On Purim it is traditional to eat food with fillings hidden inside to symbolize the hidden nature of the Purim miracle, like hamantaschen, kreplach and stuffed cabbage. And from this list of “stuffed” treats, one might assume that all Purim foods are Ashkenazi in origin, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Of late, more and more hidden culinary secrets from other Jewish communities are becoming more well-known and changing the Jewish food vocabulary. Yes, we might describe this as a miracle too.
One might think that today’s Israeli kitchen is based only on well-known dishes like falafel, shwarma and shakshuka, but Arab dishes have become a staple in many Israeli restaurants and homes. For example, shishbarak is a festive Arab dish that has been described as a kind of local variation of ravioli. I first encountered this delicious pasta while I was working in Chef’s Meir Adoni’s Catit restaurants in Tel Aviv.
Traditionally this thin pasta pocket is stuffed with a spicy meat filling, cooked in a yogurt-based sauce, and is in the shape of ravioli. In my kosher interpretation of this lovely dish, I hide a vegetarian lentil and mushroom filling inside, cook it in a creamy mint sauce, and shape it in like elegant tortellini.
This magical dish is relatively easy to prepare at home and there is no need for a pasta machine! Let’s hope that this year will reveal many more food miracles.
Arab-Style Tortellini (Shishbarak)
For the pasta dough:
1 ½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp canola oil
½ cup water
1 egg + 1 Tbsp water (for egg wash)
For the lentil and mushroom filling:
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, diced fine
10 oz mushrooms (use any type you like)
1/3 cup cooked green or brown lentils
¼ cup parsley, chopped finely
1 Tbsp baharat spice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
For the creamy mint sauce:
4 Tbsp butter
½ cup flour
2 ½ cups milk
1 Tbsp dried mint
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
chopped scallions or parsley as garnish
To make the tortellini dough: Place the flour, salt and baking soda in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle the oil and water until the dough is fully combined (don’t over mix, add the water slowly and see if you need a bit let or a few drops more to have a fully combined dough).
Remove the dough, place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
To make the mushroom lentil filling: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the diced onions until they become soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until all the liquid evaporates and they start to brown (about 10 minutes, you want all liquid to be cooked to allow nice caramelization).
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for another 2 minutes while mixing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Move the mixture to a food processor and pulse until combined. Cool completely.
To prepare the tortellini: bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 Tbsp of salt.
On a clean and lightly floured surface roll the dough to ¼ inch thick and cut into 2 inch round circles using a cup or a ring mold. To keep it from drying, work with just a quarter of your dough at a time, keeping the rest under plastic or a kitchen towel.
Place half a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the shishbaraks. Dip your finger in the egg wash and brush the periphery of the circle (we're looking for a very light, thin layer of moisture).
Gently lift one side of the circle up and fold it over the filling to form a semi-circle. Working from one edge, carefully pressing out any extra air, create a seal around the filling. Pick up both corners of your semi-circle and start bringing them toward each other, working slowly at first to make sure the dough doesn't split or break. You want to bring them all the way together. Then tuck one corner just behind the other and give them a little squeeze; they should stick together easily, but if they don't you can add an extra dab of egg wash with your fingertip.
Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet dusted with a little flour as you work and cover with towel. Once all shishbarak are ready, place them in the pot with the boiling water and cook for about 4-5 minutes.
To make the sauce: You will start by making a roux, the base of the cream sauce. In a large sauté pan melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until fully combined. Add the milk and whisk until fully combined (once it gets to a boil the flour and milk will combine nicely).
Add the mint, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Once all ingredients of the sauce are combined, remove the tortellini from the water, add to the sauce, and toss for a minute. Sprinkle chopped scallions as garnish. Serve immediately.