Fennel in Jewish cuisine – JoiMag

A little dill northern mint. Many of the dishes that traveled from the Middle East to the Balkans or between various northern European countries were modified along the way, acquiring ingredients they found along the way. Fennel is one of them, so common in Russia and Poland that it replaces more sun-loving herbs from the south in many dishes. But this does not exhaust its nature. So much so that many traditional Eastern dishes, such as Indian, do not add this plant, both as an herb and as a spice, using its seeds.

Jews contributed greatly to the wealth of fennel. They have made it a distinctive feature of much of their gastronomy. Of course, the population of Central and Eastern Europe. As Eve Jochnovitz, a scholar of Yiddish culture and Ashkenazi culinary habits, recalls, fennel has become almost synonymous with Jewish cuisine. According to the historian, the aroma of this plant, which is a close relative of parsley, would characterize Jewish food in this way.

It is represented by a classic example pickled cucumber, the so-called pickle. Preserved thanks to lacto-fermentation, a symbolic preparation of Ashkenazi Jews, these vegetables are traditionally flavored with dill and are therefore called fennel or simply fennel. This is certainly the case in the United States, where Eastern European Jews imported their typical preparations in the late nineteenth century, beginning a production that was familiarly confined to home pantries or at least door-to-door salesmen’s carts. , has evolved to become an industry.

However, the Ashkenazi gastronomic tradition does not live only in the reserves. And in other great classics of Yiddish cuisine, we often mix the thin and aromatic leaves of this herb with fennel. Chicken soup with a characteristic aroma is like this, see, just dill. According to Jochnovitz, the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe added this herb to a special Jewish ritual, for example, preparing Jewish dishes. no gold, a rich chicken soup served at weddings or on Shabbat. Classically, with boiled potatoes seasoned with chopped dill, salads and vegetable soups such as borscht, both hot and cold versions, everything went and continues to be very different.

Even in the northernmost countries, luck is due to the relative ease with which fennel can grow even at low temperatures without rejecting a more temperate climate when it is not hot. According to food historian Gill Marks, fennel seeds are among the few spices that came from Russia, while Jochnowitz suggests that the aromatic was first successful in Poland and later conquered the inhabitants of neighboring countries. For their part, botanists agree in identifying the origin of fennel in Asia, even though in ancient times this plant appeared in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Ancient Egyptian papyri dealt with the virtues of fennel, which appears to have been cultivated in Judea as early as two thousand years ago.. In this regard, it is interesting that the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 7b) mentions the use of the whole plant, “the fennel is in it, the seed, the vegetable and the stem”, that all parts of the fennel are usable and therefore subject to tithing. Indirect evidence of the spread of this herb in ancient times can also be the words of Matthew, who warned in the Gospel 23-23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites who pay tithes of mint, fennel and cumin. violates the most serious provisions of the law”.

Highly prized by the Romans, the umbel flower was used for both its aromatic culinary and medicinal properties. It was also used in the hopes of increasing physical strength, mentioned by the chef and gastronomist Marco Gavio Apicius in the preparation of various dishes, including chicken with fennel. For this reason, gladiators seem to have added the herb as a spice to almost every meal, and legionnaires sprinkled its burnt seeds on wounds to facilitate their healing. The Greeks, who considered it a symbol of prosperity and were dazzled by their wealth, were no less By burning the oil added with fennel, it is also considered an aphrodisiac. Among others, Pythagoras recommended holding a bunch of this herb in the left hand to prevent seizures.

Far northern countries have played their part since the beginning of the spread of the versatile umbrella. Much loved in Scandinavia in the past and today, Dill owes its English and German name to the ancient Nordic languages. fennel would originate from Tell me or to the language, means soothing. Decoctions and preparations made on the basis of fennel have actually been used since ancient times to soothe the crying of teething children, as well as to soothe stomachaches.

Returning to its culinary use, the spread of fennel from north to south means that even faraway countries share its scent, but where other herbs and spices are scarce, it has become a symbol of local gastronomy. Along with fennel and parsley, it is part of the main herbs of Russian, Polish, Baltic and Scandinavian cuisine, replacing aforementioned flavors such as mint or basil in salads, sauces and cheeses. Claudia Roden mentions it among the typical flavors of Palestine, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Poland and Russia. In it The Jewish Cookbook Among the aromatic flavors of the breads made in the coldest regions of Europe, it speaks of fennel seeds and, in addition to recalling the inevitable pickled gherkins, fennel leaves in the cheese, came the pasta parcels typical of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. USA from Russia. The Egyptian-born scientist also includes fennel as a key ingredient in marinating salmon, as well as making many of the sauces that accompany the fish.

Even with the transition to the Sephardic tradition, fennel is still master. Roden also suggests it as an alternative to mint in making a cucumber salad, as well as a yogurt sauce used to stuff rice vine leaves. Turks and Syrians who like to substitute fennel make these rolls, which are widespread in several countries of the Middle East. The same ground herb is found in the cheese mixture of Middle Eastern Jewish “cigars” or in Greek spinach pie, as well as in various variations of yogurt soup. Based on another ingredient with transversal uses, this dish uses fennel in both the Middle Eastern version, based on spinach and rice, in the Persian tradition, and the Balkan version, based on cucumber, according to the Bulgarian recipe.

Red potato salad


500 g of red potatoes

200 g of mayonnaise

30 g of spicy mustard

20 g of horseradish sauce

150 g pickled gherkins

1 large bunch of dill

cumin seeds


pepper in grains

Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the perfectly washed but peeled and diced potatoes, then cook for 10 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain them and immediately put them in cold water, then put them back in the hot pot for 1-2 minutes on low heat, dry them. So keep them out.

Drain and chop the gherkins, then mix in a large bowl with the horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, chopped dill, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper and cumin.

Toss the baked potato with the prepared dressing until it is completely covered, then place it in the refrigerator and rest for at least 3-4 hours (overnight is better). Garnish with dill sprigs as desired and serve.

Persian yogurt soup


500 ml of yogurt

1 bunch of onions

500 g pickled gherkins

50 g of raisins

1 large bunch of dill


6 ice cubes

Soak the grapes in a small bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then drain and squeeze. Clean the onion by removing the base of the leaves and the tough green part, then finely chop the white onion. Drain and finely chop the gherkins.

Clean the fennel with damp kitchen paper, then chop with a large knife and set aside. Pour the yogurt into a large bowl with 250 ml of cold water, season with a pinch of salt and mix with a whisk. Add all the prepared ingredients to the yogurt, stir again, add ice cubes and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving, garnished with dill sprigs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *