A shorthand way to differentiate between Jewish communities is to denote them as “Ashkenazi” and “Sephardi.” There are several Jewish groups that do not fit into these categories. One such community is the Romaniote Jewish community of Greece.
Romaniote Jews have lived in Greece for over 2,000 years, initially arriving after the fall of the Second Temple. Some of them were brought as slaves. The name “Romaniote” is derived from the Greek name for the Byzantine Empire, “Romaioi.” They speak Yevanic, or Judeo-Greek. Many of them settled in Corfu, one of the Ionian Islands in northwestern Greece. The majority of this community was deported to concentration camps and killed during the Holocaust. Fewer than fifty Romaniote Jews remain in Ioannina today.
First settled by the Phoenicians, Corfu was conquered by the Venetians in 1386. The Venetians ruled over Corfu for 400 years. Corfu withstood two sieges by the Ottomans, never succumbing to Ottoman rule.
The original cuisine of Corfu was Mediterranean. It mainly consisted of wine, olive oil, wheat, fish, and foraged edible weeds. During the Middle Ages, when the Venetians captured Corfu, Venice controlled the spice and sugar trade. The Venetians brought new foods to Corfu from America and the Far East. These included coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and beans.
The Jewish community adopted these foods. Pastitsada is one of the most famous recipes from Corfu. Every cook has his or her own signature mix of spices that seasons the sauce. Traditionally, pastitsada was cooked with rooster meat. Cubed beef may be substituted by the modern urban chef.
Adapted from Authentic Greek Recipes
- 2 Lbs. cubed beef
- 1 Lb. pasta
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 cup tomato, cubed
- 4 onions, chopped
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- ¼ tsp. ground chili pepper
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
- Brown the meat, and place in a separate pot.
- Brown the onions, and add them to the meat.
- Place the pot with the meat over the fire.
- Stir in the wine, chili pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves, salt, and black pepper.
- When the wine boils down, add the tomato paste. Stir the contents of the pot until all the meat is coated with tomato paste.
- Add the cup of cubed tomato.
- Pour in enough water to cover the meat.
- Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 1 ¼ hours.
- In a separate pot, boil water.
- Add salt and a few drops of olive oil.
- Stir in the pasta.
- Cook until it is al dente (about 10 minutes).
- Drain the pasta.
- Serve the pasta with some meat sauce ladled onto it.