David Gitlitz, author of the book “A Drizzle of Honey”, which reviews the food culture of Marrano’s and forced converts from the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition, found the reference to this recipe in evidence from the trial of María de Chillón of Ciudad Real.
De Chillón was second generation from a forced convert family and was interrogated many times by the Inquisition on the suspicion that she continued practicing Jewish customs. Gitlitz says that in fact, the entire de Chillón family was under constant suspicion, and Maria alone was tried twice: the first time in September 1513 she admitted that she had observed a number of Jewish mitzvots and was sentenced to house arrest under the protection of her brother. In 1522, she was tried again, and probably thanks to connections in the high places, she was not prosecuted as a heretic who had erred again (which would have led to her being burned at the stake) but for having spoken out against the Inquisition. During the trial, her Jewish practices were discussed again and testimony was heard from neighbors about her preparations for Shabbat: bathing in perfumed oils and wearing fresh clothes on Friday evening and her eating the following fish dish – which was prepared on Friday and eaten on Shabbat.
On October 27 of that year, her sentence was announced: Maria would be led by the city herald through the streets on a donkey, with a rope wrapped around her neck, to the city square where she would receive 100 lashes and then be permanently banished from Toledo and Ciudad Real.
Chef Yehi Zino says that this dish really impressed him with its richness and complexity, which he did not expect to find in such an old-fashioned dish. “The presentation of the fish is very impressive – almost Instagram worthy – and the preparation includes quite a few steps, some of which require skill and precision, and what is most surprising is that this dish contains complex layers of flavor and seasoning that remind me of the work of contemporary restaurateurs. Because I don’t really like sweet food, I replaced the white wine with water, but those who don’t mind sweet should leave it. The dish can be prepared both in a relatively quick version and slow-cooked Shabbat version.”
Ingredients for Fish Rolls with Eggplant
- 5-6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 20 eggplant slices, thin and halved
- 8 onion thin slices
- 1 teaspoon cilantro dried
- 1 teaspoon savory Ground (also called Roman zaatar) or dried oregano
- 4 parsley stalks Or arugula, leaves only, chopped
- 3 eggs hard-boiled, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 4-5 fish pieces A fresh fillet with the skin such as lavrak or drum fish (weighing about 100 grams each) or a piece of fish with the bone weighing about 600 grams
- ½ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
- ½ cup white wine sweet
- 1 tablespoon honey optional
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in an oven safe flat pot.
2. Add garlic and stir for about 2 minutes.
3. Add halved eggplant slices and onion slices and fry while stirring and turning them occasionally for about 7 minutes, until the onion becomes transparent. If the vessel is not wide enough to contain the slices of eggplant and onion in one layer, fry in two batches. Transfer the fried vegetables to a bowl.
4. Add to the bowl of fried vegetables dried cilantro, ground savory, parsley (or arugula) and hard-boiled egg cubes. Mix until evenly distributed.
5. Heat the oven to 375F degrees (190C).
6. Place pieces of fish on the cutting board, put about 2 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture across the wide part of each piece of fish and roll to close into a tight roll, fasten with a toothpick and transfer to a small pan.
7. Mix lemon juice and honey and add to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil, transfer to the hot oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Remove the cover and serve hot.
For the Shabbat version of the dish: heat the oven to 300F degrees (150C) and roast the fish for 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 250F (120C) and continue cooking overnight. Steps 1-3 (creating the mixture for the filling) can be prepared a day or two in advance.