More than just food

Infusing our Yom Tov meals with our hopes for a sweet new year

By: Avigail Goldberg

With the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) approaching and weeks ahead of entertaining, it’s easy for any host to get caught up in the preparations of elaborate meals. Although it’s very important to make sure no one goes hungry, we must try not to lose sight of the spiritual importance of these days.

Based on a Talmudic teaching, there is a widespread custom to include various food types in the Rosh Hashanah meal which symbolise different spiritual aspects that we hope will impact our new year.

In our home, we try to include as many of the well-known and some of the more modern simanim (symbols) in our first night Rosh Hashanah meal, thereby infusing the physical preparations with spiritual import. These simanim can be served at any point in the meal, however, we like to include the majority in the starters as it’s a wonderful way to set the tone for the evening. Here are some of the recipes I have included in my Rosh Hashanah menus over the years.

(A comprehensive list of simanim can be found in Artscroll Rosh Hashanah Machzor page 96)

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Round Challah Ideas

Round Challah represents the cyclical nature of the year

Everyone has their tried-and-tested challah recipe (or they have a tried-and-tested bakery). For those who make their own challah, or those who buy ready-made dough, here are some ideas to add an extra Rosh Hashanah flavour. Both recipes are for two large challahs.

  • Raisin Streusel Challah

½ cup brown sugar

1½ cups flour

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp Kosher salt

4 Tbsp melted margarine

Add raisins to your regular challah dough recipe. Create a round shape. Paint with egg wash. Combine all streusel ingredients and sprinkle it on top. Bake challahs as per your recipe.

(TIP: Using just the egg yolk for your egg wash creates a more golden colour and I add a teaspoon of sugar per egg which caramelises and deepens the colour as well.)

  • Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Challah

4 peeled and cubed apples (any variety)

1½ tsp cinnamon

4 Tbsp brown sugar

Make your challah dough. While it’s rising, prepare the apple-cinnamon mixture: Microwave the apples in a heat-proof dish for 1-2 minutes on high to soften them slightly. Mix through the cinnamon and brown sugar and leave to cool.

Once your dough has risen, divide into small balls. Take each ball, press it flat into a circle, place the apple-cinnamon mixture in the middle, and press the edges closed. Once all the dough balls are filled, arrange them in a round baking tin – don’t pack them in too tightly as they still need room to rise in the oven. Paint with egg wash, sprinkle extra cinnamon and sugar if you wish and bake as per your recipe.

Pomegranate and Apple Sangria

Pomegranate: “…that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate.”

A lovely way to add some Rosh Hashanah spirits!

1 cored and sliced granny smith apple

½ cup pomegranate rubies

½ bottle white wine (or more if you wish!)

Cranberry juice or concentrate

2 sprigs fresh mint

Sparkling water


In a jug, soak the apple slices and pomegranates in wine for up to 2 days before serving, and refrigerate. Add the juice/concentrate and sparkling water to taste. Top with mint and ice.

Tortilla Baskets with Spring Salad and Salmon Skewer

Fish: “…that we be fruitful and multiply.”

Carrot: “…that our merits increase.”

Beetroot: “…that our adversaries be removed.”

Dates: “…that our enemies be consumed.”

I always prepare the traditional fish head, but I know it’s not for the faint-hearted, so I like to make another fish dish as well in case!

(serves 8)

2 packets store-bought tortillas

1kg cubed fresh salmon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

¼ cup soya sauce

¼ cup sweet chilli sauce

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Lettuce – any variety

Julienned Granny Smith apple

Julienned carrots

Julienned beetroot

Thinly sliced red onion

Chopped fresh Medjool dates (alternatively: dried dates)

Chopped fresh mint leaves

I cup fresh orange juice

Rind of ½ small orange

4 Tbsp olive oil

4 Tbsp honey

1 tsp prepared mustard

1 Tbsp poppy seeds

Salt and pepper

Black and white sesame seeds

To make the baskets, press the tortillas into the cups of a muffin tray, fill with dry beans to weigh them down, and bake on 180°C for 4-6 minutes till crispy. Let them cool and store in an airtight container.

(TIP: These can be made up to a week in advance.)

Thread the cubed salmon onto a bamboo skewer. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan and sear the salmon on all sides. In a bowl, mix the rest of the fish ingredients and baste each skewer while still hot.

Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together.

Assemble the salad ingredients in the individual baskets. Place the warmed salmon skewer on top. Pour over salad dressing, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.

Potato, Leek, and Carrot Rostis with Smoked Salmon and Wasabinaise

Leek: “…that our enemies be decimated.”

(serves 12)

2 peeled potatoes

3 leeks

1 small carrot

1 medium onion

2 eggs

2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Oil for frying

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp wasabi powder

Smoked salmon

2 fresh lemons

Black and white sesame seeds

Chopped chives

In a food processor with a steel blade, chop the potatoes, leeks, carrot, and onion until almost pureed. Mix through the rest of ingredients. Take 1/8 cup of the batter per rosti and fry in hot oil till golden brown on both sides. Leave to cool and refrigerate.

(TIP: Can be made up to 2 days in advance. You can serve them cold or warm up before serving.)

To assemble: place the rostis on a serving dish or individual plates. Combine the mayonnaise and wasabi powder and place a dollop on each rosti. Top with smoked salmon, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and garnish with chives and sesame seeds.

Spring Rolls with Soya-Chili Dipping Sauce

Cabbage: “…that our enemies be decimated.”

(serves 12)

1 box store-bought filo pastry

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 cup thinly sliced cabbage

1 cup julienned carrots

1 cup julienned baby marrow

2 Tbsp + ¼ cup oil

Salt and pepper

1/8 cup soya sauce

1/8 cup sweet chilli sauce

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1 sliced fresh red chilli

White sesame seeds

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a pan and sauté the garlic and ginger. Add the rest of the vegetables and sauté till softened. Season with salt and pepper.

Unroll the filo pastry and cut into long strips (10cm wide). Take one strip at a time, fill with the vegetables, and roll them up. Once all filled, paint each spring roll with oil and bake till crispy.

Mix the sauce ingredients together and serve with warmed spring rolls.

Pumpkin Poppers

Pumpkin: “…that the decree of our sentence be torn asunder and may our merits be proclaimed before HaShem.”

(serves 12)

300g peeled and cubed pumpkin

2 tsp olive oil

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

3 Tbsp melted margarine

½ cup treacle sugar

1 large egg

½ cup soya milk

Zest of ½ orange

1 cup self-raising flour

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp all-spice

¼ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)

Oil for frying

½ cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Place the pumpkin on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle over the cinnamon and ginger. Bake at 180°C until soft.

Puree the pumpkin. Add the rest of the ingredients except sugar and cinnamon. Heat oil in a pan and drop in teaspoons of batter – don’t overcrowd the pan. In a bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon. When the poppers are puffed and golden, drain on a paper towel and toss in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Serve warm.

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