Give a Fig!

One of the most memorable dishes I enjoyed in Israel was chicken-stuffed figs in tamarind sauce, at chef Moshe Basson’s Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem. Tamarind concentrate is sold in blocks at Asian markets. To save time, you could use ground chicken or turkey.

Moshe Basson’s Chicken-Stuffed Figs

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped

  • 2 chicken breasts, finely chopped

  • 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Salt to taste

  • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate

  • 2 cups water

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 24 fresh or dried figs

In a wok, heat the onion in the oil until golden brown. Add the chopped chicken breast and half of each spice, stirring well and turning until white (about three minutes). Turn out into a bowl and cool.

In the same wok, without cleaning it, add the tamarind, sugar and the remaining spices in water, stir well and bring to boil. Lower the heat and stir until sauce is smooth and velvety. Set aside.

With fresh figs, make a small incision in the upper part, so it can be closed back after stuffing. With a very small spoon, dig out the flesh and stuff the fig with about 1 tablespoon of the chicken mixture.

Take dried figs and make a small indentation in each with a finger and push in a small amount of the chicken breast mixture.

Place the figs into the sauce in the wok, cover and bring to boil. Lower the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes. Serve with white rice or couscous. Serves four.

Shakshuka a la Dr. Shakshuka

The specialty of the well-known Dr. Shakshouka restaurant in Jaffa is the egg and tomato dish that gives the establishment its name. I enjoyed this dish on my last night in Israel, a perfect finale.

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, unpeeled and cut in quarters, or 28-ounce of can tomatoes

  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly diced

  • 2 teaspoons salt or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 6 large eggs

Place all ingredients, except the eggs, in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered over low heat until thick, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle the tomato sauce into a greased 12-inch frying pan. Bring to a simmer and break the eggs over the tomatoes. Gently break the yolks with a fork.

Cover and continue to cook for about three to four minutes, until the eggs are set. Bring the frying pan directly to the table, set on a trivet and serve. Serves six.

These recipes and others are found at