Food for friends: make them a Middle East Stew! by Pat Franklin

Do you have a friend who has just had a baby, or has lost a loved one, or a friend who is coming out of the hospital?  Start cooking!  That is what they do inIsrael, and what a blessing it is!

 On our trips to Israel, I have been struck by this.  When a new baby arrives, so do the friends and neighbours, all with some small gift and some large casserole or cake.

 This is such a help to a new mother who is struggling to find a moment’s time for anything other than the baby.  And the casseroles and cakes can go on for a few weeks!  This is really something, folks, a wonderful blessing to a family trying to cope with all the pressures of modern life and a baby as well.

 And when someone dies in Israel, the food starts arriving – Jewish food, Arab food, wow.  Talk about delicious.  It helps, dear friends.  It really helps a family get through a dark time.

 And as for people coming out of the hospital, well – they gotta eat too!  And they probably won’t feel up to doing much cooking themselves for a while.  How they would appreciate some tasty meals.

 And in the Bible, I see that God really likes people having a good time eating and talking.  He’s not a killjoy!  You don’t have to grimly grind through life.  In fact the seven Jewish feasts He commanded the ancient Jews to keep are feasts, not fasts. There is a lot about hospitality and eating in the Bible, and in fact it is so rewarding – better to give than receive in fact, but it’s also very humbling to be on the receiving end if you are in one of those tough times yourself. 

Here is a recipe.  I call is Middle Eastern Stew.  It is cheap and easy to make and people seem to like it.  Our daughter in Israel makes it all the time, and her kids love it.  Best of all, you can make a huge vat of it and freeze some.  It makes a great gift to take someone who needs a helping hand in the cooking department.  And if you don’t like Middle Eastern, you can leave the spices out and just have it with plain gravy. 

I like to double or triple the amounts, but I will just give a basic recipe which will feed four people.

 Middle Eastern Stew

 1 pound ground beef

4-6 ounces lentils, green or red

1 onion chopped

 chopped garlic

4-6 large carrots, chopped in biggish pieces,

Any other vegetable you feel like adding – celery, green pepper, celeriac, cauliflower, cabbage etc.


Beef stock cube

Cumin, turmeric


Brown the meat and onions together in a large pan.  Add lentils, carrots, stock cube, enough water to cover the lentils. Put a lid on and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

 Then add garlic and softer vegetables like cabbage which don’t take long to cook.  Add a good 2 teaspoons cumin, and 2 teaspoons turmeric and simmer for another 10 minutes. 

 Taste it and add more spices if you like.  Then you can just turn it off, and sometimesI drape a kitchen towel over it to keep the heat in. 

 For a variation, add 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon as well as the cumin and turmeric, and see how  you like the flavour.  Paprika is another spice to try with this stew sometime.  To make it richer, add a can of tomatoes or some tomato puree.  Be creative.

 You can thicken it with cornflour if needed. 

In Israel our daughter always serves this stew with rice and a salad of shredded cabbage, with a lemon squeezed into it, lots of olive oil poured over it, and salt.  Her children love this salad, and the stew as well! 

For a really special treat, put a carton of sour cream on the table and let people dollop it on top of the stew on their plates.  It is really yummy.  

And if you’re making this for a friend, don’t forget to give them a carton of sour cream!  Sour cream in Israel is called 'shemenet' - pronounced shuh-men-et, accent on the 'men'.  This is one of the few Hebrew words I know, only because our one grandaughter asks for 'more shemenet please'.

And last of all, why not make it for someone who is not really a friend?  God sends rain on the just and the unjust. 





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