Ethiopian Jewish women pray in Jerusalem at the Sigd holiday overlooking the Temple Mount, Nov. 7, 2018. (Photo/JTA-Gali Tibbon-AFP)
Ethiopian Jewish women pray in Jerusalem at the Sigd holiday overlooking the Temple Mount, Nov. 7, 2018. (Photo/JTA-Gali Tibbon-AFP)

Learn about Ethiopian Jewish holiday Sigd with the flavors of Ethiopia

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The holiday of Sigd originated with the Beta Israel, the Jews of Ethiopia, and has been recognized as a state holiday for all Israelis since 2008. This year it begins at sunset Nov. 15 and ends after sundown the next night.

During Sigd (also called Mehlella or Amata Saww), the community fasts and, dressed in white, comes together to celebrate the acceptance of the Torah, and then breaks the fast with a feast.

In honor of Sigd, these recipes are inspired by flavors of Ethiopia. The turmeric chicken dish is spiced but not hot. The eggplant and jalapeño dip does bring the heat, but can be adjusted to taste. Substitute half of a small, sweet bell pepper for a milder version.

Turmeric Chicken with Spinach and Hard-boiled Eggs

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 medium red onions, finely chopped (about 8 or 9 cups)
  • 3 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground dried turmeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 cups water plus extra as needed
  • 3 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 8 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 4 to 6 shelled hard-boiled eggs

Place onions in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add a spoonful of water if sticking.

Stir in garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until garlic begins to color. Stir in oil. Raise heat to medium-high. Once oil sizzles, stir in turmeric, salt, pepper, cardamom, and cumin, then stir in 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer.

Add chicken. Add water if needed to just cover. Mix well. Return to simmer. Cover. Adjust heat to maintain simmer. Simmer about 25 minutes, turning chicken and adding water if needed, until thighs are cooked through. (To check doneness, slice to bone. Flesh by bone should not be pink.)

Remove chicken to plate. Increase heat. Simmer liquid uncovered until reduced by half. Stir in spinach. Continue to simmer until reduced to the consistency of a thin pasta sauce (liquid but not watery).

Prick hard-boiled eggs all over with a fork. Add to sauce. Turn to coat. Add chicken and any accumulated juices. Turn to coat. Simmer, uncovered, until chicken is heated through. Serve over rice or bulgur.

Turmeric Chicken with Spinach and Hard-boiled Eggs. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Turmeric Chicken with Spinach and Hard-boiled Eggs. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Eggplant and Jalapeño Dip

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 eggplants, about 1 lb. each
  • 1 large jalapeño or serrano pepper (about ½ oz.)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp. ground dried turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus extra if needed
  • ¼ cup tahini paste, plus extra if needed

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut eggplants in half horizontally and place the 4 long halves cut side down on the foil. Place pepper on foil. Place in oven. Remove pepper after it is browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Roast eggplants until browned or even blackened, and very soft (about another 40 minutes, timing will vary).

Let eggplants cool a few minutes. Use a fork to scrape out flesh (including the browned cut sides) onto a cutting board. Chop. Place chopped eggplant in medium bowl.

Finely chop jalapeño and add to eggplant. (For less heat, remove seeds first and or use half a pepper.)

Stir in garlic, ginger, onion, turmeric and salt. Mix in lemon juice and tahini. Taste. Stir in additional salt, lemon juice and or tahini as needed. Serve with flatbreads, raw vegetable sticks or crackers.

Notes: The eggplant and peppers can be prepared whole on the grill (gas or charcoal). Grill over high heat, turning often, until the pepper is charred and the eggplants are blackened and soft.

Eggplant and Jalapeño Dip. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Eggplant and Jalapeño Dip. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].