The Shalom-al-lechem food blog focuses not just on food, but also on the tradition of Shabbat dinners in Israel and abroad, and on the special traditions and customs brought to Jerusalem that have created a unique collection of people and flavors. Each Shalom-al-lechem meal has two hosts – a Sabra (native Israeli) and an Oleh.
The menu is generally designed based on their family traditions/where their grandparents are from, and their own personal taste in food. But hosts are also welcome to make requests; they can ask to have a meal that reminds them of home, or a meal reflecting a new start in Jerusalem. Here you will meet the hosts, learn about their traditions, and get exclusive recipes from our Jerusalem Chef, Avital Blass.
And so, we are proud to present our first hosts: Alon and Naama Kuba.
Alon and Naama are an authentic Jerusalemite couple, living on the border of Katamon-Rehavya. They actually live in one of the ‘Biberman’ houses, the same building used to defend the city during its siege in 1948.
Alon and Naama have been married for 2 years, and because their families live outside of Jerusalem, they have created a new tradition of their own. On Friday nights Alon and Naama invite many friends to a festive dinner with a white tablecloth and a traditional secular Kiddush. Their guests never come empty handed, and spice up the evening with an array of creative dishes. But most of their friends are from Israel, and they wanted to diversify their guest list.
When Alon and Naama cook for themselves they usually eat bread with Tahini, but when they cook for Shabbat they try to prepare special dishes, such as stuffed chicken, rice, ktzitzot, soups and more. Usually Naama is in charge of the cooking while Alon plays with the spices and dishes (and they do have a lot of both).
The spice collection is indeed one of the most notable things in the kitchen. There are a wide variety of spices placed by the window, all of them from the Machane Yehuda Shuk. In addition to the dried spices, Alon and Naama are nurturing a small herb garden in their living room window.
“We really love to mix tastes, sometimes we just take spices and mix them together – creating new and unexpected combinations, like Amba and honey! And of course all the tea that we drink comes from dried leaves and mostly what we grow here: Mint, Sage and Luisa.”
Alon and Naama may appear to be serious foodies, but there is a surprise in their freezer: Like many other young adults, they get regular deliveries from their parents! They have a selection of all the best dishes from last week: lasagna, soups, schnitzel, spelt flour cake, and loads of Mango.
Coffee is another staple in their house; in all sorts, types, and colors. Alon drinks most of it. He is a real coffee addict. Naama drinks decaf once in a while. I even found Koba coffee in his freezer, which is actually from Mexico, but if you take Alon’s word for it, “ it’s not such great coffee.”
Alon and Naama requested Kuba soup for their Shalom-al-lechem menu. Mostly because of the connection to their last name, but also just because it’s great for a Shabbat meal.
“We really like Kuba but usually we don’t take the time to make it at home. We can just go on Friday afternoon to Machane Yehuda and get the best Kuba soup there.”
Alon and Naama’s co-host, Alan Hofman made aliyah to Jerusalem from Argentina 3 years ago and requested his new favorite Mediterranean dish, Musaka.
“Back in Argentina we didn’t really had a tradition of Shabbat Dinners, but since I arrived to Israel I discovered the Shabbat dinner culture, and I’m participating in Friday night dinners every week. Many of the times I host in my home and I make all the food. For the Shalom-al-lechem dinner I asked for Musaka, I had never had it before I came to Israel and I just love it!”
These hosts and their guests had a fabulous night of food and conversation, and are planning to organize another evening soon. Here are 6 reasons why you should apply to host a Shalom-al-lechem dinner too!
And here are the recipes. Disclaimer: if you choose to make these dishes for Shabbat dinner, your guests may end up hanging out until 2am! If you have any questions about the recipes, feel free to leave a comment and our chef will answer you. Don’t forget to drop us a line and let us know how your dishes came out!
Red Iraqi Kuba Soup
1/2 kg of fine bulgur wheat 400 grams of semolina 4 teaspoons of salt
Ingredients for the filling:
1/2 kg of ground beef 1 medium onion, finely chopped A bunch of chopped parsley 3-4 teaspoons of black pepper 3 tablespoons of sweet paprika 2 teaspoons of Bharat 1 teaspoon of salt Ingredients for the soup: 4 tablespoons of oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped 3 zucchini coarsely chopped 4 tomatoes, finely chopped 2 medium beets, peeled and diced Half a pound of coarsely chopped pumpkin Celery – finely cut the stem, leaving the leaves intact A bunch of chopped parsley 2 teaspoons of curcumin 1 teaspoon of cayenne 1 heaping tablespoon of sweet paprika 1 teaspoon of cumin Juice from one lemon 1 tablespoon of brown sugar 1 teaspoon of salt 200 grams of tomato paste Half a liter of water 1 orange, cut into slices
Preparation of the Kuba:
- Sift the bulgur, wash it twice or more until you see the water are no longer white. Place the bulgur in a bowl and cover it with water – have about 3 centimeters above the bulgur because it absorbs fluid and swells slightly. Soak for 15 minutes, then drain.
- Wash the semolina well. Rinse does not only cleans it but also makes it softer. Drain in a dense strainer. If you do not have a dense strainer you can squeeze the semolina with your hands. Place the semolina in a bowl with the bulgur, add the salt, stir and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.
- You should get a relatively sticky mixture, so the bulgur will not crumble. If when making a ball it crumbles and the hand is remains “dirty”, it means that the mixture is not uniform enough and you need to add more semolina and salt – both function as glue for the dough. If the dough is dry you can add a little water.
- Prepare the filling: Mix well all the ingredients for the filling.
- Preparation of Kuba: Once the meat mixture is ready you can start preparing to fill the Kuba. Prepare a bowl with water and place it next to a bowl of bulgur. Between each other Kuba dip your hands in the water and this will ensure that the dough does not stick to hands and you’ll be able to make a perfect Kuba.
- Roll dough ball in your hand, about the size of a ping-pong ball, and begin to flatten it on the surface of the palm. Place half a tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center and begin to fold and close the Kuba all sides. After making the ball press down gently the sides for the final shape.
- Freeze at least two hours
Preparation of the Soup:
- Fry the onion in oil until transparent, add the rest of the chopped vegetables (except tomatoes) stir and steam for a few minutes until softened slightly.
- Add the tomatoes, stirring and seasoning. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice and sugar and finally the water. Bring to a boil and add the orange slices. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour. Add the Kuba and cook for another half hour. Before serving, you can remove the orange slices and celery leaves.
3 large eggplants Coarse salt Olive oil Thyme
Ingredients for the Meat:
½ kg of ground beef Onion, chopped 4 cloves of garlic chopped Sprig of thyme Sprig of sage leaves, finely chopped (optional) Box of crushed tomatoes Salt and pepper to taste 250 grams of tomato paste ½ a cup of boiling water
- Slice the eggplant to thickness of about 2 cm and top them with coarse salt. let them rest for ten minutes until eggplant is “sweating” and shedding juice. Wash and dry them.
- Put the slices in a baking pan, drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Bake at 180 degrees between 20-30 minutes. until the eggplants are golden and soft.
- While the eggplants are in the oven, fry the onion. When is translucent, add the meat and garlic, fry until the meat is done and changes it color from red to brown. Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes and turn off the heat.
Assembling the dish:
- Arrange a layer of eggplant slices in a mold (like lasagna) and pour half of the meat mixture over it. Spread the mixture and top it with another layer of eggplant, pour the rest of the meat and arrange over the last layer of eggplant.
- Mix the tomato paste with water and pour over the last layer of eggplant. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Cover and place in a hot oven (180 degrees) for 20 minutes.