Home Cooking for the Rosh Hashanah Feast: 4 Delicious Ethnic Dishes

Every ethnic group has its own traditional festive dishes for Rosh Hashanah. We found home cooks happy to share their holiday favorites.

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Doron’s kreplac, Moroccan fish, Stuffed leeks, Beef with wine.
Doron’s kreplac, Moroccan fish, Stuffed leeks, Beef with wine.Credit: Yishai Doron, Meshek8

Rosh Hashanah is almost here and, even with the fusion in contemporary Israeli food, the holiday season is the time we return to traditional ethnic dishes. Each family has its own tradition; each ethnic group has its special dishes that have been around for generations. In honor of the holiday, we brought together four home cooks – specializing in Hungarian, Syrian-Lebanese, French and Moroccan cuisine – from the Yummi website, to prepare their traditional holiday dishes and share their home-made recipes and tips on how to survive the holiday cooking marathons.

A taste of heaven / Getting to know Esther Doron, who cooks in the Hungarian style

“I’ve been cooking for 45 years, ever since I got married. My five grandchildren are always saying, ‘Nana, what did you cook for me?’ When I got married I didn’t know much about cooking, but I was jealous when my husband boasted about his mother’s cooking, so I started cooking too – so that one day my husband and children would boast of my special dishes. As soon as I began cooking, all these childhood memories from my grandmother’s kitchen in Hungary came back to me, and I remembered how I would sit next to her and gaze in awe at her agile hands as they chopped and kneaded and rolled. I remember the slices of bread she would dip for me in the rich red sauce simmering on the fire; it tasted like heaven. Hungarian cooking still comes to me naturally. It’s in my DNA.

“At our holiday table we’ll have the extended family – my daughters with their husbands and children, my sons with their girlfriends and the family of one of them – 20 people altogether. How do I survive all the preparations and cooking for so many? Very simple. I parcel the work out into a number of days so I won’t end up collapsing when the holiday eve finally arrives. I prepare whatever I can beforehand and freeze it, for as long as a week, and that includes the kreplach, which take a lot of work and are very time-consuming. I make the salads the night before, and then they can wait in the fridge – I pour on the dressing at the last moment. The meat and soup can also stay in the fridge for a couple of days.

“The dish eaten only on Rosh Hashanah is the soup with kreplach. The family won’t eat it at any other time, so as not to ruin the uniqueness of the holiday eve. My son, for example, eats six or seven kreplach in his soup, then keeps his soup bowl near and goes fishing for any kreplach left in the soup pot. We have to have kreplach throughout the holiday.”

Kreplach recipe

Photo by Yishai Doron

This recipe makes approximately 16 kreplach. I always triple it so there will be enough to get through the whole holiday. Plan for two or three kreplach, depending on the size, per serving.

For the dough:

2 cups flour
2 egg yolks
½ cup cold water
For the filling:
250 gr ground beef
1 large onion
1 egg
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp oil

The dough:

Beat the eggs with the water and knead together with the flour and salt. The dough will be stiff at first but then it becomes more pliable. Cover and let rest for half an hour to an hour.

The filling: Place the meat in a skillet with oil and fry until browned. Finely chop the onion and add it to the meat and continue frying until the onion is translucent. Season to taste and then chill. Add the egg and breacrumbs and mix well.

Assembling the kreplach:

Roll out the dough into a thin sheet – the thinner the better (a pasta machine may be used).

Cut into 5x7 cm squares and place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each square. Lightly moisten the edges of the squares and fold into triangles. Pinch the edges together well to keep the filling inside. Press the two tips of the triangle together so they stick (the shape will be similar to tortellini).

Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the kreplach in the salted water for 10-15 minutes, until they float to the surface. Drain well and store in the refrigerator. Heat them in the soup before serving.

Syrian-Lebanese-Israeli / A peek into the kitchen of Nissim Hilu, who specializes in Syrian-Lebanese home cooking

Photo by Hadas Peretz

"The first time I remember cooking was when I was six years old. My older brother and I asked my mother to make majadara for us, and even though she promised to make it the next day, we decided to make it ourselves right then and there. At some point my mother took over and finished the work we started. Eventually, my love for cooking led me to study cooking professionally – at age 55, once a week for 10 months, at the end of the workday. My cooking style has always been homestyle Oriental, with a focus on Syrian-Lebanese cuisine. It’s the type of cooking I absorbed from my mother and later from my mother-in-law.

“The preparations for the holiday meals in my childhood revolved around the things used in the blessings of the Kiddush – lubia (black-eyed-peas), karat (leek), mangold (chard) leaves stuffed with rice and meat, and kar’a (gourd). All cooked in the Syrian style. The greatest was when the whole big family would get together in my mother’s small house, and despite the shortage of space, no one ever felt crowded, and no one ever left hungry, and there was always a feeling that there was plenty to go around.

“For the upcoming holiday, I’ll be hosting something like 20 or 25 people, and I’ll cook the main food and the food for the blessings, and as always, whatever is left over the guests will take home with them, so that the next day we’ll have nothing left from the holiday eve meal.

“I start making preparations for the holiday cooking a few days in advance. Slicing, chopping, getting things ready, so that when the day for cooking comes, I’m more than 50 percent ready and all that’s left is to put the pots on the stove and finish the job. I get the pots going early in the morning because all the flavor comes from slow cooking over a low flame for many hours.

“My favorite dish is what we make for the blessing over the leek, which we call karat.”

Stuffed karat (Serves 6, with 6 units per person):

1 very thick leek, the white part cut in 8-cm-long slices and then cut lengthwise, but just up to the middle
2 cups round rice, rinsed and drained
400 gr fresh ground beef
½ cup sweet-sour pomegranate concentrate (a thick concentrate for the sauce and 2 more tablespoons for the filling)
½ cup lemon juice
2 cups water
salt and black pepper
1 ½ tsp baharat
2 tsp sugar
5 tbsp canola oil

Blanch the leek until the leaves separate (the aim is just to soften the leek, not cook it). Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Add the leak to the boiling water and remove it when the water returns to a boil. Transfer to cold water.

The sauce:

In a small pot, place 1/2 cup of pomegranate concentrate, the lemon juice, water, 1 tsp salt and pepper, ½ tsp of baharat and 1 tsp of sugar. Bring to a boil, adjust the seasonings to taste. Set aside to cool.

The filling:

Mix the rice with the meat, salt, pepper, baharat, 2 tbsp pomegranate concentrate and a little oil, until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Place a leaf of the leek on a flat dish and top it with filling so you are able to roll the leaf one and a half-times around the meat, then pinch the edges closed.

Spread the oil in a 24-cm pot. Place in it all the leaves that were not suitable for filling, and then put all the stuffed leaves on top. They should be close together, but not stuck together, seam side down.

Fill the pot with 2-3 layers of stuffed leeks and pour on the sauce to cover. Place a dish over the leaves. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to a minimum and let simmer for two hours. Or transfer to a preheated 125 degree Celsius oven and let cook for five hours.

Remove from the heat and let cool for half an hour before serving.

A way with beef / In the kitchen with Liora Bresniac, who specializes in French cuisine

Photo by Hadas Peretz

"My father, who was a butcher and the son of a butcher, and had a butcher shop in the Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem, taught me the joy of food and how to specialize in meat. I’m a graduate of the Seligsberg Culinary School, where I specialized in French cooking. For the last two years, I’ve been cooking for a living, and it’s still my great love.

“Our holiday meal is usually based on the foods we always ate growing up. We try to preserve the tradition we were raised on, with the traditional foods, although my sister and I have both gone in different directions. For us, preserving the traditional foods is what gives the holiday a special atmosphere.

“This year I’m hosting my close family – my sons and their wives and children, and there’s no greater happiness than that, but in order to survive all the cooking, I have to work with orderly lists, for shopping and for the menu. I must have a clear schedule worked out, otherwise I’ll just get lost and end up exhausted by the time the holiday comes.

“The food that everyone in the family absolutely must have for Rosh Hashanah is chicken soup with cooked marrow and lots of vegetables, including root vegetables, and kreplach. Besides that, there’s also my beef dish, which I’ve upgraded a little from my mother’s version from my childhood, and this is the one I’ve chosen to present here.”

Beef with wine, mushrooms and chestnuts (serves 4)

Photo by Meshek8

1 kilo fresh beef fillet or entrecote
1 package chestnuts
1 package champignon mushrooms
1 onion
olive oil
whole-grain mustard
coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups good red wine
2 tbsp pomegranate concentrate
2 tbsp prune jam

Important: Cook the piece of meat whole; it will be sliced after cooking.

Brush the meat with olive oil and mustard andsprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper.

Slice the onion and fry in a large saucepan with a little oil over high heat. When the onion is golden, add the meat to the pot and fry for a few minutes on each side.

Add the wine, pomegranate concentrate, jam and a ½ cup of water. Cook for half an hour and then taste. Remember: The gravy should be slightly sweet, so you can carefully add more of the ingredients if desired.

Now simmer over medium heat for at least two and a half hours. When the meat is tender, add the chestnuts and sliced mushrooms for brief cooking.

Turn off the heat and allow the meat to cool. When it is cold, cut into thin slices.

Can’t do without fish / What’s cooking in Limor Bar’s Moroccan kitchen?

“I’ve been cooking for years,” says Bar. “When I was a kid I would always help my mother with the cooking for Shabbat. I like to cook almost anything. I like to try new recipes and if they’re successful I keep them in a special file. If it doesn’t work, the recipe goes in the trash.

“Usually every year I host the whole family, but this year we’re going to be deviating from our usual custom. After the tough period of the war and being shut in the house, we decided this year to take it easy on the holiday, so instead of hosting everyone we’re going to be vacationing in Eilat. Usually, my survival strategy for coping with all the holiday cooking is very simple – keeping things neat and organized in the kitchen. It may sound obvious, but it’s an important tip not just for the holiday but for cooking in general. To prepare as many things as possible ahead of time so you can enjoy the cooking without a lot of pressure.

“Our traditional Rosh Hashanah food is ‘tanziya’ – a dish made with dried fruit, cooked with a lot of onion and lamb. It has just the right amount of sweetness and is so delicious. And you can’t do without fish, of course. So the recipe I’ve chosen is for festive Moroccan fish, ‘so we should be like the head and not the tail.’”

Moroccan fish

1.5 kilos tuna (6-7 pieces)
peeled cloves from 1 head garlic
Hot red pepper – depending how hot you want it, use 1-2 peppers for a little spice, 4-5 peppers for a very spicy dish
3 potatoes, cut into thick rounds
½ cup chickpeas that have been soaked
overnight (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 scant tbsp hot paprika
5 scant tbsp sweet paprika
2 scant tbsp turmeric
fish seasoning
1 small cup of canola oil
2 cups water

In a wide, shallow saucepan, scatter the garlic cloves along with the peppers, potatoes and chickpeas.

Arrange the fish on top and sprinkle each piece with salt and half a teaspoon of chopped cilantro.

In a small bowl (the size of a cereal bowl), place the seasonings one atop the other: the two kinds of paprika, the turmeric, fish seasoning and a little salt. Add the oil and mix until you have a marinade. Pour this over the fish.

Fill the same bowl with water and pour that over the fish as well. To avoid breaking the fish slices, gently move the pan from side to side until the liquids are well blended.

You can leave the pot in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day. This way the fish will absorb all the flavors.

Cook over high heat for 10 minutes, until the liquids come to a boil; then lower heat and simmer for about an hour.