This recipe was inspired by a blog post on “The Nosher” and a 1938 Lithuanian Jewish cookbook written in Yiddish.
First, the extraordinary cookbook, The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook: originally published in the 1930s in Yiddish by Fania Lewando who was the owner of a vegetarian restaurant in Vilna, Lithuania, frequented by Marc Chagall, amongst others. A Jewish vegetarian cookbook was truly ground breaking. The book was rediscovered in an archive and translated into English and published in a beautiful new edition in 2015 with its original illustrations. There is a section of ‘hallah turnover’ recipes – hallah dough stuffed with fillings to create individual pastries or turnovers. The recipes include sweet baked (or fried) turnovers filled with gooseberries or blueberries, and savoury versions filled with cheese, cabbage or even lentils.
A recipe on “The Nosher” blog of Shanon Sarna for Summer Pesto and Gruyere stuffed challah provided further inspiration with its delicious combination of flavours.
Hallah with Pesto Filling
Makes two round hallot. This could be a nice recipe to serve at Sukkot when many families prepare stuffed vegetables to eat for the festival meals.
Make the hallah dough
Follow Judith’s hallah dough recipe. Use the minimum recommended amount of sugar. You actually only need about half the quantity of the recipe. You could use the other half to make a normal plaited hallah.
Make the pesto filling
The filling can be made ahead (or while the dough is rising) and refrigerated till needed.
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2-3 cups of spinach
- Bunch of basil (about 10-15 leaves)
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Gently steam the spinach or cook in the microwave in a microwave-proof bowl covered with cling film that is pierced in a couple of places. Squeeze out excess liquid.
Combine with the other filling ingredients and blend in a food processor.
- Egg, beaten
- Poppy seeds
- Salt flakes
You will need two 20 inch round springform cake tins that are lined or greased.
When the dough is ready, take golf ball sized pieces of dough and, using your fingers, press out or stretch into a rough circle. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle and pinch the dough together, doing your best to keep the filling within. Lay seam-side down in the tin. Repeat with the rest of the dough, laying the balls of dough next to each other till the tin is full. The balls should be touching – as the dough proves further, they will become very snug.
Glaze the surface of the hallot with beaten egg using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with either poppy seeds or salt flakes (or alternately to create a nice pattern). Leave for 25 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6, 350 F, 180 C. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Whilst baking the balls of dough will fuse together giving a lovely appearance. The pieces can easily be broken off and the hidden pesto filling discovered.
Serve warm or at room temperature, perhaps garnished with a few fresh basil leaves and serve with a selection of cheeses.