It's Pesach. Pesach is my least favourite holiday. Okay, so Yom Kippur isn't exactly a bundle of laughs, but that's exceptional. Pesach is exhausting, expensive, and, in my opinion, blown out of all proportion.
The idea is that we celebrate Moses leading our ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. That the Children of Israel spent the next 40 years wandering the desert, trying to get to the Promised Land is glossed over. Obviously we're ashamed of our inability to use a compass. Anyway, the point is that the Israelites had to leave in a hurry. You know: Pharaoh kept changing his mind, G-d got upset, the Angel of Death wiped out all of the first born, save for the Children of Israel, Pharaoh got even more upset, and the Israelites scarpered with a half-packed picnic containing mostly these flat cracker-type things that were supposed to have been loaves of bread. They didn't have time to prove the dough. Consequently, we get to commemorate this by spending eight days a year eating flat cracker-type things that resemble oven-dried cardboard, and nothing leavened. And just make sure that we don't eat anything leavened at all, everything gets cleaned, you sell anything that is classed as chametz, a special set of Pesach crockery and cutlery is brought out, you stock your cupboards with food marked 'Kosher for Pesach', and you eat nothing that swells, even vaguely. I find this all a bit extreme, but I don't have much recourse with the rabbis who set the rules a few thousand years ago. So I smile and nod, lean to the left when I drink my four glasses of wine at the Seder, and look forward to eating gremslisch.
We give our foods such attractive names, don't we? I'm not sure that the alternative spelling 'grimslich' is any better.
You might be wondering what they are, these gremslisch things. The best approximation that I can offer is fried bread pudding, without the bread. Something along the lines of sultanas, spices, and ground almonds, bound together and fried. Yep, we know how to care for our arteries.
Where they come from, I have no idea. No, sorry, that's not true. They come from my grandmother's kitchen. Their origin, I have no idea. Given that my grandmother's recipe is now mostly in her head, but was originally given to her by her mother, I'm going to make an assumption. They originated somewhere on the Iberian peninsular, and have been adapted as our family moved northwards, through France, the Netherlands, and finally the UK. The few printed recipes that I've seen offer no history and are actually rather different to what I know. The recipe that I offer is what I know, and love. They are what's good about Pesach.
I'm about to issue my standard disclaimer: recipes aren't meant to be followed, they're a guide. You go by what looks, feels, smells, and tastes right.
And now a note on the ingredients. Matzo meal is ground-up matzo. We get through box-loads of it during Pesach. It comes in fine, medium, and coarse varieties. You can normally buy it in the supermarket all year round, but health food shops often stock it, too. If you can't locate it, buy a box of matzo (which are definitely available all year), and grind them in a food processor. Carry on as per the rest of the recipe.
Take the largest bowl that you possess: put all the dry ingredients into it, and mix well.
Add the almond extract, the eggs, and 3 tablespoons of oil. Keep the fourth one in reserve. You might or might not need it. Mix it about a bit.
Now this is the tricky bit: adding the boiling water to bind. You are aiming to achieve a firm, damp consistency. It should drop off of a spoon, but hold its shape. Start with a little water, and gradually add more. When it looks suitably like mud, use a tablespoon and your hands to form it into patties, and coat in the fine matzo meal. You should get about 24 gremslisch from the mixture.
In a large frying pan heat your sunflower oil until it is very hot. This is proper shallow frying, so you will need a good few centimetres of oil. Fry the gremslisch for about a minute on each side, until they have turned a shade darker, and then drain on kitchen paper.
Eat them as soon as they cool enough to handle.