Amid Shortage, Israeli Chefs Cook Up Egg-ceptional Passover Alternatives
Chefs and bakers share holiday recipes as Agriculture Ministry vows to speed up egg imports in response to coronavirus-linked disruptions
Amid an ongoing egg shortage linked to COVID-19 disruptions, some Israeli chefs are crafting alternative Passover menus for customers and adapting meals specifically for those under quarantine.
Eggs are considered to be a staple food during Passover, a weeklong Jewish holiday that begins next week. During the Passover Seder ritual feast, Jews retell the story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. As part of the meal, it is customary to eat hard-boiled eggs dipped in salt and a traditional matzah ball soup, which also contains eggs.
Many supermarkets across Israel are now out of eggs completely while others have placed limits on how many cartons customers are allowed to purchase. Officials are blaming panic buying for the shortage. On Monday, the Agriculture Ministry announced that it would be speeding up the import of eggs from Europe in response to the growing demand.
Private chef Yossi Bendayan, who lives in the city of Maaleh Adumim and has worked in the culinary industry for some 30 years, told The Media Line that the egg shortage had not yet begun to affect him personally but that he had already adapted his holiday menu in light of the problem.
“For our Passover menu we put very few dishes that use eggs because we were concerned that there would be a shortage,” explained Bendayan, who owns his own business and who plans to deliver cooked meals to customers next week.
The menu includes options such as grilled eggplants with fresh oregano, olive oil and garlic; beet salad; salmon filet with baked vegetables, fresh herbs and white wine; braised beef with red wine and mushrooms; and mixed vegetables antipasti.
“Aside from my Passover menu which I’m offering to deliver for the holiday, I sit around and paint all day,” Bendayan said, noting that business has tanked since the coronavirus erupted in Israel.
Health Ministry directives currently only allow for restaurants that have delivery capabilities to remain open. For this reason, many chefs have resorted to cooking meals at home and delivering them to customers in order to maintain a source of income.
London-born Alex Spitzer, 29, worked at the upscale L28 restaurant in Tel Aviv up until a few weeks ago. Spitzer, who previously trained under world-renowned British chef Jamie Oliver, was in the process of becoming a sous-chef at L28 when they decided to close their doors.
Some of the dishes served at the L28 restaurant in Tel Aviv before it closed. (Facebook/L28)
“Things were going to happen for me there,” Spitzer told The Media Line. “It was a big blow, obviously.”
Because he was unable to find any other employment, Spitzer decided to begin cooking vegan meals at home and delivering them across Tel Aviv. While his reasonably-priced dishes make no use of eggs, he has opted not to create a special Passover menu because of the complicated Jewish dietary restrictions that the holiday entails.
Spitzer’s vegan delivery service has bloomed as more and more customers order meals online each day, but he is wary of ever-changing health directives.
“We’re literally taking every day as it comes,” he said.
Other chefs are facing similar harsh realities.
Elad Hayot, who lives in the agricultural commune of Shoeva near Jerusalem and who used to cook at private events, told The Media Line that business is nonexistent these days. Moreover, because he also works as a chef in an elderly care facility in Jerusalem, he is taking extra precautions.
“I cannot go to people’s houses because I work in a sensitive place,” Hayot explained. “So we started to cook dishes at home that we deliver in Jerusalem and the [surrounding] areas.”
Hayot revealed that he had begun changing his menu to feature more and more meals for customers that can be preserved in a freezer and used at a later date. Like Bendayan, he has not yet been affected by the egg shortage, although he works with his own suppliers.
“The prices are going up for meat, chicken and vegetables but we don’t have a lack of supplies,” he said.
On the baking side of the culinary spectrum, many are coming up with innovative solutions for the holiday as well.
Kenden Alfond, a baker who lives in Cambodia but who is originally from the state of Maine, started a website dedicated to plant-based Jewish food called Jewish Food Hero. On it she offers a number of Passover-friendly options that are also eggless.
“Since COVID-19, I am working more on the Jewish Food Hero Community Recipe series,” Alfond told The Media Line. “This is a series where I feature community members’ vegan recipes and our community loves these blog posts because they share delicious recipes and personal stories.”
Other bakers have resorted to online classes in a bid to survive the crisis.
Les Saidel owns the Saidel Jewish Baking Center, which specializes in giving classes and workshops to people on how to bake authentic Jewish bread and is located in the settlement of Karnei Shomron.
“Our main business is doing workshops and baking classes and that’s been annihilated by the coronavirus,” Saidel revealed to The Media Line. “We’ve been put out of business, unfortunately, so we’re trying to figure out how to give a workshop online.”
According to Saidel, egg suppliers in Israel consistently run out of stock around the Passover holiday each year regardless of the coronavirus. However, he added that there are substitutes that can be used in baking.
“In terms of the emulsifying property of eggs, it’s very hard to replace that with something else. The only thing that comes close to that is banana puree,” Saidel explained, adding that ¼ cup of banana puree is equivalent to approximately one egg.
Outside of Passover, he notes that one teaspoon of baking soda combined with a tablespoon of vinegar can aerate dough or batter in a manner that is reminiscent of eggs.
Passover-friendly eggless recipes:
Nepali Momo (Dumplings), by Chef Elad Hayot
Nepali momo dumplings. (Rabin Tuladhar/Wikimedia Commons)
Ingredients for dough:
500 g matzah flour/rice flour
250 ml tepid water
10 g baking powder
1 tsp. Vinegar
- Mix all the ingredients together until you reach a uniform, dough-like consistency. Let rest in fridge for one hour.
- Divide dough in two and form dough balls before flattening with a rolling pin.
Ingredients for filling:
0.5 kg ground beef/chicken/duck breast
1 cup finely chopped green onions
1 cup finely chopped white cabbage, lightly salted and drained
1 tbsp. chopped ginger
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp. soy sauce
Salt and chili pepper to taste
1 tbsp. date honey or regular honey
1 tbsp. sesame oil
- Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for one hour in the fridge.
- After both the dough and the filling have rested, begin spooning filling into the dough and form dumplings.
- Fill pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt, chili pepper and bay leaves to water for more flavor.
- Once water is boiling, cook dumplings for roughly five minutes until they float and are cooked on the inside.
- Serve with soy sauce, chili sauce and fresh cilantro.
Meatballs in Onion Sauce, by Chef Yossi Bendayan
Ingredients for meatballs:
1 kg ground beef
1 large onion, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
½ bouquet parsley
1 large potato (to replace breadcrumbs and eggs)
¼ cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
2 nutmeg seeds
Ingredients for sauce:
½ cup canola oil
10 onions cut into large chunks
Salt and pepper
¼ tsp. turmeric
- Take onion, garlic, parsley and potato and place in food processor until a uniform (yet still grainy) puree is reached.
- Mix the puree well with the meat and the rest of meatball ingredients.
- Form meatballs.
- Heat canola oil in a large pan. Add onion chunks and spices.
- Mix the onions with the oil in a pot, cover and let cook for roughly 5 minutes over high heat.
- Lower the heat and continue to cook onions with the pot remaining covered for another hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the meatballs into the pot and cover.
- After 10 minutes, open the pot and gently move onions around, ensuring that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Continue to cook the meatballs in a partly covered pot until the onions are soft and caramelized. This step could take an additional hour.
- Remember to gently stir occasionally in order to ensure that the meatballs retain their shape.
- Serve and enjoy!
Sweet and Spicy Chicken in Dried Fruit, by Chef Yossi Bendayan
4 chicken leg quarters, divided into legs and thighs
5 cloves garlic
1 ginger roots, grated
1 tbsp. paprika
3 tbsp. honey
1 dried red chili pepper, chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
2 onions, sliced
200 g dried plums
200 g dried apricots
- Marinate the chicken in the spice mixture and honey for 24 hours.
- The next day, fry the chicken pieces in a small amount of oil until they are brown.
- Set browned chicken pieces aside and cook the onions in the same oil until they are lightly caramelized.
- Return the chicken to the pan, adding whatever is left of the marinade in addition to one cup of water. Cook over low heat until a uniform sauce is formed.
- Add the dried fruits and cook for an additional 20 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.
- Serve hot, garnishing with roasted almonds if desired.
Mushroom and Walnut Gardener’s Pie with Butternut Squash Topping (contains kitniyot), by Jewish Food Hero Kitchen
(Screenshot: Jewish Food Hero Kitchen website)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 90 minutes
1 small butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and deseeded
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 lb. (450 g) mushrooms, chopped
1 red chili pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 ½ tbsp. white miso paste
3 cups (225 g) cooked lentils
½ cup (125 ml) vegetable broth
2 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
3 oz. (90 g) walnuts, chopped
½ cup (125 ml) unsweetened oat milk (or almond milk), warmed
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400º F (200º C).
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and lay the two butternut squash halves, cut-side-down, onto the baking sheet. Place the squash into the oven to roast until fork tender, around 30-40 minutes.
- While the butternut squash is roasting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and carrots; season with a fat pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables become slightly soft, around 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the mushrooms and season with another small pinch of salt to draw out the water from the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water from the mushrooms cooks down, around 5-7 minutes.
- Add in the chili pepper, garlic, and thyme; cook for another minute or until the garlic becomes really fragrant.
- Add in the miso, lentils, broth, soy sauce and walnuts; season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Let the mixture bubble away until everything is nicely warmed through and slightly thickened, around 6-8 minutes.
- Once the butternut squash is fork-tender, discard the peel and transfer the warm flesh into a medium mixing bowl. Add in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the warm oat milk; mash with a potato masher until a smooth puree forms.
- Transfer the mushroom and lentil mixture into a large casserole pan and top with the butternut squash puree. Place in the oven to bake until the pie becomes bubbly around the edges and the puree topping turns lightly golden-brown around the edges, around 10-15 minutes.
- Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 24 cookies), by Les Saidel
⅔ cup sugar
½ cup banana puree
1 tsp. vanilla essence
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups fine matzah flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate chips
- Cream margarine (softened, not liquid) and sugar.
- Add banana puree, vanilla, salt, baking soda and cocoa and mix well.
- Gradually add flour and mix until a lump of dough is formed.
- Add chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated.
- Roll into small balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes at 180º C (360º F).
Kosher-for-Passover Apple Pistachio Cake, by Jewish Food Hero Kitchen
(Screenshot: Jewish Food Hero Kitchen website)
Ingredients for cake:
3/4 cup matzah meal (or matzah cake meal)
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tsp. kosher for Passover baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup finely grated yellow summer squash (from about 1 small summer squash)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 flax “egg”: 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp. water
Ingredients for apple filling:
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
Ingredients for cinnamon sugar:
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
Ingredients for topping:
2–3 tbsp. chopped unsalted pistachios
Nondairy vanilla ice cream (if planning to serve hot) or a sprinkling of kosher for Passover powdered sugar (if planning to serve cool)
- Preheat the oven to 350º F.
- Make the cake batter. Prepare the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the matzah meal, potato starch, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
- Prepare the wet ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, summer squash, sugar, orange juice, flax “egg,” and water.
- Stir to combine and set aside.
- Combine the two mixtures: Add the dry mixture to the wet, and stir to combine until you have a smooth batter.
- Make the cinnamon-sugar mixture: In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.
- Assemble the cake and bake: Pour half the cake batter into a lightly oiled cake pan or springform pan.
- Top with half the prepared apple slices.
- Sprinkle with half the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
- Spread the remaining cake batter on top.
- Arrange the remaining apple slices in a pretty pattern on top of the cake.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture and the chopped pistachios.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- Serve warm or cool. Serve either as is, or with a scoop of nondairy vanilla ice cream (if serving hot), or with a sprinkling of kosher for Passover powdered sugar if serving cool.