This is a guest post from Israelinurse
One of the things I love about the Jewish festivals is the way they are so intimately connected to the cycle of nature here in Israel. Not only do they serve to remind us of our ancestors’ agricultural past in this land, but they also directly connect us to one place, with a specific climate and cycle of natural life – something which one does not find in many other faiths – and Tu B’Shvat is of course an excellent example.
This time last year I was making vain attempts to dig a hole in the frozen English soil in order to plant a tree for Tu B’Shvat – the New Year of Trees – but nothing around me was sprouting or blossoming and my little sapling had an aghast look of “you can’t be serious!” about it, so back into the poly-tunnel it went to await more clement times.
But here, where the festival originates, the trees are indeed waking up after winter and the first new leaves and blossoms are beginning to appear. Often, the almond trees manage to time their first blossoms exactly right for Tu B’Shvat – creating a spectacular display – but this year, perhaps due to the fact that we have only had about a quarter of our annual rainfall so far, they seem to have missed the deadline as can be seen in the picture below.
On Friday afternoon, our whole kibbutz –old and young alike – will be out planting trees as we always do. My grown-up children still enjoy pointing out every tree they planted with their own hands as they walk around the various neighbourhoods. And then of course, as with every good Jewish holiday, there’s the subject of cuisine.
Apart from plenty of nuts and dried fruits in honour of the trees, we have a favourite family dish for Tu B’Shvat. It’s my take on a Bukharan recipe given to me by a neighbour who came to Israel from Tashkent about 20 years ago, and seeing as Chas’ blog already has a bit of a foodie reputation, I’d like to share it with you.
2 medium-sized onions cut into half rings
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Chicken thighs – about 12
4 or 5 large carrots cut into julienne strips
Peeled almonds – 1 cup
Dried apricots – 2 cups
Basmati rice – 3 cups
Chicken stock – 6 cups
Salt, pepper, ground cumin
Fresh coriander – a handful
Brown the chicken thighs in oil, and then remove and drain. In the same oil, fry the onions and garlic until soft, adding the salt, pepper and cumin. Place alternating layers of the carrots, chicken, almonds and apricots on top of the onions – 2 or 3 layers of each. Add the rice and stock, making sure that the liquid just covers the rice, and then a final layer of carrots. Cover, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for around 25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed into the rice and the chicken cooked. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter with fresh coriander leaves. Enjoy!
Happy Tu B’Shvat to all Oy Va Goy readers.