Chef Yosef (Yosifon) Mesilati, Tazza D'Oro, Tel Aviv
With the myriad of tasks that Seder preparation entails, haroset is easy to overlook. Or, at least, that’s what happens to me year in and year out. A couple hours before the meal, when everything seems ready, I invariably slap my forehead – haroset! Ok, don't panic – walnuts, honey, there should be an apple somewhere… and where the heck is that grater? Hmm, dates…? I’m out of dates, but I’m sure no one will notice. Five minutes later a small bowl of brownish paste is on the table, and I am off to the shower. No wonder nobody ever raves about my haroset.
Actually, haroset is the first bite of food you have during Seder, even before the actual meal starts, and every good cook knows the importance of first impressions. This haroset recipe, which hails from the Jewish Tunisian kitchen, is more delicacy than afterthought, fully capable of stealing the show from more "important" dishes. Make a large quantity, and send away your guests with small jars of this wonderful Seder sweet.
Hararatch, a Tunisian spice and dried rose petals mix, is responsible for the unique taste of this haroset. The rose petals add wonderful aroma, so don't omit them.
Ingredients (serves 4)
For spice mix:
20 dried roses (available at Middle Eastern groceries and spice stores) – use petals only, discard rose stems and internal section
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
500 g (1 lb) dates (preferably majhoul variety)
100 g (3 1/2 oz) hazelnut
50 g (2 oz) blanched almonds
50 g (2 oz) walnuts
50 g (2 oz) sesame seeds
1 apple, unpeeled, coarsely grated
1 cup (240 ml) marsala, port or sweet Kiddush wine
Mix spices and rose petals in a small bowl.
Bring water to a boil and blanch the dates (this will make peeling easier). Cool, peel, remove pits and mash with a fork. Transfer to a bowl.
Toast sesame seeds and nuts (each type separately) in a hot dry skillet until fragrant. Let cool.
Coarsely chop walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds – in a food processor or place in a plastic bag and roll over a few times with a rolling pin.
Mix all ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning. Keep refrigerated up to 3 days. Serve in a pretty bowl, garnished with rose petals.