Shepherd’s pie: The Naveh family’s rustic dish

Who are we?

Chen Weiss Naveh

Born in 1983 in Mishmar Ayalon, a Moshav near Ramla. Her grandparents were among its founders as members of a group of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel in 1949 from the former Czechoslovakia. Chen is a middle school educational consultant and is currently studying psychotherapy. As a girl, she was a picky eater but she grew up to be a food lover. Chen is the only member of the family that keeps kosher; she does not eat pork and seafood, and does not mix dairy and meat products: “I continue the tradition as a connection to my roots.”

Yonatan Naveh

Born in 1982 on the Tel Nof Air Force base, where his father served. Yonatan grew up in Kibbutz Nachshon, near Latrun, and when he was a teenager the family settled in Moshav Kidron (near Gedera). Yonatan is a certified accountant and works as a finance manager at a biopharmaceutical start-up. He played basketball for many years and credits his sport activities for his healthy diet. He inherited his love for the kitchen from his mother, Shuli: “After my military service I began to cook by following my mother’s recipes, like her spaghetti Bolognese. Today I pickle my own olives and make wine with my father.”

Their children:

Ruth (also known as Tutti), 7 years old, is in 2nd grade and goes to Sdot Ayalon Regional School in Beit Hashmonay, where her mother, Chen, also studied. Ruth loves to eat everything on her plate, especially meat, and isn’t afraid to taste new foods, mostly from the plates of her dining companions. Yes, her favorite food is steak, preferably done to a medium grade.

Dan (also known as Dan-Dan), 5½ years old, goes to the same pre-school in the moshav that his mother, Chen, went to as a child. Dan loves soccer and sculpting in clay and every morning he goes out to the chicken coop behind the house to collect the eggs he loves to eat so much. His favorite dish is a poached egg that daddy Yonatan prepares according to a recipe by “The Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver.

Yair (also known as Iri), 16 months old, is a smiling, non-stop running and climbing toddler. Every evening he makes sure to say “good night” to Panda the dog, and also to the chickens in the coop behind the house. Yair enjoys tasting everything but he especially loves corn cobs, which keep him occupied for a long time to the delight of his parents.

Where was the photo taken?

“We live in Moshav Mishmar Ayalon, in the same ‘Jewish Agency House’ my grandparents lived in” says Chen. “The green kitchen remains just as it was – only the cabinets were refurbished. I still have a vivid memory of the Saturdays I spent in this kitchen as a child. Back then we ate our lunch in several rounds because there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the tiny kitchen. First, at exactly 12PM, Grandpa sat down to eat and only when he finished did the grandchildren arrive and Grandpa stayed by the door to make sure we were eating properly. Then, once we were done, the adults took our place. And we only got to drink water at the end of the meal.”

The same order, discipline and good taste followed through during the weekdays. “Grandma always made Rakott krumpli, a Hungarian dish of potatoes, eggs and sour cream, on Wednesdays. And sometimes she would make Kakaós tészta, noodles with cocoa and sugar, or Bukta, Slovakian steamed buns stuffed with jam”, Chen reminisces.

Our family kitchen

Today, the same small kitchen where Chen’s grandmother Elka cooked her delicious food is buzzing with life, as new dishes joined the flavors of Slovakia and Hungary. “You will always find someone in the kitchen, cooking or eating,” says Yonatan with a smile. We grew up on different culinary traditions: Chen’s mother, Grandma Etty, grew up in a Persian household but she learned to cook Kneidlach soup and Rakott krumpli from her mother in law, Grandma Elka. My mother, Grandma Shuli, began to cook relatively late in life, after we left the kibbutz, and she got her recipes from our neighbors who came from Morocco and Bukhara. Even today, our kitchen home is an ‘Israeli mix’ of sushi, hummus, pizza and of course – schnitzel.”

Our house recipe: Shepherds pie

The pie is made by both grandmothers, but the Naveh family’s version is based on a recipe by Chef Israel Aharoni that daddy Yonatan cut out from a newspaper. According to Yonatan, this is a complete meal, and any leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated the next day. “Originally the pie contains butter, but since Chen keeps kosher, I substituted the butter with olive oil,” says Yonatan.

Ingredients (Serves 6):

For the meat mixture:

6 Tbs olive oil

1 onion, chopped

Cloves from ½ garlic head, peeled and thinly sliced

500 grams/ 1.1lb ground beef

250 grams/ 8.8 oz button mushrooms

105 grams/ 3.7 oz peeled and roasted Chestnuts, vacuum packed

½ cup pine nuts

Salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

For mashed potatoes:

6 large potatoes, peeled

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled

¼ cup olive oil

A pinch of ground nutmeg

  1. Prepare the meat mixture: Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide and deep cast iron skillet suitable for the oven, over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped onion and fry until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute, only until lightly golden.
  4. Add the ground meat and fry until browned.
  5. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil followed by the mushrooms, chestnuts and pine nuts, season with salt and black pepper to taste and mix well. Fry for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, until golden brown. Remove from the heat.
  6. Prepare the mashed potatoes: place the peeled potatoes and sweet potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until soft.
  7. Preheat oven to 170C degrees.
  8. Drain the potatoes and reserve ½ cup of the cooking water.
  9. Place the potatoes in a bowl and mash well. Add the cooking water, olive oil and a pinch of nutmeg and mix to a smooth puree.
  10. Using a wooden spoon, smooth the meat mixture to an even layer in the iron skillet. Place the mashed potatoes on top, flatten and lightly press.
  11. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.


Edited by Ofer Vardi, photography by Eyal Cohen