These fritters are inspired by a recipe from the early 1960s book “The Folklore Cookbook – Delicacies for the Israeli Holidays” by Molly Bar-David. The book starts with Independence Day, where Bar-David writes about the tradition of barbecuing on the holiday, explaining “shashlik is grilled over charcoal in the same way our ancestors did…. Many enjoy a festive meal at home, and chubeza (mallow) appears on many tables — the same mallow that was a staple ingredient during the siege of Jerusalem, in the Israeli War of Independence.” During the war, she continues, a woman named Mrs. Ben-Zvi foraged for mallow to feed children at a school in Talpiot that was cut off from the city. “The rumors about the mallow spread by word of mouth, but we could not transmit it over the radio because we were afraid the enemy would find out how hungry we were,” according to Mrs. Ben-Zvi. “Every Independence Day we eat mallow at the President’s House, both as a symbol and as a reminder.”
Although mallow cannot be found in the supermarket, it is a wild green that grows almost everywhere and has long been an important part of local Arab cooking. Zion Barnes, who researched books from the early years of the state to develop this recipe, explains: “One of the prominent values in the book is to look at what the Arab neighbors cooked, imitate, learn and thus connect to the land.” Nutrition historian, Erela Taharlev Ben Shachar adds that the Jewish pioneers had a complex culinary dialogue with the Arab population: On the one hand there was arrogance, and on the other, a desire to imitate and learn from them.
This dish is part of a collection of vegetarian and vegan recipes inspired by early Israeli cookbooks from just after the founding of the state. Check out the full collection here and read more about one of the cookbooks, “Sefer Bishul,” here.
- 4 potatoes, peeled
- 50-60 chubeza (mallow) leaves (about 4 cups)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons matzo meal
- Oil, for frying
- To serve:
- Lemon wedges
- Place the potatoes in a pot with salted water, bring to a boil and cook until softened (when a knife is inserted with little resistance, the potatoes are done). Strain and mash well with a fork.
- Blanch the mallow leaves in simmering salted water until just wilted, about 1 minute, depending on how young the leaves are. Transfer to a bowl with ice water to halt the cooking process. Strain, squeeze well and finely chop.
- Mix the chopped mallow, mashed potatoes, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Shape into patties 4cm/1½-in in diameter. Dip in the matzo meal on both sides until evenly coated.
- Heat 1½cm/½-in oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Serve hot or cold with tahini and a lemon wedge.