Israel, India and the International Dinner Night – A Vintage Rosh Hashana Recipe

Authentic India-based Chicken Curry circa 1964
Authentic India-based Chicken Curry circa 1964

Happy New Year dear readers! This coming Sunday marks the two day festival of Rosh Hashana, which celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve and mankind’s role in the world.  Although Ms. Jeannie, herself is not Jewish, she thought it would be fun to mark the day with an international dinner night featuring a holiday approved (and kosher certified!) meal which brings together the unique and diverse flavors of the Holy Land.

Many cultural influences make up the demographic food map of Israel, including Indian, Greek, Arabic, Italian and French offering unexpected and interesting food combinations and flavor pairings. In this vintage Isreali cookbook, published in 1964…

The Israeli Cook Book by Molly Lyons Bar-David
The Israeli Cook Book by Molly Lyons Bar-David

author and culinary advisor to El-Al Airlines, Molly Lyons Bar-David compiled hundreds of authentic, local recipes from over 70 regions within the country. Many of the recipes had been passed down from generations bringing with them their own unique stories, folklore and legends which Molly also shares in the cookbook.

An alley in the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Photo via pinterest.
An alley in the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Photo via pinterest.

Her intention for this culinary project was to serve true Israeli food on board mid-century El-Al airlines flights as a gateway experience for incoming passengers.

Vintage 1960s El-Al airlines travel poster. Via pinterest
Vintage 1960s El-Al airlines travel poster. Via pinterest

But as Molly got deeper and deeper into the collection process, interviewing literally hundreds of locals, she learned that the diverse food scene was just as dynamic and layered as the centuries old history and faith long associated with Israel.

Cochin, India. Photo via pinterest
Cochin, India. Photo via pinterest

To honor the historical holiday, Ms. Jeannie chose an ancient chicken curry recipe that stems from the spice markets of Cochin, India as brought by the “Cochin Jews”  who were believed to have emigrated from Palestine after the second destruction of the Temple.

A Jewish family from Cochin , India circa 1880. Photo via pinterest.
A Jewish family from Cochin , India circa 1880. Photo via pinterest.

Molly writes in her introduction to the recipe…

“Although their culture, (including a caste system) and even their skin coloring has become indistinguishable from that of their Hindu neighbors, they never forsook their Jewish heritage. Their food, chiefly rice and curries, is like that of the Indians, except that they strictly maintain the kosher laws.” 

Ms. Jeannie is a big fan of curry, and has made countless variations taken from recipe books, magazine articles, online sources and foodie recommendations, but this by far was the best (THE BEST!) curry recipe she has found to date. Full of flavor both subtle and bright, it makes a ton and keeps getting better day after day in the leftover department.

It is simple and easy to make and contains basic ingredients that are easy to gather. So if you are looking for a bit of the edible exotic to ring in the New Year or celebrate the history of a culture other than your own this is a fabulously delicious recipe! You can also omit the chicken and make it strictly a vegetable curry if you prefer. Ms. Jeannie served it on top of a bed of Jasmine rice with a side of warm Naan bread.

Cochin Curry
Cochin Curry

Chicken Curry (serves 4)

1 2lb chicken, cut in parts (do not de-bone)

5 tablespoons olive oil

3.5 cups water

5 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, mashed

4 large tomatoes, chopped (or one large can of diced tomatoes)

1 cup celery, chopped

2 apples, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon (or more!) curry powder (as a big fan, Ms. Jeannie used 2.5 tablespoons!)

1.5 tablespoons flour

3 cups coconut milk

2 tablespoons grated coconut (optional)

1.5 teaspoons salt

cayenne pepper (to taste)


  1. Fry the chicken in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until lightly browned on all sides (about 10-12 minutes total or 5 minutes on each side). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the water to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes on medium low heat. c4
  3.  In a new large pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and add all the chopped vegetables and spices (onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, apples, sugar, ginger and curry powder). Mix to combine.  Sprinkle on the flour.  Mix well again and then add the coconut milk and seasonings, and simmer. Once the chicken is ready, transfer all pieces to the curried vegetables and cook 10-20 minutes more.
  4. Serve hot with rice and Naan bread if you like.* (Ms. Jeannie loves the Naan bread made by Stonefire Flatbreads which is available in most grocery stores in the fresh bakery section.)

Enjoy dear readers! If you’d like to learn about more authentic recipes from the Israeli Cook Book, the Jewish holidays they correspond with and the history behind them, please visit Ms. Jeannie’s shop here. And if you are celebrating the holiday this weekend, Happy Happy New Year:)

Authentic India-based Chicken Curry circa 1964
Authentic Indian Chicken Curry circa 1964 as prepared from The Israeli Cook Book by Molly Lyons Bar-David