In my recent interview with cookbook author and magazine editor, Janna Gur, she described a recipe so delicious that I just had to share it. The recipe is for Syrian herb and meat latkes, called ijeh b'lahmeh. They're shaped into patties, bound with eggs, and fried in oil just like Hanukkah latkes. But instead of the grated potato most of us are used to, these latkes are made with ground beef and a delightful mess of chopped mint, parsley, cilantro, and scallions.
Originally from Syria, this recipe traveled with Syrian Jews to Israel and is now a highlight of Gur's most recent cookbook: Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh. For those celebrating Hanukkah, the dish would make a perfect addition to the holiday table. Gur writes: "Unlike potato latkes, ijeh can be made in advance and served at room temperature." Bonus!
And even after the holiday is over, these latkes are hearty enough to slip into a pita or baguette and enjoy for lunch or dinner.
Syrian Herb and Meat Latkes (Ijeh B'Lahmeh)
For the latkes:
4 large eggs
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons matzo meal or bread crumbs, plus extra if needed
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 bunch fresh mint
3 to 4 scallions (white and green parts)
10 ounces ground beef, or a lamb and beef mixture
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
To serve (optional):
Pita, bread rolls, or ciabatta
Slices of red onion
Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro
Put the eggs, onion, matzo meal or bread crumbs, parsley, cilantro, mint, and scallions in a food processor. Pulse until the herbs are chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, and pine nuts (if using) and mix thoroughly.
Heat a little bit of vegetable oil in a large nonstick frying pan. With a large spoon, ladle in pancakes 3 inches wide and fry over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until deep golden. Be careful not to crowd the pan (work in batches). Remove to paper towels to drain.
If desired, brush the pita with olive oil and toast in a hot pan or oven. Arrange the pancakes on the bread (it will absorb the flavorful juices) and top with red onion, herbs, tomato, and tahini spread. If not serving at once, store the pancakes in the refrigerator — they are delicious cold or at room temperature in a sandwich or as a light snack.
For a vegetarian variation: Skip the meat. Increase the amount of matzo meal or bread crumbs to 5 tablespoons. You might also want to add 1 to 2 chopped and slowly sautéed onions for extra flavor.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Jewish Soul Food by Janna Gur (Schocken Books, 2014).