Shabbat food

Guetta grew up in Kiryat Shmona with parents who made aliya from Tunisia. He would spend ours with his mother in the kitchen, and this is how he came to love cooking traditional Tunisian dishes.

Meat pastries (photo credit: SHIRA BEHAR)
Meat pastries
(photo credit: SHIRA BEHAR)
One day, as I was sitting in my kitchen wondering what to prepare for Shabbat dinner, a cooking program came on the radio. To my surprise, the presenter turned out to be former MK Yigal Guetta. He hosts a radio show in which he interviews people about current events, politics, culture, and – you got it – food.
I was so curious to know if he was truly a good cook, and so I called him up, and he invited me to come to his home in Bnei Brak to see for myself.
Guetta grew up in Kiryat Shmona with parents who made aliya from Tunisia. He would spend hours with his mother in the kitchen, and this is how he came to love cooking traditional Tunisian dishes. Making the effort to prepare these incredibly tasty dishes is well worth it, says Guetta.
Makes 70 small cookies
1 kg. semolina
½ kg. flour, sifted
2 cups boiling oil
1 packet baking powder
Around 4 cups water (depending on how absorbent dough is)
Oil for deep frying
1 vacuum pack of dates
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
1 Tbsp. orange zest
Around 2 Tbsp. oil to soften dates
1 kg. sugar
2 cups water
2 packets sugar vanilla
Juice from 1 lemon
Pour the semolina into a large bowl. Add the flour and mix well. Form a well in the middle and pour in boiling oil. Mix with a wooden spoon. Add the baking powder and knead. Divide into 4 sections and let sit for 30 minutes. Take one section and add 1 cup of water while kneading. Knead well. Do same with other 3 sections.
To prepare filling, add all the ingredients, except for the oil, to a bowl. Grease your hands and knead the dates with the other ingredients until mixed well. (If it’s hard to mix, you can add a little water.)
Grease work surface and roll out a section of dough until it’s ½ cm. thick. Separate the filling into four sections. Spread one section of filling on one section of dough. Roll up the dough from the side closest to you. Prepare the other three in the same fashion. Using a knife, make crisscrossed indentations along the length of the roll. Cut slices that are 1½-2 cm. thick. Heat oil for deep frying and place in oil for 7 minutes. Remove and place on a colander.
To prepare syrup, put water, sugar, lemon juice into a pot and cook over a medium flame for 20 minutes until syrup thickens. Place a few cookies at a time in syrup for 2 minutes. Remove and let excess syrup drain off.
Note: Beef should be prepared the day before.
Makes 10 servings
1.6 kg. beef head
5-6 Tbsp. canola oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 container (50 gr.) tomato paste
4 large fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and crushed, or a 400-gr. can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. sugar (if stew is very sour, can add more)
2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. harissa
1-2 cups water (or more if needed to cover beef)
½ tsp. salt
Rinse the beef head well and place in a large pot. Cover with water. Heat over medium flame and bring to a boil. Lower flame and cook for 1½-2 hours. Let cool and drain. Cut the meat into 2-cm. cubes.
Heat oil in a frying pan and add garlic. Fry until translucent and add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. Stir and then add the harissa and cumin. Cook for 2 minutes and add the meat cubes. Pour water on top. Shake the pan gently so that all the meat pieces are covered (it’s okay if the corners of the cubes are sticking out). Cover the pan. Bring to a boil and continue cooking over a low flame for 1 hour. Check if the meat is tender. Only then add the salt and adjust seasoning. Continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated. If the meat is not soft enough, add another ½ cup of water and continue cooking.
This dish goes well with white rice. Put two or three spoonfuls of rice on a plate and then add beef stew on top.
These pastries can be made with meat or with a sweet filling. They can be eaten on their own, or with sauces, such as mushroom, sweet and sour, or tehina.
Makes 14 pastries
Filling (should be prepared the day before):
1 kg. ground beef
2 large onions, peeled and grated
1 large bunch of coriander, chopped finely
1 large bunch of parsley, chopped finely
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. ras el hanut spice
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. black pepper
Salt, to taste
1 egg
1 Tbsp. oil
package of phyllo dough (14 sheets)
Place all the ingredients except phyllo dough in a bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
Split the filling in half. Put one half in a bowl and set aside. Add the other half to a bowl and then add the following ingredients and stir:
¼ cup finely ground almonds
¼ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
6 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped finely
½ cup cranberries
2 Tbsp. silan
For work surface: oil spray
For decoration: ¼ cup sesame or nigella seeds, or chopped roasted cashews
1 egg, beaten (for wash)
Place the phyllo dough sheets on the work surface, covered with a damp towel. Divide each bowl of filling into seven parts, so that you’ll end up with 7 meat pastries and 7 sweet pastries.
Place one sheet of phyllo dough on work surface and spray it with oil. Put one section of filling along the edge of phyllo dough closest to you and roll the dough to cover the filling. Brush with egg and pinch ends. Roll should be 20-22 cm. long. Follow same method to prepare rest of the pastries.
Place pastries in a pan that is lined with baking paper. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with seeds. (One option is to put cashews on the sweet pastries so that you can distinguish them from the savory ones.) Bake in an oven that was preheated to 170° for 20-25 minutes until they’re golden brown.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.