Let's Eat

We tasted a world of charoset – but which was the winner?

We sampled 11 recipes and discovered the huge diffrerences between our Pesach pastes


What’s your favourite Pesach food? For me it’s hands down charoset — the best thing (for me) about our Seder and something I look forward to all year. 

I make two versions: one regular Askhenazi — an apple/walnut/cinnamon/kiddush wine-based paste mirroring the one my grandmother made. The other, Sephardi style made from cooked dried fruits and nuts. Sticky and sweet – and probably more mortar-like than our sloppier Eastern European recipe.

It would be impossible to pick one just because, one is too nostalgic to leave by the wayside and the other is simply too tasty to miss out on.

So when Michael Leventhal of Green Bean Books, suggested we line up various recipes and do a taste test I was in. He and I plus author Ivor Baddiel and charoset fan, Laura Howard sat down to work our way through 11 different versions of our ritual edible mortar.

Here are the takeaways: 

1. We were blown away by the variety. There’s a huge range of flavours and textures. Some Sephardi versions are rolled into balls. (Not sure how cement like that is but they’re very convenient and brilliant to carry around as an energy-giving snack.)

2. Don’t buy ones in a jar — it will never end well.

3. Only by from a caterer or restaurant and not the supermarket-stocked jars. Our restaurant entry came from Kasa — the Middle Eastern kosher restaurant in Hampstead Garden Suburb — where chef, Shachar Alkobi makes a deliciously rich recipe from walnuts, apples, raisins, almonds and kiddush wine. They are selling it on its own or as party of a ready-to-go (kosher) Seder plate.

4. For the born and bred Ashkenazi eaters, their first dip into Sephardi charoset blew Ashkenazi-style out of the water. Perhaps it was down to the difference because we also tasted some great Eastern European recipes.

And the scores on the doors:
In first place
Joanna Nissim’s Moroccan-style truffle balls.which were smooth and dense and scored highly from all the judges — all wowed by the texture and flavour. Coated in cinnamon they even looked like traditional truffles. We did wonder how well they’d do in a brick wall situation as mortar-like they were not. 

Equal second went to three different recipes
1. Another North African-inspired recipe – from Fabienne Viner-Luzzato, whose heritage is French Tunisian. Also served rolled into tiny spheres, hers had a strong hit of orange – from zest and juice – as well as a lovely nutty flavour;
2. Silvia Nacamulli’s more traditional looking paste loaded with nuts, Marsala and red wine, almonds, hazelnuts and orange juice; and
3. Linda Dangoor’s Iraqi silan and walnut dip so thick and sticky, it turned any matzah dipped into it to crumbs.

In third place —  
Judi Rose’s Turkish nut-free charoset — her mother Evelyn Rose’s recipe. It was sticky, jammy, spiced and incredibly more-ish. We finished the lot.

Special mentions go to —  the delicious entry from restaurant, Kasa — a Moroccan-style paste which I took home and finished on my own later that day. The very smooth, almost puree, in which you could definitely taste the kiddush wine and dried fruits.

And also to Caroline Kalms’s family recipe — high on the Ashkenazi spectrum and heavy with cinnamon and wine.

Take a sneaky peak at the judges in action here: 

 With no leftovers, I now need to make a batch of my own. If you need inspiration you’ll find some JC recipes here.

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