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Nigella Lawson’s Haroset from the Venetian Ghetto

Haroset, a sweet fruit and nut paste, is a crucial component of the Seder plate. Nigella Lawson's sumptuous, Venetian-style haroset is made with chestnuts, pine nuts, various dried fruits, and plenty of spices.

Introduction

I suppose it's as well to start with the premise that there is no such thing as Jewish food. This of course begets the wider political assertion that there is no such thing as a Jewish race. Faith is not the decider, and cultur­ally, geographically, physically, Jews are too dispersed and just too different to be contained within any one definition. But perhaps it's simpler to stick with the eating: depending on descent, the food any one group of Jews eats will be radically different from another. The supper here has a decidedly Sephardic slant, that's to say the recipes will be more familiar to those who have either Spanish or Middle-Eastern origins. And, actu­ally, even the dietary restrictions differ: Sephardi Jews eat rice and pulses at Passover; Ashkenazi Jews are for­bidden. I've tried to formulate recipes suitable for either.

This haroset comes via Venice; in Britain and the United States, and for most of the world, in fact, you'd be more likely to come across a plainer version, made with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, red wine and some sugar or honey. This one is rich and sumptuous, and I relish it for much more than its symbolic prop­erties. I don't want it as just the ritual precursor of the meal, but daubed on the lamb, or indeed whatever I'm eating, as a sort of multi-fruited and chestnutty confit.

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Ingredients

125g vacuum-packed chestnuts
75g sultanas
50g dried figs
70g dried dates
50g dried apricots
1 eating apple
70g pinenuts
juice and zest of ½ orange
2½ tbsp runny honey
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick, crumbled
¼ tsp ground ginger
80ml sweet wine

Essential kit

You will need: a jar or jars

Method

Crumble the chestnuts into a pan, and add the sultanas. Then chop, or cut up roughly using scissors, letting them drop into the pan as you go, the dried figs, dates and apri­cots. Quarter, core and then roughly chop the apple (I don't bother to peel it), and add along with the rest of the ingredients. These look beautiful before they merge in the heat, as you can see to the right. Stir well, bring to the boil and then lower the heat, partially cover, and cook for 1 –1½ hours, until everything coheres in a dense sticky mass.

Pack into a jar or jars.

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