Shabbat Shalom! I recently returned from New York where I attended the Jewish Food Media Conference. A highlight was meeting Gil Hovav, Israel’s leading culinary journalist and a popular TV personality.

Hovav is a masterful storyteller and a born raconteur. In his new book, Candies from Heaven, Gil introduces us to an unforgettable gallery of colorful uncles, aunts, and other family members, with food stories and recipes woven throughout. His witty and charming autobiographical accounts of growing up in Jerusalem in the 60s and 70s are like reading short stories in the great tradition of Sholem Aleichem.

Gil Hovav comes from one of the most respected lineages in the Jewish world: he is the great-grandson of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language. He has played a major role in the remaking of Israeli cuisine and the transformation of Israel into a “gourmet nation.” Candies form Heaven includes 22 funny, heart-warming stories, awash with love and longing for the people who raised a skinny, cross-eyed Jerusalemite boy to love poor-man’s food, to love proper Hebrew and, especially to love people.

Hovav shares beloved family recipes for dishes such as his Aunt Levana’s Bourekas with Eggplant Filling, Chorva (Butterfly Soup), and Moustachedos (see recipes below). You’ll also find recipes for Mejadara—A Rice and Lentil Dish, Spicy Fish, Levana’s Carrot Salad, Bulemas with Swiss Chard, Moroccan Chicken in Paprika and Lemon, Rose–shaped Poppy Seed Rolls, and Slow–Cooked Eggs (Huevos Haminados).

Dig in, dear readers, pleasure is served!


Adapted from Candies from Heaven by Gil Hovav, Toad Publishing (2017)

These Judeo-Spanish peanut cookies are the model of simplicity: few and inexpensive ingredients, exotic seasoning, a single bowl for mixing everything and a short baking time—and besides producing a delicacy, an irresistible aroma will fill your entire home (and the neighborhood too).

2 lbs shelled unsalted peanuts, papery skins removed

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix everything well in a big bowl until all the peanuts are glistening and thoroughly coated in the egg-and-sugar mixture.
  2. Line flat baking pans with parchment paper. Drop small mounds of the mixture (2 teaspoons of batter at a time), leaving equal space between mounds. No need to flatten.
  3. Bake until the cookies turn brown, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, and cool completely before peeling the cookies from the baking paper. Store in a sealed jar.


Adapted from Candies from Heaven by Gil Hovav, Toad Publishing (2017)

Chorva is a general name for soup—ciorbă in Romanian, shurba in Arabic and so on. In our home, it was the name of a sweet-and-sour tomato soup, enriched with rice. The rice plays a twofold role: It adds substance to the soup and also releases starch, thus thickening the soup. It’s important to use only long-grained rice, whose granules open into the shape of beautiful butterflies if cooked properly.

1/4 cup olive oil

2 finely diced onions

2 pounds very ripe tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes)

2 Tbsp tomato paste

Salt and ground black pepper

10 cups water

1 peeled carrot, coarsely shredded

1/3 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Fresh lemon juice and sugar for seasoning

1.     Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onions.

2.     If using fresh tomatoes, cut in half and grate on the large holes of a box grater (and throw away the peel). Add the shredded fresh tomatoes (or crushed canned tomatoes) to the pot. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper and water. Mix and bring to a boil.

3.     Add the rice, carrots and parsley to the pot and stir. Lower the heat and cook covered, only until the grains of rice open to the shape of butterflies.

4.     Remove from the heat and taste. Season with lemon juice or a little sugar, according to the sourness of the tomatoes.

Note: It’s important not to put more than 1/3 cup of rice into the pot. At first, it seems like just a little, but the rice later expands and if you put too much, you’ll end up with porridge.


Adapted from Candies from Heaven by Gil Hovav, Toad Publishing (2017)

Gil writes: “Mooma (my grandmother) never shared this recipe with me, just as she never divulged the other recipes of the Sephardi Underground. Aunt Levana gave me the recipe presented below, and it’s the closest in taste to the wonders that Mooma baked. And still, when I eat these bourekas, I’m filled with such longing and tears come to my eyes as I recall the intoxicating taste of the original and the wonderful aroma of spinach and mothballs and shoes and roses.”

4 cups flour

1 3/4 sticks (14 Tbsp) margarine

2  tbsp white vinegar

1 cup whole yogurt

1 Tbsp salt


2 large eggplants

8 oz crumbled feta cheese

1 egg

Salt and pepper


Beaten egg yolk with 2 Tbsp water

Sesame seeds

1.     Prepare the dough a day earlier: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulsed into a uniform dough. Gather into a big ball, place on a flat dish, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

2.     The next day, remove from the refrigerator and let the dough reach room temperature (otherwise, it will be impossible to roll).

3.     Meanwhile, roast the eggplants on the stovetop or in an oven until their peels blackens. Cool, remove and discard the skins, and mash with a fork (woe be to anyone who does this in a food processor!) together with the cheese. Transfer to a bowl, beat in the egg and mix it into the filling together with salt and pepper.

4.     Preheat the oven to 350F. Divide the dough into three balls. Roll each ball into a thin sheet, and use a glass to cut circles out of the dough. Collect what remains of the dough scraps, roll it again and cut additional circles. Repeat until all the dough is used.

5.     Take a circle of dough and place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center. Dip a finger in a cup of water and wet the edges of the circle. Fold into the shape of a crescent and pinch to seal well. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough circles and filling. (One baking pan will not be enough.)

6.     Brush the bourekas with egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of sesame seeds. Bake until the bourekas are golden, about 30 minutes.

Share and enjoy !

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, cookbook editor and now a podcaster. Norene lives in Toronto and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website at gourmania.com..