Passover is Festival Full of Meaning in Changed Dubai
On all other years Jews in Dubai celebrated family Seders at home, but this year the holiday will be celebrated in luxurious surroundings with community and tourists
Most Jews around the world have spent the last week or even longer cleaning their homes and preparing food for their Passover Seders, which will begin at sundown on Saturday night. But Elli Kriel, a leader of the Dubai Jewish community and the proprietor of Elli’s Kosher Kitchen, is busy at work cooking kosher Seder and Sabbath meals for hundreds of Jewish community members and tourists, for a Passover that has been expanded in part due to the Abraham Accords.
“Even though we have been doing Seders in Dubai for years, the feeling departs from what we became used to. In the most recent years, we celebrated with family and friends either in the communal villa or at home. This year we celebrate in a luxurious ballroom with community and tourists. In many ways, it takes me back to our first Seder in Dubai … because it’s the first of a new exciting era and, like the festival, full of important meaning,” Kriel told The Media Line.
Kriel says that she has prepared two kitchens for Passover, her Elli’s Kosher Kitchen at the Aloft Hotel in Abu Dhabi, where all the food production is taking place, and another at the V Hotel Dubai, which will be hosting the two Seders. She also is preparing deliveries of packaged Seder meals and food for the Sabbath.
She admits that it is a challenge to create her signature kosherati-style food – fusion Jewish-Emirati cuisine, without kitniyot, or legumes, that Ashkenazi Jews do not eat on the holiday, since many Gulf foods require rice and certain spices. Still, she says her Passover meals will contain a mix of Arabic flavors where possible and organic local ingredients, including hamour fish.
The South African expat who has lived in Dubai since 2013 says she and her husband, Ross, will miss their extended family that remains in South Africa during the holiday, as well as her oldest daughter, who is currently in Rome. But they will celebrate the holiday with their two younger children, who they will challenge with “deliberately hard” questions posed at the beginning of the Seder in order to “stimulate debate.” Correct answers are rewarded with sweets.
While so far all of the requests to join a Passover Seder have come from Jews, Kriel says she has heard from some non-Jews who are looking to purchase some matzo ball soup!
Here is a special kosherati recipe from Elli Kriel to add a new dimension to your Seder:
Arabian Gulf Baked Fish
In the parts of the Arabian Gulf along the coast, fish was consumed frequently as it was easily accessible to people. A popular fish in the Arabian Gulf is the hamour. It is quite a large fish with firm white flesh. However, it has been overfished and today is an endangered species. This recipe can be made with sea bass or cod.
- 1 whole fish (firm fleshy fish such as sea bass) cleaned
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- (if using kitniyot, add 1 teaspoon cumin)
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 cm ginger finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- 1-2 large onions thickly sliced
- handful of roughly chopped cashews
- handful of roughly chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoon BBQ sauce
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves
- 1 large potato thickly sliced
- Rub salt and half of the turmeric over the skin of the fish and let it sit for approximately 1-2 hours. Then wash off the turmeric and pat dry.
- Crush together the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, black pepper and cumin (if using) until it forms a thick paste.
- Fry the onion in the oil until translucent.
- Add the nuts to the onions and stir until they get a bit of color.
- Then add the BBQ sauce, ketchup and soy sauce.
- While simmering, add the thick garlic-ginger paste and coriander and let it continue simmer for a few minutes.
- Once cooked allow to cool and stuff the fish with this filling.
- Steam the potato slices. Then arrange them on a baking tray prepared with baking paper.
- Then drop the onions on top of the potatoes.
- Place the fish on top of the potatoes and onions and drizzle some of the fish dressing on top. Bake for about 30 minutes (depends on the size of the fish)
- Cut some lemons in half and caramelize them in some brown sugar. Roast 1/4 cup of cherry tomatoes.
- When the fish comes out of the oven, decorate with the lemons, coriander, some nuts and cherry tomatoes. Enjoy with a chilled glass of white wine!
Ice Box Cake
This cake is a real hit in my family and its the simplest matzah cake recipe ever! There are so many amazing and surprising things you can do with matzah. That’s part of the joy and thrill of Pesach. Experimenting, eating different and having matzah in every shape and form!
- 1 cup of cold black coffee
- 1 box matzah
- 250g dark cooking chocolate
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 500ml cream
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
- Beat the cream and sugar until thick
- Fold in the melted chocolate once it is cooled down a bit
- Pour the coffee into a deep rectangular dish.
- Dip one sheet of matzah in the coffee and then place in a pyrex dish that is lined with parchment paper.
- Then spread the cream chocolate mix onto the matzah.
- Repeat with matzah and chocolate and create layers. Continue until the bowl of chocolate cream is finished.
- Place in the fridge and allow to set (approximately 1-2 hours)
- Transfer to a plate and then decorate with berries and strawberries.
- Cut into slices when serving.
I love chilled, poached pears for a Pesach dessert. Sweet, refreshing and delicate. Also easy to make. This is how to do it.
- 350ml kiddish wine
- 150ml water
- 150g caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 4 firm pears peeled (level the bottom of the pears so that they can stand)
- 1 tablespoon of orange rind
- Pour wine, water, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Bring the saucepan down to a simmer and place the pears inside.
- Poach the pears for approximately 10 minutes. take care to turn them periodically so that they get an even color and texture.
- Remove the pears once cooked and place upright on a plate.
- Let the syrup boil a little longer until it thickens and reduces.
- Garnish with orange rind.
- Serve with crème fraîche and syrup.