The Almoronía of Kippur
by Alicia Sisso Raz
Almoronía, the traditional dish of the Moroccan Sephardim for the Se'uda Mafseket (the meal we eat before the fast) of Yom Kippur, whose main ingredients are chicken and eggplant, is related to a variety of eggplant dishes, known in the Arab world by various names: "Buran", "Al Baraniya", "Al Buroniye", etc..
A version of the eggplant dish first appeared in the ninth century, at the wedding celebration of Al Ma'mun, the Caliph of Bagdad. The Caliph, who wished to celebrate his marriage to a Persian princess by the name Buran with great fanfare and extravagance, ordered his cooks to invent dishes, impossible to surpass by taste or presentation. The cooks, being aware of the alarming swiftness with which their Caliphs used their swords, and for obvious reason, wanting to keep their heads and bodies intact, dedicated themselves to the mission at once.
eggplant, native to
eggplant dish had been originally mentioned
in Kitab Al – Tabhik, a thirteenth century cook book by Iben
Muhammad Al Hassan Al Baghdadi (A recent version, A Baghdad Cookery,
edited by Charles Perry is available in English). The dish became well-liked throughout the
Muslim world, and following the Arab conquest, it reached
Our most popular version of the Almoronía (or Alboronía), consists of eggplant, chicken, onion, with spices and honey, cooked over a low flame with a lot of patience for a long hour till it becomes marmalade-like in its sofrito (in its deliciously reduced and concentrated sauce). But an obvious question must be asked here. Why for haven sake, the Almoronía, a dish whose main ingredient is the aphrodisiac eggplant became the traditional dish of the Moroccan Jewry for the Se'uda Mafseket of Yom Kippur. What is the reason for raising all these passion and desire, if love-making is prohibited on Yom Kippur?
Well, there is an explanation, albeit it
requires us to delve into a Talmudic reasoning. The explanation was given to me by Ms.
Rosette Shetrit, nee Asseraf, a
distinguished lady born in
The Torah, as we all know, orders us to fast, to repent of our sins, to ask for pardon and to torture our souls on Yom Kippur! The more we torture our souls the better. Now, what could be a greater torture than having been induced with a desire for something and abstain from it, although the object of desire is nearby, available, and ready? Ve'initem et nafshoteḥem, (torture your souls) orders us the Torah, and we, the Moroccan Jews, being utterly obedient and innocently faithful, comply with it with all our heart and enthusiasm!
The recipe in few words
1. Peel and sprinkle with salt slices of eggplant, let them stand in a strainer for about 1/2 an hour, rinse, pat dry , spray with oil and bake (They were originally fried)
2. Sautee slices of onions, sprinkle with some cinnamon nutmeg, turmeric and some honey (or sugar), to golden.
3. Sautee dark pieces of chicken or Cornish hen.
4. Place 1+2+3 in a low rim casserole, mixing gently. Adjust spices to taste. Cook over very low flame for about 2-3 hours, mixing gently occasionally without adding any water!
In this version the onions are
replaced with red bell peppers and garlic, and the spices are replaced with mainly
paprika and salt.
»»»» ENJOY »»»»
9/ 2010, Alicia Sisso