Meatballs with Peas and Potatoes

Avia Astiuker

1 hour

4 servings

Meatballs with Peas and Potatoes

Meatballs with Peas and Potatoes | Photographer: Dror Einav

This recipe is part of Asif’s Open Kitchen Project where cooks who were evacuated during the war are invited to a home in Tel Aviv to cook a dish that they miss from their own home. Would you like to participate in the project? Register here.

When Avia Astiuker from kibbutz Nir-Am enters her host Hila Lee Luzon’s kitchen in Tel Aviv, she shares her greatest fear: that she may have lost the knack for cooking delicious food after being away from home for so long.

Evacuated with her husband and two young children to the Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv at the onset of the war, Astiuker shares that, despite having access to the hotel kitchen, she has struggled to find her place among the oversized pots and her recipes have turned out overly salty.

Growing up with a father from the USSR and a Persian mother, and being married to a partner whose family is Indian, Astiuker’s culinary repertoire is broad and comfortably blends flavors from different parts of the world. 

Avia Astiuker
Avia Astiuker in Hila Lee Luzon’s kitchen | Photographer: Dror Einav

Her in-laws were the owners of the Maharaja restaurant in Ramla, she shares, and they currently own the Maharaja store in Ashdod, which specializes in Indian products. It was through them that she learned to make basmati rice and delectable spiced vegetables.

As she cooks, she reminisces about the joy she felt the first day her children’s schools reopened. She was able to leave the hotel and spend the day in the family store in Ashdod where she was able to stock up on Kashmiri chili and mung beans for the dal she makes for her husband. Mid cooking, Astiuker realizes she forgot a unique multigrain flour blend from the store that she typically uses when making these meatballs. She asks her host for breadcrumbs, but there are only gluten-free ones on hand, so the dish is adapted.

In a last-minute realization, she nearly forgets to add tomato paste to the meatballs. “You see? It scares me that I’ll forget how to cook; I almost forgot how to make meatballs.” But they turn out deliciously. 

Lee Luzon, a young mother herself to a 5-year-old daughter, suggests another gathering on Saturday to make pancakes with their daughters. Astiuker is thrilled, saying: “I’ve discovered so many amazing people in Tel Aviv.”


For the meatballs:

500 grams (1.1lb) ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

½ cup finely chopped parsley

½ cup (60 grams) bread crumbs

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon chicken bouillon powder


For the sauce:

3 tablespoons neutral oil

1 onion, chopped

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups water

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into medium-sized cubes

1 cup green peas

1 handful chopped parsley


1 cup basmati rice

  1. Prepare the meatballs: Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Prepare the sauce: In the meantime, heat the oil in a wide pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the spices followed by the tomato paste, mix well, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add in 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the diced potatoes and bring back to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, divide the meatball mixture into 16 equal portions.
  7. Add the peas to the sauce and bring to a gentle boil. Add the meatballs and lightly shake the pot to ensure that the meatballs are fully covered in the sauce.
  8. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat, cover and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft and the sauce is reduced, about 30 minutes. Be sure to occasionally give the pot a shake to ensure the meatballs do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare the rice: Fill a pot with salted water, similar to preparing pasta, and bring to a boil. Add the desired amount of rice and bring to a second boil. Reduce to a low heat and cook until the rice is soft, occasionally checking its readiness with a spoon or fork. Once the rice is ready, drain the water, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and gently mix and fluff with a fork. This will prevent the rice from sticking when stored in the fridge.
  10. When the meatballs are ready, sprinkle chopped parsley on top and remove from the heat. Serve with the rice.