My grandparents Nissim, and Virginia, originally came from Istanbul, and the area in Bulgaria just over the Turkish border. I grew up eating borekas, spinach pies, haviar (tarama), biscochos, et al. But there is one dish my grandmother made that although I’ve researched everywhere haven’t found anything remotely similar. Unfortunately no one’s left alive who can even remember what it was called. The ingredients were ground liver, raw eggs, chopped walnuts, rye bread, and possibly chopped onions/celery. The raw ingredients were combined making a paste, which was then spread into a greased baking pan about 1/2 an inch thick, the top glazed with beaten egg, and baked. When cut and served it was quite firm, and dark brown on top. Have you ever heard of anything similar?
Thanks so much for all your hard work, it’s been an enjoyable read.
Wow. When we talk about Jewish cooking being adaptive, I suspect this may be a prime – and very personal – example. Off the top of my head, this sounds like a Sephardic rendition of a classic Ashkenazi dish from Eastern Europe: chopped chicken liver. Neither rye bread nor chopped chicken liver are part of Sephardic gastronomy. Ashkenazi chopped liver is sauteed in a pan with onions, mashed to a paste with hard boiled egg and typically eaten with rye bread (Delicious. I’d make it here in Spain if I could find rye bread. Or caraway seeds, for that matter). On the other hand, walnuts are native to the Balkans and very much an element of Turkish and Bulgarian cooking, Sephardic or otherwise. They would have been a food your grandparents grew up with.
The cooking method you detail is similar to Ottoman mina and Algerian meguena – Sephardic baked meat pies – though the resulting texture as you describe it didn’t have the delicacy of the Sephardic dish, which is made lighter by adding chicken broth and beaten eggs to the mixture. That difference is a reflection of either Bulgarian cooking or of your grandmother’s.
You don’t indicate whether she made this dish prior to emigrating; however, I suspect it might be something she invented afterwards, applying a classic Sephardic technique to this quintessential Ashkenazi dish she might have first tasted in America – in the Moskowitz household, perhaps? Unless someone can tell me otherwise, maybe you’ll want to call the dish Virginia’s Ashkenazi Mina.