“Chilled fruit soups originate in Eastern Europe and they were especially popular in Israel during the austerity era,” explains chef Zion Barnes of Ha’achim restaurant in Tel Aviv. “Compote was the ultimate dessert in Jewish cuisine, both for kosher reasons and for its ability to help with digestion at the end of a meal. The use of sabra (prickly pear), the national fruit, makes the dish especially interesting and refreshing.”
Fruits such as peach, plum, persimmon, apricot and loquat can also be added to the compote. Barnes recommends garnishing it with fresh herbs like mint, hyssop, and basil. For a creamy upgrade, top it with crème fraiche, kaymak, or ice cream. If you have syrup leftover, drizzle it atop sponge cake or fruit salad, or use it as a base for cocktails.
This dish is part of a collection of vegetarian and vegan recipes inspired by early Israeli cookbooks from just after the founding of the state. Check out the full collection here and read more about one of the cookbooks, “Sefer Bishul,” here.
- 1 liter (1qt) water
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- 1 vanilla stick, halved lengthwise
- 1 star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 cardamom pod
- 1 lemon, zested
- 500 grams (1.1lb) prickly pears, peeled and sliced (persimmon/ peach/ apricot/ plum slices can also be added)
- To serve:
- Fresh mint/ hyssop/ basil leaves
- Crushed ice
- Crème fraiche, kaymak, or ice cream (optional)
- Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan, then simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the vanilla stick, spices, and lemon zest, reduce to a low heat and cook for 5 minutes.
- Place the fruit in a bowl. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit and cool to room temperature. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours.
- To serve: Divide the fruit into serving bowls, drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of the syrup, sprinkle fresh herbs, add crushed ice, and crème fraiche on top (if using), and serve.