In Morrocco, 50s and 60s, I used to eat a Sefardi dessert I never found in any kosher or Sefardi cookery book… small aubergines or berenjenas en dulce. Maybe with honey or syrup. La Senora Amalia was keeping this recipe for her family… So delicious! Thank you — Mary, UK
Cooked sweets – purees, compotes, marmalades, pastes, hard candies and whole preserves – are a very important component of Sephardic culinary traditions and social customs. Whole fresh and dried fruits, citrus peel, flower petals, seeds, nuts and even vegetables are transformed into sweets of various forms, textures, colors and flavors, to be served, with tea or coffee and perhaps a little pomp, when company comes. My own grandparents and great grandparents, from Rhodes & Adalia, favored sweets made from quince, almonds, apricots, prunes, figs, tangerine peels, rose petals, apples, dates and sesame. There are also recipes for lemons, grapefruit, pears, sour cherries, grapes, tomatoes, pumpkin and, in Moroccan tradition, eggplant (in case you’re wondering, eggplant is actually a fruit). The list goes on.
Here is one of two candied eggplant recipes from “Dulce lo vivas,” a beautiful collection of Moroccan Sephardic desserts by Ana Bensadon that I will write about this month. The book is only available in Spanish; the translation below is mine. The departures here from Ottoman-style fruit preserves are the very lengthy cooking time and the combination of spices. Traditional Ottoman fruit preserves call for milder flavorings – at most only one of the spices used here, plus rose or orange flower water or, as my dad would say, a little lemon juice.