The Libyan Jewish Meat and Potato Recipe You Are Going to Crave This Winter

Science and Health

Mafrum is a Jewish Libyan dish of potato stuffed with spiced ground beef, then simmered in a tomato sauce. It is traditionally eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. 

The Libyan kitchen is a mix of Arabic and Mediterranean food, with a strong Italian influence. But since the early 1950s, when the vast majority of Libyan Jews immigrated to Israel, mafrum has evolved. It quickly became very popular in Israel, where it has been interpreted by Jews from different countries, such as Tunisia, Morocco and even Egypt.

I grew up on this dish. My late grandmother used to make it for holidays and it’s one of my family’s favorite dishes for Shabbat. My mom serves it over couscous with a side of tahini sauce and a finely chopped vegetable salad.

My interpretation of mafrum is a little bit different, mostly because in the original recipe you only use tomato paste for the sauce. I love fresh tomatoes, which is why I use them as a base for my sauce. They make the sauce a bit richer, and put a new spin on it. Sometimes, to make the dish a little lighter, I replace the traditional potato with eggplant, which is my favorite vegetable. But it is the potato version that I want to cook and eat on cold winter nights. I serve it the same way my mom does: the tahini sauce is perfect, the salad brings freshness, and if you squeeze fresh lemon on top of it all, you’re basically in heaven.

Photo credit Shimi Aaron

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