ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
With five more nights of Hanukkah, we thought you might like this found recipe from the old country via the land down under.
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LISA GOLDBERG: Hi, I'm Lisa Goldberg(ph).
MERELYN CHALMERS: And hi, I'm Merelyn Chalmers.
GOLDBERG: And we are part of the Monday Morning Cooking Club, all the way from Sydney, Australia.
SHAPIRO: The Monday Morning Cooking Club is a group of women who collect recipes from the best home cooks in Sydney's Jewish community. Today they want to tell us about one of their recipes. It involves walnuts, honey, coconut and prunes.
GOLDBERG: It tastes like a not-too-sweet jam.
SHAPIRO: Give prunes a chance, people. The cooking club did, thanks to really old family recipe from Zina Komonski.
GOLDBERG: We call her Nanbabes(ph). She was I think about 95. And she was the most gorgeous lady. She was a tiny little thing about four-foot-something. Her family was of Russian heritage. But before she was born they moved to Harbin, China, like a lot of the Jews did from Russia at that time, and lived there until they moved to Israel in about 1949. And so she's got a very mixed heritage, you know, Russian, Chinese, Israeli all comes into it.
She taught us how to make a dish called pastilla. Nanbabes told us that it came from her great-great-grandmother and that it was an old Russian Jewish recipe.
CHALMERS: Merelyn here. It is a prune and walnut log, not hard like a candy. You can slice through it quite easily with a serrated knife.
GOLDBERG: And Lisa here. We invited Nanbabes to her granddaughter Nicki's(ph) kitchen, and we said please can you show us your secret. Everything had to be done her way and a particular way. And as tiny as she was, she was quite a forceful lady and really said no, this is how you do it. You must put the prunes in a mincer, otherwise don't bother. Have to be in a mincer. And she would tell us that 20 times.
I still have such a strong memory of seeing her in the kitchen when we went for lessons with this pot that was almost as big as she was, standing there with her tiny little arm, stirring and stirring this heavy, sludgy mixture. And then the way she got big tennis-ball-sized dollops or spoons of this mixture onto the coconut-covered tray, and it was just amazing to watch her do it.
CHALMERS: Zina would make it in quite a rustic way. So it wasn't very smooth. And she would wrap it up in aluminum foil and give it as little presents for people. Pastilla is one of my favorite sweet treats in the world. I serve it with a cheese board, or sometimes when I can't find the time to make a proper dessert for the family, I just slice that up, and I have a bowl of dark chocolate alongside it. I love the combination of prune and chocolate.
SHAPIRO: Merelyn Chalmers and Lisa Goldberg. Their cookbook is called "The Monday Morning Cooking Club." Nanbabes passed away in August, but her pastilla lives on. In Australia, a commercial version of it is very popular around Christmastime, not bad for an old Russian Jewish recipe made with prunes. We'll just call them dried plums. You can learn how to make pastilla yourself at our found recipes page at npr.org.
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SHAPIRO: This is NPR News.
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