By Claudia Camhi
Patricia, my mother, went back in time to remember how Passover celebrations were like when she was around five years old (the 1950s) growing up in Santiago, Chile. Her memories are of quietly observing at home unusual and hurried activity and busy-ness, in the days running up to Passover, watching her mother and the house help get rid of traces of bread and all that was not kosher for Pesaj. Then, the special table layout, big family gatherings for the second Seder night and the long reading of the Hagaddah including a bit of a quibble over who was the youngest and had the right to ask ‘why is this night different from other nights?’
A traditional starter at her parents’ David and Matilde’s table was the ‘Pesaj Spinach Minna with grape syrup drizzle’ and to finish the meal off ‘Marruchinos’, (almond macaroons)to accompany the coffee.
After the Second Seder school and working life would continue as usual with just a few differences. For breakfast, sheets of crunchy Matzot would be covered in homemade fruit jams, quince paté or mashed ripe avocado pears with plenty of salt. This may sound strange to a people growing up in cultures where cereal is the staple breakfast food, but in Chile the norm was toast and milk for the children. School snacks consisted of sandwiches made in the same way and many questions to answer from the non-Jewish classmates who were very interested both in the food and story of Pesaj.
Pesaj spinach minna drizzled with grape syrup
- 500 grams of sturdy spinach leaves, washed, patted dry and sliced into 1 cm strips
- 250 grams of ricotta
- 3 large eggs
- 150g of grated cheddar cheese
- 8 matzah sheets briefly soaked in cold water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 large peeled and boiled potatoes
- A little sunflower oil
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Make a potato puree by mashing the boiled potatoes and adding salt and pepper to mix. Set aside.
- Place the spinach, ricotta, grated cheese (setting aside a little for the topping), eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Work the ingredients with your hands as if it was dough in order to make sure the spinach is well covered with all the ingredients.
- Oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish that is large enough to hold 4 matzah sheets. Soak the matzah sheets briefly in water. Place four matzahs covering the bottom of the baking dish. Then place the spinach mix and cover with the rest of the matzah sheets, a bit like a giant matzah sandwich.
- Finally, cover the top matzahs with the potato puree, sprinkle with some grated cheese and bake for 45-60 minutes until it looks golden. Slice in squares and optionally drizzle with grape syrup before serving.