Recipes from Pascale's Kitchen: Eat like an Egyptian

As I learn the new techniques, I often hear stories from their childhoods and the cultures of their or their parents’ home country.

(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
One of my favorite pastimes is encountering a new ethnic cuisine. I love meeting the chefs, who show me the delicacies they learned to prepare when they were growing up, and I love tasting the new flavors and then watching how the dishes are put together. And as I learn the new techniques, I often hear stories from their childhoods and the cultures of their or their parents’ home country.
It’s kind of like speaking of terroir when referring to French wine, which is the set of all environmental factors that affect the wine’s character. I feel this way when I meet people who cook ethnic food.
This week, I met Ziona Ozatzkir-Masri, who agreed to prepare a traditional Egyptian meal consisting of dishes she learned to prepare from her mother, Fortuna. Fortuna grew up in Alexandria in a family with roots in Spain, and the family spoke Ladino among themselves. They had lived for a few generations in Jerusalem before moving to Egypt, which was a liberal and economically strong country at the time. She recalls hearing stories about neighbors from Europe and other Arab countries who spoke English, French and Italian.
Masri’s great-grandfather on her father’s side reached Egypt from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was an active Hagana operative and helped many young North African Jews reach Palestine in pre-state days. At one point he was caught and spent a year and a half in prison. After serving his time, his family was thrown out of Egypt, and Ziona’s family made its way to the Be’er Ya’acov ma’abara (transit camp) in Pardess Hanna, where they began acclimating to life in Israel with all the other new immigrants.
Egyptian cuisine is based on fresh seasonal vegetables, such as artichoke, leeks, okra, green beans, cauliflower, radish, garlic, onion, sweet potato and herbs, such as parsley and cilantro. It also uses lots of legumes and fruits, such as pomegranates, figs, grapes, dates and mango.
In Alexandria, everyone used the neighborhood oven to bake their own bread, and this was also where everyone would leave their hamin (cholent) pot for Shabbat lunch. Desserts incorporated a lot of silan and honey.
Fortuna would use leftover bread in desserts or as bread crumbs and add leftover vegetables to omelettes. Nothing went to waste. On Rosh Hashanah they would make fried pumpkin with honey and cinnamon, and on Passover they’d make haroset from dried dates, nuts, raisins and cinnamon. When a baby’s first tooth began showing, they would prepare a big celebration featuring a dish made from wheat, milk, raisins, almonds, honey and cinnamon.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Doah is an Egyptian spice mixture, and there are as many versions as there are Egyptian families. Some go heavy on the coriander seeds, while others like cumin or sesame seeds more. To make this mixture, each ingredient needs to be roasted separately, and then they’re all blended together in a food processor by using short pulses so it doesn’t get over-blended.
Doah is served alongside a small saucer of olive oil, slices of onion, radish and tomatoes, and warm fresh pitot.
Doah keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge.
Makes 1 liter
300 gr. sesame seeds, roasted
200 gr. peanuts, roasted and peeled
200 gr. dried coriander seeds, roasted
100 gr. cumin seeds, roasted and blended
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
After roasting each herb separately, put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixed well. If you desire, add extra sesame seeds and salt, according to taste.

This soup is almost like a stew. It is very popular among Jewish and non-Jewish Egyptian families. It can be made with a beef or chicken base and is very thick and nourishing. It’s customary to serve it with white rice.
Makes 6-8 servings
2 large onions
6-8 chicken wings or thighs
1-2 beef bones
2 liters water
½ kg. maluchia leaves (remove stems,
  rinse, and dry well. You can buy them
  already prepared, known as matfa)
¼ cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, crushed
1 heaping Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additions for soup:
3 tomatoes, crushed well, or 2 Tbsp.
  tomato paste
1-2 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add all of the soup ingredients to a large pot and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the onions and transfer to a blender. Add one cup of the soup to the maluchia and stir until mixed well. Pour maluchia mixture into soup and mix well. Continue cooking on low.
At the same time, prepare the Ravicha-Ta’aliya. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Take care not to let garlic burn.
Pour into the soup and mix well. Cook for another 10 minutes over a low flame. Add the tomatoes or tomato paste, mix and then add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and adjust seasonings. Serve with white rice.

Makes 6-8 servings
6-8 potatoes, peeled, rinsed and cut into eights
  (like large french fries)
Oil for frying
6-8 chicken thighs or legs
10 cloves garlic, peeled
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
In a large shallow pot, fry potatoes until golden brown and then place aside. Fry chicken and garlic until golden brown. Return potatoes to pan and pour in chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the turmeric, cumin and stir. Cook over medium heat with cover on. If needed, add another ½ cup of chicken broth or water. Taste and adjust seasoning.


Cook in a 32-cm. pot, or any pot you want.
½ kg. semolina
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups water
1 package (100 gr.) butter or margarine
4 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. quality vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
100 gr. light raisins, rinsed and dried
100 gr. coconut flakes
Blanched almonds
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. honey
2 cups water
1 packet vanilla sugar
Juice from ½ a lemon
Add all of the ingredients in order to a large bowl and mix well. Transfer to a well-greased pan and flatten. Using a knife, cut into squares and place an almond on each square.
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 30 minutes or until turns golden brown.
Pour all the ingredients for the syrup into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Continue cooking for a few minutes until syrup forms. Pour half of the syrup on the cake while it’s still hot, and the other half after it’s cooled down.
For more recipes from Pascale's kitchen, visit her website.