Fried bestile hold a special place among the Libyan Jewish recipes that I most love (and that nevertheless, I rarely prepare), because they have a magical madeleine effect on me. They vividly remind me of my childhood.
These fried mashed potato patties, are one of my Aunt Lois’ specialties. My aunt often prepared them as an appetizer when the family met at my grandparents’ home for special occasions, for Shabbat, and for Jewish festivals. This made us kids very happy, and we jumped on the serving tray to grab at least a couple of bestile before they were gone.
In my opinion, these patties are a labor-intensive dish. The preparation of the ingredients, the shaping of the bestile, and frying, are all time-consuming steps, and by the time you finish this recipe, your kitchen will resemble a battlefield.
However, be aware that few appetizers in the world will bring you as much pure unadultered joy as freshly fried bestile, wrapped in paper towels and eaten with your hands when they are still hot, crispy, and soft inside.
- 9 medium-sized potatoes
- 450 g of minced beef
- 50 g chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley
- 3 eggs for dredging
- 1 cup of 00 flour for dredging
- black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- Peanut seed oil for frying
- In a large pot, boil the potatoes in plenty of hot, unsalted water; you can peel them before or after cooking, the results do not change. When finished, mash the potatoes into a puree with a fork or with a special mashing tool, and then set aside.
- The filling can be prepared in two ways, stewed or sauteed. If you prefer making it stewed, cook the chopped meat in a pan with the onion and parsley, with enough water to cover the ingredients, taking care to add the salt, pepper and cinnamon midway through cooking. If you prefer the sauteed method, which is tastier in my opinion, but I think less traditional, saute the onion and meat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then add parsley and seasonings, stirring well on a high flame, until the meat is well-cooked. In any case, at the end of the cooking, taste the meat and evaluate if it needs more salt, cinnamon or black pepper, keeping in mind that the potatoes are not seasoned, thus the flavor will be provided mainly by the stuffing.
- At this point, you have to form the bestile, dip them in egg and dredge in flour, and then finally fry them.
- Prepare the potato bowl, the stuffing pan, a small bowl with 00 flour, and finally, a sheet of parchment paper, in your work area. Separately, also prepare a small bowl with the beaten eggs.
- Place a large portion of potato mix in the palm of your hand, trying to get an oval often about half a centimeter thick. In the middle of the oval, place a couple of teaspoons of meat filling, then try to close the potato mixture over the meat, without making it overflow and without mixing it too much with the potatoes. The idea is to get a football-shaped mashed potato patty, squashed in the middle (and just the middle), where it is filled with meat. Clearly, if the potatoes and meat should happen to mix, it is not a major disaster, but the skill of the cook is also measured by these small details!
- After arranging each bestile, dredge it well in flour, and place it on the parchment paper. With the doses indicated, you should get about 15 bestile.
- Warm up plenty of frying oil in a pan that can hold two or three bestile at a time, but no more. When the oil is hot (you can test the temperature with the apple slice method), with your hands dip one bestile at a time in the beaten egg, gently drain and dip in the boiling oil, being careful not to scald yourself.
- Allow the bestile to fry in the oil a few minutes per side until they begin to turn golden, and then drain them over a plate covered with paper towels.
- Serve the bestile hot or cold (they are delicious either way, regardless of the temperature), as an appetizer, or as main course.