On our recent trip to Israel, my husband took a walk on the street where he grew up– Ness Ziona, which translates to Miracle of Zion. It’s a cute little street in Tel Aviv, not far from our hotel on the edge of the Mediterranean sea. As he neared the apartment building where he was born, he was flooded with memories of his mom’s cooking. She was Sephardic, seventh generation Israeli from Haifa, so many recipes my husband grew up with had a distinctly Sephardic influence. None of her home-cooked recipes made him happier than kobete.
Kobete is a meat-filled savory pie, a filling and hearty entree for a cold winter day. Nobody in our family is sure of the origins of this particular recipe. Similar kobete meat pies are made in Turkey with seasoned chicken as a filling. My husband’s mom’s version is quite different, featuring seasoned ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes and pine nuts. She is no longer with us, so sadly I can’t ask her about the dish. My best guess is that they had a friend, or neighbor, who shared the Turkish version of this recipe. Then my husband’s mom, a very creative cook, developed her own version. However it came to be, it is very tasty. Every winter, without fail, my husband requests it. As soon as we got back from Israel, I knew I had to make it for him.
This is a heavy entree, so best reserved for colder weather. The savory spiced meat, tomato and potato filling is hearty and full of flavor. A flaky, golden, sesame-coated crust bakes around the filling. I think this may very well be my husband’s all-time favorite dish. If he is having a rough week, a warm batch of kobete never fails to cheer him up. It’s cozy comfort food, just right for a chilly evening.
- 1 package puff pastry
- 2 lbs. fresh tomatoes
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (2 large baking potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb. ground beef or ground lamb, or a mixture
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- Salt and pepper
- Dash of cayenne
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
You will also need
- 9x13 inch glass baking dish, baking sheet, nonstick skillet, large mixing bowl, clean kitchen towel, pastry brush.
- Defrost puff pastry. Place a rack in the lower part of the oven and place baking sheet on it. Preheat oven and baking sheet to 425 degrees F.
- Slice the tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze them firmly over the sink to remove excess juice. Dice the tomatoes, place them in a colander, and sprinkle them with 2 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp salt. Let them sit while you prepare your other ingredients.
- Warm 2 tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet. Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until it begins to soften. Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute until aromatic. Mix in the diced potatoes. Cover the pan and let the potatoes cook for 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until the potatoes start to get tender. If the potatoes begin to stick, add a little water to the skillet and continue stirring to loosen them.
- After 8 minutes, pour the potatoes and onion mixture into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add your ground meat, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste (I usually use ¾ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of pepper). Sauté the meat for a few minutes, breaking apart the meat with a metal spatula, until it is half-cooked—half pink, half browned, and well mixed with the seasonings.
- Drain off the excess liquid from the tomatoes in the colander, then gather the tomatoes in a clean kitchen towel, wrapping it up in a bundle. Squeeze the kitchen towel firmly to remove excess moisture from the tomatoes. Reserve.
- If you’re using pine nuts, toast them for a few minutes in a small skillet.
- Pour the ground meat into the mixing bowl with the potatoes, then add the chopped parsley, the drained tomatoes and the pine nuts. Stir to blend all ingredients.
- Roll out your two puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface to rough 11x15 inch rectangles. Lightly grease the baking dish. Gently spread one piece of puff pastry over the bottom of the baking dish.
- Pour the meat mixture into the puff pastry in an even layer.
- Lay the second piece of puff pastry over the top of the dish. Trim off the excess dough.
- Fold the edges over to make a ridge and seal using the tines of a fork.
- Whisk together the egg yolk with 2 tsp of water. Brush the top of the pie with a thin layer of the egg yolk.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Pierce the top of the pie a few times to vent.
- Place the assembled pie onto the preheated baking sheet in the bottom of the oven. Bake the kobete for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Continue baking for 30-40 minutes longer until the crust is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and allow pie to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.