“And what about the pumpkin sauce?” asked Daniel the taxi driver “did you put pumpkin sauce in the fricassee?”
I was telling Daniel about my neighbor Evelyne’s wonderful Tunisian sandwich called fricassee and I definitely did not recall that she put any pumpkin sauce in it.
“No, we ate it without pumpkin sauce”
Daniel drew in his breath and shook his head.
“Without pumpkin sauce?” he answered incredulously” It’s not Fricassee without the pumpkin sauce! Wait, I have just the person to give you the recipe”
He then went on to call his favorite Tunisian client while cruising down the Ayalon highway and on an old shopping receipt I wrote down the ultimate recipe for pumpkin sauce.
That was almost a year ago and I never did get around to making fricassee but last week I was at the Ramla shuk which supposedly has the best fricassee joint in Israel. Actually, it has the two best fricassee joints, right across from each other, in steep competition as is the natural way of things at the shuk.
My mother who was visiting was not at all impressed at Eli’s little establishment, right at the entrance to the parking lot with all the dust and commotion but that didn’t seem to deter anybody. The place was packed. I took several pictures of the showcase with the reluctant permission of the owner and when I needed to take the critical picture the Tunisian sandwich masterpiece I ate it (sorry, but I was starving). On my second visit, Eli was especially congenial, proud of being included in a newspaper article about successful small businesses which was published that day.
It contained preserved lemon sauce, pumpkin sauce, harissa, olives, tuna, hardboiled egg, capers and fresh finely chopped vegetable salad. It was a complete delicious mess to eat, with juices dripping down my hands and all over the waxed paper it was served in. I promise my dear readers that I will go back to take a picture of it and then I will check out the competition. It just so happens that the owner married a Mexican so I wouldn’t be surprised if salsa verde is yet another topping offered in the future.
When we got back Evelyne invited my Mom to see how she makes the fried buns called fricassee. I was baking lahmajoon at the time so sent my 10 year old son, Alon to photograph her making them.
The French as well as Italians left their mark on Tunisian soil. The name fricassee comes from the French meaning fried and separated. This is an adaptation of the French baguette style bread but here the dough is first fried than separated and filled with the essence of Tunisia. In Italy Fricassee is a type of cut up stewed chicken. According to Chef Farid Zadi, the street vendors improvised by frying the dough instead of baking it because they lacked ovens or didn’t have access to the popular baguettes.
500 grams pumpkin
4 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ cup vegetable oil, such as canola
1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
Juice of one lemon
The Fricassee buns
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg (optional)
1 1/4 cup water
2-3 boiled potatoes, cubed
4 boiled eggs, sliced
3-4 pickled cucumbers, sliced lengthwise
100 grams olives, pitted and sliced
100 grams, fresh or canned tuna
10 pickled lemons, quartered
Roasted pepper salad
Cook the pumpkin and garlic in a little water until soft. Mash together with the remainder of the ingredients.
In a mixer, combine flour, oil, salt and egg if using. Add the yeast and while the machine is running slowly pour in the water, about 1 cup (if not using egg about 1 1/4 cups water). It might not be necessary to use all the water. Knead the dough in the mixer for about 10 minutes, or until the dough does not break when stretched between two fingers. Cover and let rise in a warm place. After the dough has doubled its size, knead and form 20 balls. Shape the balls into elongated buns and leave them to rise for about 30 minutes or until they double in size.
In a deep pan heat the oil and fry the buns. The oil should come half way up the buns. When the buns are cool enough to handle, slice them and fill them with a bit of everything. They can be eaten hot or cold.