Curacao is home to one of the oldest Jewish congregation in the Western hemisphere. In 1651 the first brave Jews arrived on this far flung island to form an agricultural community and the first thing they did was to build a wooden synagogue. They named their tiny congregation Mikve Israel (Hope of Israel). I feel it is fitting to pay tribute to them today as Jews across the world commemorate 40 years of wandering in the desert. Jews kept on coming to Curacao to escape the inquisition in Europe and later in the 1920’s to flee persecution. The community of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews on this tiny island created a rich and glorious cuisine by incorporating island traditions into their own and making use of what was available.
The following torte, surely of Lithuanian origin, feels perfect for today. I was given this recipe in Warsaw a long time ago by a Jewish lady who was back in her home town on holiday. She lived in Curacao and was impatient to return as it was winter in Warsaw and bitterly cold. I have made this many times and for today’s hurried lifestyle, it just seems perfect.
(Chocolate and almond torte)
200 g ground almonds
200 g grated Lindt chocolate (70 % cocoa solids)
250 g superfine caster sugar
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
7 eggs, separated
1 lime, zest and juice
100 g Lindt chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 tablespoon water
2 level tablespoons caster sugar
250 ml double cream
2 tablespoons Crème de Cacao
Preheat oven to 200 C
Grease and line 2 x 20 cm spring form cake tins.
Combine the almonds, crumbs and grated chocolate. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage and add the sugar, a little at a time. Now simultaneously whisk egg yolks with the lime zest, fold into the whites and then add the dry ingredients and the lemon juice. When everything is combined spoon into the tins, bake for 30 minutes until golden and firm. Check with skewer to ensure that it is cooked
For the icing put chocolate, water and sugar and sugar into a small pot and heat very gently until the chocolate melts and then add the cream. Bring to boil and then take off the heat immediately. Refrigerate overnight and the next day whisk in the liqueur until it becomes as thick as whipped cream and use as icing. For a really smooth finish, warm again over simmering water until really soft ice with spatula.
Fill and coat the cake.
1 large cabbage
130 g home made tomato puree
500 g cranberry sauce
6 tablespoons brown sugar
90 g raisins
50 ml olive oil
500 g minced beef
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
Salt and white pepper to taste
Carefully nip off leaves from a cabbage that has been lightly blanched – one needs to get the leaves just soft enough to stuff without breaking. Should you want to use any of the cabbages with softer leaves this step is not necessary. Pour the cranberry sauce, the lemon juice and the tomato puree into a roasting pan and stir in the brown sugar and ½ of the raisins. In a separate bowl mix the meat with the rest of the ingredients including the zest and then put 1 tablespoon of the meat stuffing onto each leaf. Roll the leaf over the meat filling to cover the meat completely and form a neat parcel. Place the cabbage meat parcels into the roasting tin make sure that they are immersed in the sauce. Cover and bake for 2 hours over a low heat – I put it on 160 C. *If not immersed, turn them around once in this period so that the side that doesn’t get tomato & cranberry sauce is also covered for a period.
Check the sauce in the roasting pan and reduce a little if necessary.
Heat the next day and serve with sauce poured over the chalapches.