The Cook from Agrippas Street

by Sarah on April 12, 2010

agrippas street, Jerusalem

It is on this street in Jerusalem, lined with shops, alleyways and cafes, that Aviva Ben Yoseph, was born and raised in the early years of Israel.  Her cookbook is not only a wonderful compendium of her mother’s Sephardic recipes but a tribute to her and glimpse of a culture that has all but vanished with time. The author recreates the smells and flavors emanating from her mother’s tiny kitchen and the bustle and noise from the nearby Mahane Yehuda shuk, with the help of photographs depicting life years ago and of Agrippas street and the shuk as they are now.

Mahane yehuda, Jerusalem

mahane yehuda, Jerusalem

Her recipes are an amalgam of Middle Eastern and Sephardic cooking, some of them handed down from mother to daughter, other recipes perhaps influenced by neighbors and friends.  The wandering Jews of the Middle East had a propensity to travel more than their Arab compatriots often searching for a safe haven or better economical conditions. It is for this reason that many Jewish recipes reflect their travels and deviate from the standard. In Aviva’s cookbook there are kubba recipes from Iraq, Syrian style stuffed onion and cheesy Turkish bureks.

Meatballs with bulgur

Meatballs with Bulgur

This is a recipe from Aviva’s book and an easy way to incorporate bulgur into dishes besides the ubiquitous tabouleh and fried kibbeh. Although this is a Turkish influenced recipe, the addition of coriander is definitely not Turkish as it is an herb rarely seen in Turkish cuisine and very difficult to obtain there.

500 grams ground beef or lamb

1/2 cup fine bulgur

1 onion, coarsely grated

1 cup chopped parsley

1 cup chopped coriander

2 eggs

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Wash the bulgur and let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients and mix well.

With your hands create flat meatballs and fry in enough oil so it comes half way up the meatball. Fry on one side and then the other. Serve with fresh tomato and cucumber salad.

*Agrippas Street is named after the grandson of Herod the Great, the brutal King of the Jews who had a penchant for killing his wives and living an extravagant lifestyle (somewhat like Henry VIII of England), relicts which can be seen in his palace in Masada. His grandson Agrippas inherited his excessive spending habit and fled Rome to escape his dept, later to become the King of Judea. His image and namesake is preserved on ancient coins and two thousand years later, it is the main thoroughfare  to reach the Mahane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem, the biggest shopping area in the city. I think Agrippas would have liked that.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin from Israel April 12, 2010 at 11:35 am

Your meatballs look delicious, and that cookbook sounds fascinating. I’ll keep my eyes out for it next time I’m in a bookstore.

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Yael April 13, 2010 at 4:22 am

Love Shuk Mahne Yehuda, you should come over sometime and I’ll skip work and we’ll go to the shuk together. It’s a lot of fun and so far from where I work.

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citronetvanille April 13, 2010 at 7:21 am

Oh I was in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv last January, wonderful food, and those markets so much fun! Great meatballs, especially with the cracked wheat addition!

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Sarah April 18, 2010 at 1:50 am

Next time you are in Israel we can go shuking together!

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Helene April 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Can you tell me what the name of Aviva Ben Joseph’s cookbook is and where I can find it? Thanks!

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Sarah April 15, 2010 at 8:48 pm

the title of the book is The Cook From Agrippas Street and it is in Hebrew. I bought it at the local bookstore (steimatzky), Karpad publishers.
I have not seen an English translation.

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