Pascale's Kitchen: Three Jerusalem recipes

Bulgarian Sephardi meat pastries, Jerusalem kugel and bizcochos salados represent the city to me.

Pastel con carne (meat-filled pastry) (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Pastel con carne (meat-filled pastry)
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Jerusalem is without doubt the most special city in the world. Much has been written and told about Jerusalem, and whenever I visit the city, I feel invigorated to be breathing in the holy air of a place so full of history.
Although I’ve been to Jerusalem countless times, I still get excited when I walk through the Mahaneh Yehuda market and witness all the wonderful colors and aromas. I love picking out fresh herbs and tasting the ethnic delicacies offered to me, so I can bring a small piece of Jerusalem home with me.
In celebration of 50 years of the reunification of the city, I’ve prepared three recipes that represent Jerusalem for me: meat pastries, Jerusalem kugel and bizcochos salados (little sandwiches). All three of these have a very close connection with Jerusalem.
The meat pastries are a Bulgarian Sephardi Jerusalem recipe. Traditionally, they are prepared as one large pastry, but I’m going to describe how to make many small ones. Another way to prepare them is with cheese and spinach in place of the meat.
The second recipe is for Jerusalem kugel. My friend Leah Lor tells a story about her mother, who was a wonderful cook and well known for bringing food to needy families. When her mother was growing up in Mea She’arim, on Fridays all the women in the neighborhood would bring their cholent and kugel pots to the local Shabbat bakery – just like in Eastern Europe – where the oven would stay on all Shabbat. Each woman would tie a colored ribbon on her pot so she could recognize it when she came to fetch it Shabbat morning.
Jerusalem kugel is traditionally made in a kessel, a small pot traditionally given as part of a dowry when a girl got married. The shape of the lid keeps the steam locked inside, and therefore kugel remains moist and the outside turns black. I’ve also successfully cooked kugel in jahnun pots on the stovetop as well.
The third recipe I’ve included is for bizcochos salados, by Aviva Ben-Joseph, from her cookbook The Cook from Agrippas Street (Hebrew). These little sandwiches are so tasty, you won’t even need a storage container for them, since they always get gobbled up so quickly.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Pastel con carne (meat-filled pastry)
Makes 10-12 pastries
■ ¼ cup oil
■ 2 large onions, chopped finely
■ 400 gr. beef, ground finely
■ Salt and pepper, to taste
■ ¼ tsp. cinnamon
■ 100 gr. pine nuts
■ 1 egg + 1 egg, beaten
■ ¼ cup parsley, chopped
■ 1 package (400 gr.) bought pastry dough
■ ½ cup sesame seeds
■ 1 cup nigella (optional)
In a large frying pan, fry the onion until it’s golden. Add the beef and fry it until it turns gray. Cover the pan and cook for another 6-7 minutes over medium flame until the liquid has evaporated. Add the salt, pepper and cinnamon and fry another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the flame, add the pine nuts, one egg, parsley and mix.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface into a thin square. Cut into the desired number of pieces (10-12) and on each piece place some meat and then roll lengthwise. Then, roll it up into a spiral and place on a tray covered with baking paper. Prepare all the rest in the same fashion.
Make sure the spirals are evenly spaced, since the dough will expand during baking. Brush each spiral with egg wash and sprinkle a little sesame and nigella on top. Bake for 10 minutes at 250º. Lower temperature to 200º and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Tipascale: When you reheat the spirals before serving, don’t cover them. This way, the steam won’t soften the pastry and the spirals won’t lose their crispiness.
Jerusalem kugel
Makes 10-12 servings
■ 400 gr. thin noodles (No. 210)
■ 1 Tbsp. salt
■ 3 Tbsp. canola oil
■ 3 onions, chopped
■ ½ cup canola oil (or 100 gr. Mazola margarine)
■ 2 Tbsp. sugar
■ 3 eggs
■ 2 Tbsp. self-rising flour
■ ½ tsp. black pepper, or according to taste
■ 1 tsp. salt, or according to taste
Boil the noodles in salted water until they’re soft but not overcooked. Rinse them in tap water and transfer to a wide bowl. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions until they turn golden. Add the onions to the bowl with the noodles. Heat more oil in the pan and add the sugar. Cook the sugar until it turns dark, then add it to noodles and stir.
Beat the eggs and add them to the noodles. Then add the flour, pepper and salt and mix gently.
Grease the pan with margarine or oil and pour noodle mixture into pan. Bake kugel all night long in a preheated oven at the temperature of a Shabbat hot plate, or for 45 minutes on medium heat until kugel turns dark on outside.
TIPascale: If you’d like your kugel to be very dark, make sure you properly caramelize the sugar with the oil. You can also increase the amount of sugar, or use brown sugar instead.
Bizcochos salados
Makes 30 mini sandwiches
■ ½ kg. flour, sifted
■ 200 gr. margarine or parve butter
■ ¼ cup oil
■ 1 cup water
■ 1 package baking powder
■ 1 tsp. salt
■ 1 egg yolk
■ 100 gr. sesame seeds
Mix all the ingredients together and knead until dough is mixed well. Cover and place in fridge for two hours.
Roll out dough in shape of snakes the thickness of your pinkie finger, and then form little or medium-size circles with them and place them on a tray that’s covered with baking paper. Brush them with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 40 minutes at 200º.