Pyota. Photo by Michal Herbstman
Pyota. Photo by Michal Herbstman
Recipe

Pyota – Purim Pudding

This Sephardic Purim pudding known as pyota, is inspired by a recipe found in the cookbook of the Tifereth Israel Sisterhood in Los Angeles, CA

Not to be confused with the hallucinogenic cactus, this sweet Purim dessert was made by Greeks, and if you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. We found this treasure in the cookbook of the Spanish synagogue “Tifereth Israel” in Los Angeles, California, where most of the old members of the congregation are of Greek origin. It is a semolina porridge that is mixed with eggs and sugar and baked, resulting in a soft and indulgent pudding.

Somehow, this delicacy did not emigrate to Israel, but the Greeks are not the only ones who serve pudding as a dessert for the Purim meal: Joyce Goldstein, author of the book Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen, tells about an almond pudding seasoned with orange blossom water prepared by Italian Jews; Jewish food researcher Gil Marks tells about “rice kugel”, a kind of baked rice pudding made by Romanians; and Jennifer Felicia Abadi, the author of the book A Fistful of Lentils tells about a cornstarch-based pudding made by Syrians – all of which are eaten on Purim.

The original recipe, from Sisterhood contributor Betty Albala from Kastoria, Greece, makes use of Cream of Wheat (farina) but it was also popularly made with semolina. We added the strawberries which lends a pleasant acidity to pudding.

Ingredients for Pyota - Purim Pudding

  • a little butter to grease the dishes
  • 1½ cup milk (you can replace the regular milk with non-dairy milk to make it pareve)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can replace the regular milk with non-dairy milk to make it pareve)
  • 1/4 cup semolina
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) Sugar
  • strawberries or other fruit of your choice

Instructions

  • 1. Bring the cup and a half of milk (or milk alternative), the teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the teaspoon of almond extract to a boil. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 355F (180C) on turbo/fan/convection.

  • 2. In the meantime, mix the semolina together with the 1/2 cup of milk (or milk alternative) in a bowl until uniform.

  • 3. When the milk reaches the boiling point, add ladlefuls of the hot milk into the milk/semolina mixture, while stirring constantly, to bring to the same temperature. Return the entire mixture to the pot mixing constantly to avoid burning the bottom.

  • 4. In a bowl big enough to contain the entire milk mixture, beat the egg with the 1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar until smooth.

  • 5. Pour the thickened milk mixture over the eggs and mix well.

  • 6. Arrange the strawberries in the bottom of 5 oven-safe ramekins or bowls and pour the pudding mixture over them.

  • 7. Bake for about 20 minutes until it still jiggles in the center but is stationary and stable at the edge.

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