Eat your way through the beauty queen of Jerusalem – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Discover unique Sephardic foods from Jerusalem.

“Of our entire family, I was the closest to Nona Rosa. During Nono Gabriel’s lifetime, his and Nona’s house was the center of the family. We met there on Friday evening for Shabbat and on Saturday morning for Huevos Haminados, which we ate with cheese-filled borekitas and sweet sütlaç rice pudding, on which Nona drew a Star of David with cinnamon.”

(The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, Sarit Yishai-Levi, St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2016)


Huevos hacinados (hard-boiled eggs overnight), borekitas (small cheesecakes), sütlaç (rice pudding), as well as macaroni ham (overnight noodle and chicken stew), sofrito (meat and potato dish), bizcochos (ring-shaped cookies), kiftikas de prasa (leek fritters) are just a few of the Sephardic dishes woven into the Ermoza family saga in the book The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem and now in a TV show available on Netflix.

The book follows four generations of the Ermozas in Jerusalem from the early 1900s to the 1970s, from the days of the Ottoman Empire through the British Mandate, the War of Independence and the early decades of the State of Israel. The family is part of Jerusalem’s Sephardi community, a community that dates back to the years after the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews. In the 19th century, more Sephardic Jews from Turkey and the Balkans, as well as Ashkenazi, Moroccan, Yemeni, and Kurdish Jews immigrated to Jerusalem, and the growing population, crammed into small neighborhoods within the walls of the Old City, began to move outward the walls expand. One of the first new neighborhoods was Ohel Moshe, a Sephardi neighborhood where we find the Ermoza family at the beginning of their history. It is right next to Shuk Machne Yehuda, the market where the family owned a deli.

What takes the reader deep into the worlds of Merkada, Roza, Luna and Gabriela are the constant appearances of homemade dishes, all of which they prepare using their original Ladin (Judeo-Spanish) names and their family traditions, conversations, arguments and life cycle events.

Macaroni Hamin

One dish that has stayed with the family for generations is macaroni and ham. Hamin is a generic name for overnight Shabbat stew, a name that first appeared in medieval Jewish Spain to refer to a simple night dish of meat and wheat berries.

Macaroni ham is a Sephardic version of noodles (macaroni refers to thick spaghetti), especially popular in Jerusalem, cooked with chicken and very little seasoning. As with many overnight Shabbat stews, the long hours of cooking over very low heat make this dish simply irresistible. The macaroni absorbs the fat and flavor of the chicken, and the chicken becomes so tender you can chew on the bone. It’s considered a summer ham because it’s lighter (relatively speaking, at least) than the regular beef, marrow bone, bean, and grain ham. Some versions include sliced ​​potatoes at the bottom of the pot, which crisp up and help form a pie-like shape when the pot is turned upside down into a serving platter. Most versions also include hard-boiled eggs, known in Ladino as huevos haminados, which turn a brown color with a creamy yolk after a night in the oven. These are the same huevos haminados that Gabriela fondly remembers eating on Shabbat morning at her Nono and Nona’s house. The ham itself would be served for lunch a few hours later.

Macaroni ham has other names, all related to the type of pasta used. It is sometimes called skulacha (from the word eskolacha, a type of noodle in Ladino) or hamin de skulacha (after Gizar Kon Gozo by Matilda Koen Sarano and Jerusalem of Delights by Rina Valero). I have found similar dishes in Syrian cookbooks (Bless your Hands by Sigi Mantel,) Lebanese cookbook where it is called treya from the Arabic word alatriya for vermicelli pasta (Lebanese cuisine by Gracia Grego) and in Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. Roden talks about dishes from Egypt and Morocco, also called treya or intriya, although these were not cooked overnight.

“My mother Luna died just before my eighteenth birthday. A year earlier, as the whole family sat around the table for lunch, as usual, and she served her famous pea and white rice sofrito, she sat down in her chair and said, “Dio santo, I can’t feel my leg.”

(The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, Sarit Yishai-Levi, St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2016)

(Sorry for the spoiler for those watching the TV show, but this is the first paragraph of the book…)


Sofrito is another unique Sephardic dish from Jerusalem. It does not refer to the famous tomato, garlic and pepper sauce that is the basis of many Latin American and Spanish dishes, but to a simple dish of meat and potatoes.

The beef or chicken pieces are browned or par-cooked, and the potatoes are then added to the same pot after being par-fried (sofrito, meaning fry first). The dish is cooked with almost no liquid. Over low heat, the potatoes are steamed over the meat, absorbing its rich aroma and flavor. It’s such a delicious dish and still very popular in Israel today.

Borekitas are small pastries from Turkey’s Borek family with a puff pastry shell and varying fillings of either feta-like salty cheese or roasted eggplant and more. Israelis love all kinds of borek, and you can find a huge variety ranging from Bulgarian pastelikos and banitsa to boyos and bulemas, as well as Israeli-style burekas made from puff pastry.

If you visit Jerusalem these days, you will find some companies that offer food and history tours based on the Beauty Queen of Jerusalem. But it’s possible to recreate some of this magic at home if you simply follow the recipes attached to this article and roll the Ladin names of the dishes on your tongue, just like Merkada and Roza.

Grab my Hamin Macaroni and Sofritos recipe to enjoy while you watch the next episode of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.

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