I’ve always had a certain fondness for sheep. They are fluffy. I love to see
them grazing in the field.
The little lambs are adorable, and they have
such sweet expressions. And growing up a city girl as I did, I never thought to
associate my mother’s delicious lamb chops with… a formerly live lamb, just like
most people don’t think “sheep” when they’re enjoying one of the succulent
Arab-style lamb dishes.
Interestingly enough, I also never gave much
thought to sheep’s cheeses.
We’re all intimately familiar with cow’s milk
and cheeses, because they are the most widespread and popularly consumed (and
more cost-effective for manufacturers to produce), and many people know that
goat’s cheeses are considered healthier and better for human consumption than
their cow counterparts.
But sheep’s milk? Although in some countries,
like Italy, home of the Pecorino (from pecora, meaning sheep in Italian),
sheep’s milk is revered. But in Israel it is sorely downplayed. In fact, while
“cow” always appears on cow’s milk products, and “goat” always appears on goat’s
milk products, most dairy manufacturers use the word tzon, a biblical word for
sheep and goats together, for their sheep’s milk products, which is actually
misleading since goat’s and sheep’s milk are never mixed in one
And what a shame, because much like goat’s milk, sheep’s milk has
some particular health benefits.
Some surprising facts about sheep’s milk
include: more calcium than cow’s or goat’s milk; 150% more protein than cow’s
milk; twice as much iron as cow’s or goat’s milk; three times more vitamin C
than cow’s milk; low in lactose.
In addition, sheep’s milk is richer in
vitamins A, B and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium than cow’s
milk, and contains a higher portion of short- and medium-chain fatty acids,
which have known health benefits. Only 93 grams of sheep’s cheese meet daily
calcium requirements and those of riboflavin and five of the essential 10 amino
Good to know, right? There are many cheeses besides Pecorino based
traditionally on sheep’s milk, like the Cypriot haloumi, Spanish manchego and
Greek feta, and several of these are available in local versions as well.
According to the Dotan (sheep) dairy, one of its best-sellers is sheep’s ricotta
cheese, but it also has cheddar, Brinza and Tzfatit.
dairies making sheep’s cheese include Hanoked and Shirat Ro’im, the latter in
Kfar Kisch in Galilee.
Hanoked even offers seminars in cheese making, an
ideal way to get your goat. Or sheep.
BOUREKAS – PASTRY WITH EGGPLANT AND FETA
Makes about 40 to 50 (recipe can be halved)
This classic family recipe is from Gil Hovav, a cookbook author
and television personality who was born in Jerusalem in the 1960s to a
Ladino-speaking family that has lived in the city for generations.For the dough:
✔ 31⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
✔ 1 Tbsp. salt
✔ 1 cup butter
✔ 2 Tbsp. vinegar
✔ 3⁄4 cup yogurt or sour cream For the filling:
✔ 2 medium eggplants
✔ 120 gr. sheep’s feta cheese, drained
✔ 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
✔ 1 egg yolk and 1 Tbsp. water for brushing
✔ Sesame seeds
1. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and drop in
cubes of butter until coarse crumbs are formed. Add the vinegar and
yogurt and pulse until a ball forms around the blade.
2. Remove, knead briefly and divide into 3 balls. Cover each with
plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 4
3. Roast the eggplant on all sides. Place in a paper bag, close and let
sit for 10 minutes before peeling the eggplant and scooping out the
flesh with a spoon.
4. Place the eggplant flesh in a wire mesh strainer and let stand 30 minutes to drain.
5. Mash the eggplant with the feta cheese and black pepper.
(Do not use a food processor.) Set aside.
6. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment
paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand till easy to
work with (but not too soft).
7.Roll out one ball thinly on a lightly floured surface and use a 5- to
7-cm. wide glass or pastry cutter to cut out circles. Gather up the
remainders and roll out again to form more circles.
Repeat with the other balls of dough. You should have between 40 and 50 circles.
8. Lay the circles on top of the parchment paper. Keep the bowl with the
filling and a bowl of cold water on the side. Put a level teaspoon of
the filling in the bottom of each circle, and use a finger dipped in
water to moisten the edges. Fold over to form a half-moon shape,
pinching the edges tightly shut. (Don’t be tempted to put too much
filling in or the bourekas will burst open during baking.) Repeat with
the rest of the circles.
9. Brush the bourekas with the egg yolk beaten with water, and sprinkle
with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve
Can be frozen before or after baking. (If freezing before baking, do not defrost.)