Aug 212013

image sinyeh druze kebabs

The Middle-Eastern way in cooking is to use simple, natural ingredients grown (or raised) close to where the cook lives. And in the village communities of the Galilee, traditional recipes – the ones passed down intact from mother to daughter, from one neighbor to another, over centuries – are cooked the same way each time.

You won’t see fusion cooking or dishes jazzed up to suit modern trends in Arab, Druze, or Circassian village homes. The families would simply refuse to eat them. That’s not how they remember their mother’s food. Memories preserve culture, so we’re grateful for those stubborn husbands and kids that resist innovative cooking. Original recipes would get lost otherwise.

With Rosh HaShanah approaching, you might consider cooking Sinyeh for one of the festive meals. It’s rich but not cloying, and almost a complete meal by itself. Just make a simple rice, mix up a leafy salad, and there, you’re done. A traditional dish borrowed from the Druze might become a welcome innovation on your yom tov menu.

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Apr 042009

I served these delicate, flavorful, crisp-skinned patties as appetizers on Shabbat. They were a hit. The few remaining ones also reheated well. Thanks to Becky T. for the idea.

Stuffed Potato Patties

about 10 patties


250 grams ground beef or turkey

2  eggs

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, leaves only

1 stalk of scallions

1 tsp. salt


1/2 tsp. cumin

2 Tblsp. red wine or stock or soup

3 medium potatoes – about 600 grams raw

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 cup matzah meal

olive oil for frying


1. Blend together the garlic, cilantro, scallions, salt, pepper, cumin and red wine. I did this with my stick blender.

2. Mix this seasoning into the meat.

3. Break one egg and put it over the meat: mix it in well.

4. Put the meat aside in the fridge for half an hour.

5. Meantime, peel and slice the potatoes. Cook them in boiling water till they are soft.

6. Mash them. Add the second egg to them, and a little soup or some of the cooking water – a few tablespoons – if they look dry. Add the paprika.

7. Take the meat out of the fridge and start heating up the oil in a skillet.

8. Sauté  the meat till it’s entirely cooked through. Remove it to a clean bowl.

9. Wipe the skillet clean and put more oil in it. Start heating the oil gently.

10. Take about a tablespoon of the mashed potato and put it into the cup of your hand. Spread it out slightly.

11. Now take about 2 tsp. of the meat, more or less, and pat it down into the mashed potato.

12. Take another Tblsp. of the potato and put it on top. Fashion a ball of potatoes and meat. Don’t worry if it isn’t uniform: just keep it together in a ball.

13. Roll the balls in matzah meal. Flatten them slightly. Let them sit and dry some for 10 minutes, if you have the time: they’ll fry easier that way.

14. This is the only tricky part. You must fry the patties in hot oil, but only turn them over once because they do tend to fall apart. This is also why they mustn’t be very big: the soft mass of potato won’t keep its shape if you make large balls. You can see that mistake in the next photo.

To tell if a patty is ready to be turned over, slide a wooden or Teflon spatula under it and move it a little. If it feels heavy and slides around easily, it’s probably brown and crisp enough on the bottom to turn over.

Serve the patties either as appetizers or as a side dish. I don’t recommend them as a main dish because there isn’t enough meat in them to justify it. But everyone asked me to make them again.

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