Svenj and The Book of Jewish Food
by Claudia Roden
Did you know about Moroccan Hanukkah donuts? Neither did I.
They're called svenj.
And fortunately Claudia Roden knows all about them, and tells. What’s more, they’re incredibly easy, probably the easiest and most forgiving dough I’ve met. They’re made with orange juice (good for you!), you can add some whole wheat flour to the dough without catastrophe (health food donuts!).
This is an interesting cookbook because, while it’s about Jewish food, Roden is from Egypt and she doesn’t have a great deal of interest in Ashkenaz cooking, which after all is what most people I know think about when someone says as “Jewish food.” These recipes derive mostly from North Africa but some come from really far afield, like the Bene Israel cuisine of India.
The recipes tend to be simple and straightforward, with few tricky techniques or really exotic ingredients. This is, I think, the cooking of grandmothers in nice modern apartments who are making do with what the new world provides. But then, their grandmothers were making do, too; the spirit of the thing isn’t that different, and great grandmother probably complained that food today wasn’t nearly as good as it was in her youth. I wish there were more charcuterie and preserved foods; I learned to make pastrami from Ruhlman and that’s always a hit. But there’s plenty to try here in any case, and it’s interesting food even if you aren’t part of the tribe.