From Egypt, a Traditional Dish Links to an Ongoing Struggle

By Elizabeth Alpern

Published April 13, 2011, issue of April 22, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

At the start of 2011 the world watched as the Egyptian people overthrew longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. It is not often that we can so easily honor the Haggadah’s instruction that “In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally has come out of Egypt.”

The Jewish community of Egypt dates back to the time of the prophet Jeremiah (587 B.C.E.) and has a long and storied presence in the country. By the sixteenth century it consisted of Arabic-speaking, North African and Spanish Jewish immigrants. Today, that community has all but disappeared, but the Jewish connection with Egypt lives on through historical ties, the Haggadah and of course, food.

Mina (also spelled mayeena and meena) is a Sephardic matzo casserole commonly found on the Egyptian Jewish seder table. Derived conceptually from a layered pastry, mina can be served as a side dish or a main course, made to be meat or dairy, and is often stuffed with green vegetables such as leeks or spinach, symbolic of spring and new beginnings.

As we eat mina during Passover this year, let us honor and be inspired by the newly found freedom of modern day Egyptians.

Though the number of spices in this dish may be intimidating, the combination is very important and all can be found at major grocery stores. Also, you may choose to grind spices with a mortar and pestle, though the original recipe does not specify that as a necessary step.

Leek Mina for Passover (Mina de Carne con Prassa)

From “Sepharidic Cookery: Traditional Recipes for a Joyful Table,” by Emilie de Vidas Levy, reprinted with permission from Irma Lopes Cardozo of the Women’s Division of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America.

8 matzo squares

2 pounds chopped beef, lightly browned

2 mashed potatoes

leeks, 5-6 stalks

6 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

oil for greasing pan

water for soaking matzo

1. Soak matzo squares in water until soft. Drain on paper towels and reserve. Trim leaks, cut into ringlets and wash thoroughly, using the white part and some of the green if fresh. Boil leeks for 14 minutes and drain.

2. Keep liquid for soup. Mix leeks with browned, chopped meat. Add mashed potatoes and salt. Beat 5 eggs and add to meat mixture.

3. Grease 12x9x2 inch baking pan with oil, or use a casserole dish, 8 inches in diameter. Cover the pan with half of the matzo squares. Spread the meat mixture over them and cover with a layer of the rest of the matzo. Beat remaining egg and pour over the top.

4. Bake in moderate oven at 375 degrees for one hour. Serves 8.

Variation: You may omit leeks and substitute 2 chopped onions and ½ cup chopped parsley which are added to the meat. Bake as above.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.