One of the wonderful things about cooking in the Galilee is that one common, family, everyday recipe can have so many variations. I have a number of hosts who show guests how to prepare authentic Galilean cuisine and each one of them prepares the sinye in a slightly different way. To be honest, I’ve had to argue with my hosts, just to get them them to include sinye on the menu. To them, it’s too common. To my guests, wonderfully exotic and embodies their image of authentic cooking in the Galilee.
Let’s start with the meat. Usually it comprises of ground beef with a little lamb fat for flavour. One of my hosts turns up her nose, saying that it must be at least 50% lamb. Then yet another host makes it with a mix of chicken breast and dark leg meat. Which one is the real one? All of them!
And then there’s the issue of shape. Should it be one large meatloaf, or smaller individual kebabs? There are those that fry the kebabs in olive oil, broil them on the barbeque or bake them in the oven.
To finish the portion off, we can add just tomatoes, just tehina, or a combination of the two. You can finish the cooking off either in the oven or in the frying pan. As might be expected, a sprinkling of chopped parsley is optional. It doesn’t matter which variation you choose, it’s genuine, it’s authentic and it’s delicious!
When I saw my hosts adding cherry tomatoes to the kebab and tehina sinye, I was aghast. “this isn’t authentic cooking. Cherry tomatoes were developed in Israel in the 1960’s . That isn’t traditional”. My hosts smile at me in a patronizing way. “but that’s how we cook. It looks nice and tastes good. My kids love it,” they will reply. Of course, they’re absolutely right. Authentic cooking isn’t just about recipes handed down from generation to generation, it’s about a living, changing way of eating that may have its roots in the past but adapts to the modern world.
That’s cooking in the Galilee!!
Kebabs – I kg/2 lbs minced meat – beef or chicken or a mix of it. The meat should not be minced too fine. The coarser the better.
25 gr./1 oz. lamb fat, minced.
1/2 an onion, minced or grated into the meat.
1 heaped teaspoon minced garlic.
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped fine, or 1 spoon dried parsley.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Tehina – 2 cups of tehina (whole-grain tehina is best)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup of cold water (important that it is cold)
(Garlic to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of salt.
**it is essential to make the tehina from scratch. Store bought, ready-to-eat tehina will separate in cooking and will not give the desired result.
1 onion, sliced
Mix all the kebab ingrediants together well. Let rest for 1/2 an hour at least.
Meanwhile, prepare the tehina. Add all the ingredients together, stirring with a whisk. The mixture might be lumpy at first. Not to worry. Keep stirring. If it is too thick, add a little more cold water. The consistency should be quite thin. It will thicken with cooking.
Correct taste. It should be quite lemony.
Set tehina aside.
Roll kebabs into 5 cm/2″ balls. Sauté, in batches, in olive oil until browned on both sides but not cooked through. Set browned kebabs aside. Add the sliced onion to the hot oil used fro frying the kebabs. Fry the onion quickly for 2-3 minutes until it just starts to change color.
Lay kebabs on to a clean frying pan (or oven tray) cover with fried onion. Pour tehina over the kebabs and jostle the pan a little so the tehina seeps between the kebabs and spreads evenly. Place the frying pan over medium heat or oven tray in oven, pre-heated to 180˚C.
Cook for 5 minutes, until the tehina thickens and changes colour from white to light brown.
**it is possible to add sliced tomatoes or cherry tomatoes when pouring the tehina over the kebabs. Cherry tomatoes give added flavor and colour.