Kobete – A Sephardic recipe from our Israeli family. Similar to Turkish kobete, but made with a filling of meat, tomatoes, potatoes and pine nuts.
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. Similar kobete meat pies are made in Turkey with seasoned chicken as a filling. My husband’s father lived in Turkey for a short time on his way back to Israel, and the Turkish influence made an impression on their family cuisine. Their family recipe for kobete is different than the standard Turkish version; it features seasoned ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes and pine nuts. 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.
Note: A reader pointed out that kobete is made in Turkey, but the dish originates in Crimean Tartar cuisine. My husband’s father’s family was from Crimea, so it seems clear that this family recipe is also influenced by their roots in Crimea. Fascinating!
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.
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- 1 package frozen puff pastry
- 2 lbs fresh tomatoes, diced
- 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 pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- Make sure your ingredients are prepared, diced and measured out before you begin. Take the puff pastry out of the freezer to defrost (usually takes 30-45 minutes). 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. While the puff pastry defrosts, prepare the filling using the following steps.Place diced tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle them with 2 tsp of sugar and 1/2 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 and onion turns golden. If the potatoes begin to stick, add a little water to the skillet and continue stirring to loosen them.
- After 8 minutes, pour the potato and onion mixture into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add your ground meat, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, 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.
- If you’re using pine nuts, toast them for a few minutes in a small skillet.Drain off the excess liquid from the tomatoes in the colander, squeezing them in the colander firmly to extract excess juice.
- 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. Keep an eye on the pastry, if it's browning too quickly cover with a layer of foil. When finished cooking, remove from oven and allow pie to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.