Tag Archives: Catalonia

Q & A: Medieval Catalan Jewish Food (more familiar than you might imagine)

I just discovered, through DNA testing, that my ancestors lived in Girona. They left when the Alhambra Decree was issued. Do you have any recipes of Jewish specialties from Girona?  Thank you.  Ronit

Sure, Ronit! It may well be you know one or two already, as Catalonia’s medieval Jewish recipes were its first culinary exports.

If you’re familiar with spinach with pine nuts and raisins, you probably think of it as an Italian or Italian Jewish dish.  You’d be right. But there, too, in its endless regional variations (adding lemon and garlic in Rome, chive and anchovy in Genoa, sweet onion and vinegar in Venice, etc.), the basic recipe is attributed to the arrival of Sephardim at the time of the expulsion from Spain.

This classic dish is still eaten all over Catalonia, and you’ll be just as likely to find it made with chard as with spinach. Dressed simply with salt, pepper, raisins, pine nuts and olive oil, today’s typical traditional Catalan recipe is far tamer than European food was in the spice-crazy Middle Ages.  In that era spices were wildly expensive and people who could afford them made a big show of using them. Recipes were Continue reading

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Filed under History, Recipes, Your Questions Answered

Me and my big ideas

Recently a reader questioned my theory about the origin of  ensaimada, a traditional pastry from Mallorca made with lard that I believe began life as challa, or perhaps as rosca  (see my post about the book ‘Dulce lo vivas’).  Okay, challenged more than questioned it.  She called my idea far fetched.  Hmm.  Well, I love a good challenge, and especially where Sephardic vs. Christian or secular Spanish gastronomic traditions are concerned it can be challenging to determine which is the chicken and which is the egg.  But there is a method to my madness, which I explained in my reply.   For others who may also wonder how I draw certain conclusions (and who don’t make a habit of reading blog comments), I’ve repeated the conversation here. Continue reading

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Filed under History