One of the things I like the most when I’m in Israel is the Israeli breakfast. Israeli breakfast is not just like any breakfast: it’s much richer and more abundant than any other breakfast in the world – even compared to American breakfast – and it has a special story. The Israeli breakfast is in fact a generous buffet with a thousand courses: fresh vegetable salads, cheeses, smoked fish, savory pies (including the pastel, our topic for today), shakshouka, bourekas, rugelah, babka… it is difficult to make a list that includes each specialty.
This almost disproportionate breakfast is an ancient legacy: it is born from the custom, widespread in all the kibbutz since the founding of the State, to consume a very abundant meal before heading to work in the fields, which was a long and exhausting job.
Today, Israeli breakfast is served in most hotels – to enable tourists to discover the local cuisine – as well as in city cafes, that especially on weekends are filled with people lazily enjoying the local version of the brunch.
The pastel is essentially a savoury pie stuffed with minced meat, enriched with spices and decorated with plenty of sesame seeds, which give it a special toasted flavour. You can eat it at all hours of the day, but the best time to have it is Shabbat, when you can serve it as a cruchy, spiced appetizer.
To tell the whole truth, there are many versions of the pastel: those who prefer not to mix meat and milk in the same meal, in compliance with rules of kashrut, will make a stuffed mushroom pastel or the classic spinach pie to go with halavi, milk-based meals; the pastel we learn to make today is the simplest one, made with minced beef, which is always a hit with adults and children alike.
To make the pastel I followed in principle the recipe of the chef Michael Solomonov contained in the magnificent book “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking“, but I changed some spices, skipped the carrots in the sauté and added a splash of good Italian red wine, to adapt the filling to the taste of my family.
Pastel: torta salata israeliana ripiena di carne
- 3 onions finely chopped
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/2 glass red wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 sheets of puff pastry
- 3 large eggs 2 for the filling, 1 for brushing
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until it has softened, but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add beef, cinnamon, cumin, parsley, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Cook until beef begins to brown, about 10 mins. Pour in the wine and cook 5 more mins until the wine has evaporated, then let the mixture cool completely.
- While beef is cooking, line a 9x11 inch baking dish with parchment paper, than place one layer of pastry on the paper, pulling up the dough to cover the sides of baking dish.
- Whisk 2 eggs and add to cooled beef mixture. Spoon mixture over pastry, then top with the remaining sheet of pastry. Pinch the pastry well to lock the filling in.
- Chill the pie in the fridge for at least 1 hour and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Whisk the remaining egg and brush it over the pastry, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake the pie until golden on top, about 40 minutes, and allow to cool 15 to 20 minutes before cutting.
- The pastel keeps well in the fridge covered in foil and can be easily reheated.