A Passover Mexican Crypto-Jewish dish and Corn tortillas

For one year, I spearhead the culinary live shows “Sephardic Culinary History with chef Hélène Jawhara Piñer”, 13 sessions promoted by the American Sephardi Federation & The Center of Jewish History.

 

On episode VIII, I presented a dish I wrote about in my cookbook Sephardi (pp.28-29-) which is called

“A Passover Mexican Crypto-Jewish dish.”

 

Link to the video: https://fb.watch/dXOXtxO4c_/

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Recipe

Serves 4

Time: 1 hour

 

Dough: 

– 2 cups (300 g) corn flour/ masa harina (nixtamalized) 

– 1 ½ tsp salt 

– 1 ⅓ cup (260ml) hot water 

– 1 tsp olive oil 

 

Fish and sauce: 

– ¼ cup (50g) olive oil 

– 2 chopped cloves of garlic 

– ½ lb (220g) fresh white fish 

– 2 very thinly sliced red onions 

– 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro 

– ½ tsp black pepper 

– 2 tbsp finely chopped chives 

– juice of 1 lime 

– 1 tsp salt 

 

Corn tortillas are undeniably linked to the culinary heritage of Mexico, since they were already prepared in pre-Columbian times. As we know, adaptability is inherent to Jewish culture, both for the survival of its culture and its people. Conversos had been replacing wheat flour with chestnut flour when making Passover matza (wheat being one of the grains not eaten at Passover), as reported in the trials of the Portuguese Inquisition; the same applies to corn flour in the preparation of tortillas. In the middle of the seventeenth century in Mexico, Salomón de Machorro (aka Juan de León, famous for his travels and knowledge of Judaism) was denounced for having consumed corn tortillas with fish and vegetables with his friends for Passover. 

 

Process

To make the dough, mix together corn flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and the hot water.

 

Mix the preparation with a spoon until all the water is absorbed. 

 

Make balls the size of a golf ball. Leave them to rest on a plate for 20 minutes, covered so they do not dry. Now to flatten and cook the tortillas, you can use a tortilla press if you have one: remember to put the dough ball between two pieces of parchment paper so it does not stick to the press; place it in the center of the bottom part of the press, then open it and carefully, with the palm of your hand, remove the tortilla from the parchment sheet. If you don’t have a tortilla press, you can use the bottom of a heavy saucepan and press down hard. Again, do not forget the parchment paper!

 

Cook in a preheated (medium-high heat) nonstick skillet for 20 seconds. Then flip the tortilla over and cook the other side for 20 seconds more. Repeat the operation once more until the tortilla has golden-brown marks. 

 

Keep the tortillas in a plastic bag, not completely closed, while you make the filling. 

 

Put olive oil, red onions, and garlic in a frying pan. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat until golden. Add the fresh fish cut into pieces and pour in the fresh lime juice. 

 

Add salt and black pepper. Cover the frying pan and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. 

 

Then, sprinkle with the chopped fresh cilantro and chives. 

 

Now fill the corn tortillas with the delicious fish and its lime juice.