An incredibly delicious combination of nuts, lemon, cinnamon and apple, from North Africa via Italy. This charoset will revolutionise your seder!
You know that moment at the seder when everyone fights over the last bit of charoset? No? No, I’d never experienced it before last year either, now you mention it. Which was the first time I made this incredibly delicious lemon & cinnamon charoset. Seriously, we licked the bowl clean.
Both DH and I grew up on traditional Ashkenazi charoset – that unappealing purple-brown slurry of grated apple, ground nuts, and sweet red wine. It was always hard to imagine how it was supposed to represent the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt. It was too wet and sloppy to stick anything together! And it didn’t even taste particularly good. As a child we would make a single apple’s worth for a seder with 30 people, and there would usually be some left.
Italian Jewish food
Early last year we had a family holiday in Venice, and one of the things I brought back with me was a copy of La cucina nella tradizione ebraica by Guiliana Ascoli Vitali-Norsa. It is a fantastic book of Jewish recipes from around Italy and the rest of the world – in Italian, of course. It contains a total of eight different charoset recipes, so last Pesach we decided to depart from the Ashkenazi sludge and try something new.
Google translate came in very handy, and we picked Haroseth no. 6 on the basis that we had all the ingredients handy. (Other variants included things like chestnuts, bananas and dried figs.) According to the book, this recipe was from North Africa. However I checked with my sister-in-law, whose family hails from Tunisia, and she claims never to have eaten anything like this.
In any case, the charoset was a massive success. The entire bowl of it vanished – we basically ate the lot as a starter. It was so good that we made another batch later in the week to eat on a matza picnic. Where it was devoured. This charoset is sweet, spreadable (like mortar!), tangy from the lemon and deliciously cinnamon-scented. When I made the batch in the photos, I was basically spooning it into my mouth as soon as I’d put the camera down.
This charoset will revolutionise your seder. Honestly. People will talk about it for months. Months, I tell you!
The recipe has been adapted slightly from the Italian. The original calls for a hard-boiled-egg-yolk, but I’ve listed this as optional as we’ve made it both with and without, and although DH insisted it was better with, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not to include it. Obviously if you want a vegan charoset, then skip the egg.
The recipe (indeed the whole book) is charmingly vague in parts, and just lists ‘cinnamon’ as an ingredient, with no clue as to quantity. Hence, I’ve listed ‘cinnamon to taste’. However, I’d start with a good half teaspoon and go from there. You do want it to be quite cinnamony – it complements the fresh tanginess of the lemon beautifully.
This makes one medium bowl of charoset. If you have more than 8 people at your seder, make at least double the amount.
One last thing. Our seder plate is not really a seder plate at all, but a large metal tray and a collection of beautiful Japanese ceramic dishes that we were given as an engagement present. When I made and photographed this charoset, it wasn’t Pesach, and so I put it in one of my regular year-round dishes. However, I felt compelled to serve it in our most Oriental of bowls!
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Lemon & Cinnamon Charoset
- 1 medium-large apple
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk (optional)
- 50 g ground almonds (½ cup)
- 50 g ground hazelnuts (½ cup)
- 115 g sugar (½ cup)
- Juice and zest of a lemon
- Cinnamon to taste
- 60 g pine nuts (scant ½ cup)
- Peel and core the apple, and grate the flesh into a mixing bowl.
- Mash the egg yolk, if using, and add to the apple.
- Add the almonds, hazelnuts, sugar, lemon juice, and most of the zest, and mix well.
- Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon, mix well, and taste. Add more cinnamon if required and continue to add, mix and taste until you're happy with the flavour.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, and decorate with the pine nuts and remaining lemon zest. The charoset can be stored in the fridge, covered, for a few hours until required.
If this charoset alone isn’t enough to liven up your seder, why not share this fun Pesach food trivia quiz with your family and friends as well?