Fun feasting for all the family at Purim
Fun fact: one half of G&T is of Jewish faith. This got T, who is loosely Christian at best, thinking about how many religious celebrations she has spent around the dinner table. It may be easy to forget that certain days in the culinary calendar are religious in nature, like Shrove Tuesday, for example. Sorry to be the ones to break it to you atheists who have a penchant for pancakes.
“Let your inner child creep out and put as much as you like, Purim is supposed to for kids, but don’t let anyone stop you; 25 is the new 8 and a half.”
Its true, neither G nor T are holy-book bashers, so to speak, but it is safe to say religious events are intrinsically linked to our dining tables. With that in mind, G wanted to show you how to celebrate the Jewish holiday Purim, and T was up for a challenge. The holiday falls on Shabbat (sundown) on Saturday 11th March to the following Sunday evening. So without further ado, the story of Purim, in the tiniest of nutshells:
A long time ago In Ancient Persia, long before Tinder was ever a thing, there was a beautiful Jewish girl called Esther. She was married to the Persian King on account of her beauty and her beauty alone (don’t worry feminists, if that doesn’t get your blood simmering, it gets worse). This King is unaware of her faith (clearly a man who was interested in what his wife had to say…) which is a pretty big problem as the Jews were the natural enemy of the Persians. A lot could have been avoided if he’d bothered to ask her in the first place (eye roll). Anyway, Hamen, the evil advisor of the King makes plans to have all the Jews ‘expelled’ from the kingdom. But using her faith, her power as Queen and her brain (she was one smart cookie) Esther foils Hamen’s plans with the help of her uncle Mordechai. Hamen is then executed on the very gallows he meant for the Jewish people.
How’s that for ancient dramatic irony? Then Queen Esther, and the generations of Jewish people that came after her, celebrate this by feasting (Seudah) on that day ever since. A rather fitting story of female empowerment around International Women’s Day, don’t you think?
“As our design for this evening is just a nod to the traditional Purim festivities, we decided to fill the hamentashen with Nutella, a winner amongst kids and adults alike.”
Story aside, Purim is a fun, silly, joyous and deliciously tacky celebration. It is great if you have friends with children or if you have little ones in your life and you can decorate your table accordingly. It is traditional for children to dress up as the principle characters and listen to the story of Esther being read in panto-style, complete with boos and hisses.
We dressed the table with colourful bits of costume, plastic crowns and homemade rattles. Gold candles were a must, we bought ours from John Lewis. We splurged a little and spent £12 on a pack of 6 golden-ombré candles; but honestly it’s totally worth it. They’re gorgeous and have a ridiculously long burn-life. We also picked up our aztec purple table runner from John Lewis.
Purple is a colour used a lot for Purim celebrations, so as well as our runner we purchased purple napkins and heart-shaped confetti from ol’ faithful Ebay. We spent up on Ebay actually; the ease of getting everything delivered to your door never dampens. We got our golden crowns online (£5 for the two) and our ‘photo booth’ mask props too (£4.30 for 76 pcs). These masks props are so hot right now with the kids and also in wedding photo booths, so we thought they would easily translate to the dinner table.
Our homemade rattles were also extremely simple to make. Take a small vessel (we used little glass milk bottles which we had hanging around in G’s prop cupboard) and fill them with hundreds and thousands. We bought ours from Sainsbury’s for £1 per container. Nifty trick; we stuffed a cotton wool pad into the tops of our bottles as we had temporarily misplaced the lids. Just wait for Hamen’s name to pop up in the story telling of Esther & Purim, and get your best BOO and HISS ready and shake your rattle to your hearts content.
It is popular to eat a dish known as Hamentashen at Purim. This little treat, representative of Hamen’s tricorn hat, is a triangle of sweet shortcrust pastry filled with a sweet or savoury filling. As our design for this evening is just a nod to the traditional Purim festivities, we decided to fill them with Nutella, a winner amongst kids and adults alike. They are super easy to make, so easy that little ones can lend a hand. If grown-ups need something a little more substantial to line the stomachs, then we might suggest some canapés from last week (just avoid the pork for obvious reasons…)
Next Thursday can’t come soon enough,
Nutella and Salted Pretzel Hamentashen*
255g plain flour
110g cold butter
80g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large tablespoons of Nutella
30g dark chocolate, melted
30g white chocolate, melted
Put the caster, flour, butter, egg and vanilla in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a smooth dough. It may need a teaspoon of water or two to coax it into a ball. Take the dough out, wrap it in cling film and chill for 5-6 hours, or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is about 5mm thick. Take 8cm round cutter and cut out as many circles in the dough as you can and place them on the baking tray. Dollop a spoon of Nutella in the middle. Let your inner child creep out and put as much as you like, Purim is supposed to for kids, but don’t let anyone stop you; 25 is the new 8 and a half.
Then, the folding begins. The aim is to fold the dough into a triangle, so fold the bottom quarter of the circle up towards the middle and then the some on the top half to form a point. Fold so the edges almost meet – we want a little tummy of Nutella to poke out. Pinch the corners and repeat on the other circles of dough. Bake at 180 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Take out from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cool stick salted pretzels on the top of the hamentashen by dipping the pretzels in dark or milk chocolate. Once that dries, drizzle with white chocolate with the back of a spoon from a height to decorate. Allow to set and enjoy.
*(DISCLAIMER: Not everything in the following recipe is Kosher. However, we’ve picked ingredients that can be easily swapped to fit a Kosher diet)