Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


Mimouna is the joyous Moroccan celebration of springtime, friends, family and good fortune. Marking the end of Passover and the beginning of the agricultural season, the doors of people’s homes are thrown wide open and everyone is greeted with the Judeo-Arabic blessing “Tirbah u’tissad,” may you prosper and succeed.

The mimouna table overflows with sweet treats like orange jam, eggplant jam, marzipan, meringues and, of course, the famous moufleta, crepes served with butter and honey. In Morocco, the flour used in moufletas was brought to Jewish homes by their Muslim neighbors after sundown, proof of the level of friendship and cooperation that existed between the two faiths.

Talismans of luck, fertility and prosperity also adorn the table. A live goldfish in a glass bowl. A green tree branch. Five gold coins in a bowl of flour, and five fava beans arranged on a pastry.

The exact origins of the name and holiday remain conjecture — does it mark the anniversary of the death of Maimon ben Yosef, the father of Maimonides; or does the name come from the Hebrew word “emunah” (faith); or is it derived from the Arabic word “ma’amoun” (wealth)? Regardless, mimouna has become a widely celebrated and wildly popular event on the Jewish calendar in Israel and all over the world.


Rachel shares her delicately spiced and delicious recipe for Spiced Kumquat Jam. Feel free to substitute thinly sliced oranges if kumquats aren’t available. I share my recipe for Pavlova, a family favorite.


Rachel’s Moufletas
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1  1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons oil, plus 1/3 cup oil, separated, plus oil for frying
Butter, honey or Nutella, for serving

Sift flour and salt into large bowl. Make a well in the center and slowly add water.

Using hands, mix until dough is sticky but not smooth.

Pour 2 tablespoons of oil over dough, cover with towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Divide dough into golf ball-sized balls and set on cookie sheet.

Pour 1/3 cup oil over balls and let dough rest an additional 15 minutes.

Lightly oil counter. Dip fingers in small bowl of oil, stretch each dough ball as thinly as possible.

Heat small amount of oil in a frying pan.

Place dough in hot oil. When dough is golden, flip and place another crepe on top.

Continue to flip every few minutes, adding an additional crepe each time.

Remove from pan when the stack has 3-4 crepes and start a new stack.

Traditionally served with sweet butter and honey but kids love it with Nutella.

Makes about 3 dozen.


Sharon’s Pavlova
8 egg whites
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch
2 teaspoons white vinegar
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
Pint of strawberries, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Beat egg whites slowly and add sugar very gradually until egg whites are thick and  glossy.

Gently fold in vanilla, cornstarch, vinegar and salt. Spoon mixture onto ovenproof dish.
Lower oven to 200 F and bake for 3 hours. Cool on wire rack.
In small bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form.
Fill center of pavlova with whipped cream and top with sliced strawberries.

spiced kumquats

Rachel’s Spiced Kumquat Jam
2 cups kumquats
3 cups water
1  1 /2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups fine granulated sugar
2 cups water
4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoon clove powder

Place whole kumquats in glass bowl and cover with the water. Sprinkle in baking soda and  soak for 10 minutes. This will remove any mold and dirt. After soaking, rinse kumquats under clean, running water and dry with paper towels before proceeding.

Cut each kumquat in half and remove seeds.

In medium-sized pot, bring sugar, water and spices to a boil.

Add kumquats after syrup has thickened and has small bubbles.

Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes until excess liquid has evaporated and kumquat peels are soft.

Cool completely and store in sterilized, glass Mason jars.

Makes about 64 ounces.

Rachel Emquies Sheff’s family roots are Spanish Moroccan. Sharon Gomperts’ family hails from Baghdad and El Azair in Iraq. Known as the Sephardic Spice Girls, they have on the Sephardic Educational Center’s projects,  SEC Food Group and community cooking classes. Join them on Facebook at SEC FOOD.


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Recipes for Mimouna – The Moroccan Celebration of Spring