jain religions, and how over the centuries members of those religions have adapted local foods to meet their religious needs.

I'm not concerned at the moment with the logic of these bans, just their results, which have been detailed in two excellent books.

The Jain book is Dadima No Varso, which translates as grandmother’s legacy. ... There’s a Gujarati-English glossary of ingredients, illustrations of all the traditional cooking utensils, cooking tips, sample menus and, most impressive of all, a set of two page photo spreads that detail not just the finished dishes but all the regularly used ingredients as well.


The working out of these varieties of Jewish food is the subject of one of the most fascinating food books ever written — Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. ... Roden’s roots, in Egypt, were with the southern Sephardim, and it is their cooking, from their communities on all the shores of the Mediterranean, and their even more exotic offshoots in Arabia, Iran, Georgia and India that form the heart of her book.

In each country the same pattern is played out, with local ingredients and recipes being adapted to kosher rules. In India, for example , the two Western Indian communities of Cochin Jews and the Bene Israeli of Maharashtra made much use of coconut milk to replace milk – making a kheer of coconut milk, for example.

Docrtor gives an example of a butter and flour free orange-almond cake, from Roden's book. It wouldn't work for Jains, because eggs are involved, but it is vegan and dairy-free.

Unfortunately, his description of the recipe omits the number of eggs that are needed, although he gives all the rest of the ingredients. I'm therefore asking for your help. I'll post a version of the recipe here and hope that someone can comment with the proper number of eggs.

Orange-Almond Cake

grated rind of 2-3 oranges
Juice from the oranges
2 tsp cinnamon
400 g (2 cups) sugar
100 g ground whole almonds
100 g ground blanched almonds
(To blanch almonds, boil for five minutes, then slip off the skins)

Mix the egg yolks with 200 grams (1 cup) of sugar, the orange rind, the cinnamon, and all the almonds.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then use a spatula to fold them into the yolk-almond mixture.

Pour into a greased, paper lined cake pan and bake, first in a hot oven, then with reduced temperature.

It will take about an hour to firm. When firm, remove and let cool.

Mix the orange juice with the other 200 grams (1 cup) of the sugar and heat in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the cake, then pour the orange syrup onto the cake and let it soak.

Can anyone help fill in the holes in the recipe?

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