At the heart of every Seder in my family sits a large carrot tzimmes.
Every year, I take out the fading pieces of fax paper (remember that?), which my late mother sent me in 1994 from South Africa, with her recipes for tzimmes. I tear up every time I read her wishes to me for Pesach from far off South Africa. For me, the sweetness of this dish is the sweetness of my late mother, who would make this tzimmes every year and for every chag, with great love. While we would eat this all year round, it was mandatory fare for Pesach.
She wasn't making tzimmes in this picture, but it's a great shot of my mother in action - she always pursed her lips when she was concentrating. (Taken in 1979)
Tzimmes actually means an ado or an uproar in Yiddish, but in the kitchen it refers to pretty much any sweet casserole of vegetables, fruit, and even meat. But almost every family of Eastern European decent has its own version, using various combinations of carrots, potatoes, prunes, sweet potatoes, and more. Our traditional family recipe involves cooked sweet carrots with a kneidel mixture on the inside. In addition, we also make what’s know as Flaumen Tzimmes, which is potatoes cooked with prunes (flaumen in Yiddish) – delish!!! I have adapted both recipes – I add sweet potatoes and regular potatoes to my carrot tzimmes, my sister-in-law Ruth’s contribution; and while I haven’t messed with the wonderful Flaumen Tzimmes recipe’s ingredients, I have adopted an overnight slow cooked method (not necessarily requiring a slow cooker), which results in the most amazingly moist and flavorful potatoes, into which the sauce has completely permeated.
So of course I will share both recipes with you.
LIPSCHITZ FAMILY CARROT TZIMMES
About 1½ kg (3½ lb) carrots peeled and evenly sliced
2 sweet potatoes peeled, halved down the middle and cut into slices
2 large potatoes peeled, quartered length-ways and cut into slices
3 tablespoons potato flour
About ¼-½ cup honey or silan – date honey (I don’t measure this one – I just pour! Add more if you prefer it sweeter and less if you don’t – it will taste good no matter what.)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper
Oil for greasing the dish
4 beaten eggs
4 tablespoons margarine
1 1/3 cup boiling water
½ teaspoon KFP baking powder (if you can get it – can be left out if you can’t)
A pinch of cinnamon and ground ginger
Salt and pepper
Very roughly 150 g (5 oz) matza meal (see how to do it #5)
How to do it
1. Cook the carrots in a large pot of water until soft. Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon and cook the potatoes in the same water for about 30 minutes or until cooked through (or in a separate pot if you don’t mind the extra wash up). Once they are done, remove with a slotted spoon and cook the sweet potatoes. Note: I cook them separately to make sure they are all properly cooked in their own time, as each of these vegetables cooks at a different speed. You can of course cook them in separate pots all at once.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
3. Drain all the vegetables and mix together in the large pot. In a small dish, mix the potato flour with a little water to make a runny,smooth mixture, and add it to the vegetables and mix. Add the honey/silan, cinnamon, ginger, oil, salt and pepper and mix together.
4. Grease a deep baking dish with oil. Pour about two thirds of the vegetables into the dish and make a well in the center, bringing the carrots up the sides of the dish, almost to the top.
5. Make the kneidel mixture: Beat the beaten eggs, margarine and boiling water together until the margarine is melted. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper and beat. Then SLOWLY, stir in the matza meal with a spoon until you reach a runny consistency (the mixture should slowly, but not too slowly, pour off the spoon.) Pour the kneidel mixture into the vegetable well in the dish. Cover the kneidel with the remaining vegetables.
6. Bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for another 30 minutes (I use a Pyrex dish and cover, and leave the cover on throughout the baking process). When the carrots start browning remove from the oven – don’t let burn.
Serves…a lot! Can be made in advance and reheated.
16-20 medium-sized potatoes, peeled (work on about 2 per person with a few extra “for the pot”)
1 large onion peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons onion soup powder (if you can’t get KFP onion soup powder, add an extra tablespoon of chicken soup powder and add an extra onion)
2 tablespoons chicken soup powder
1 bottle of Coke (yes, I know…not an original shtetl recipe…)
2 teaspoons ginger powder
Salt and pepper
About 15 dried, pitted prunes (more if you want)
3 tablespoons honey, silan (date honey) or sugar
How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 100°C (210°F)
2. In a large oven proof pot, fry the onions until soft. Add all the rest of the ingredients, making sure the liquid covers the potatoes. If not, top it up with water. Cover, bring to the boil and reduce the heat, letting the potatoes simmer for about 30 minutes. While the mixture is simmering, take strips of foil and line the rim of the lid to create a strong seal on the pot. Return the lid to the pot, making sure it’s properly closed.
3. Place the pot in the oven, and leave it overnight (at least 12 hours).
Slow cooker option: If you want to cook these in a slow cooker, fry the onions in a pan, and then add them with all of the other ingredients to your slow cooker, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Serves about 8. Prepare to overeat!!