A wave of longing hit me suddenly as I sat on a sofa, chatting away with a piece of cake balanced in my lap. The night was drawing to a close but I didn’t want to leave, and I’ll tell you why: it felt like home and I wanted to cling to that feeling a little longer.
On the evening in question, I enjoyed dinner with the Hermoni family: Noam, Neta, their three children plus Neta’s sister and family. The evening started with a blessing and hearty embraces, followed by singing and conversations over homemade food. I looked around the inviting space spotted with homely touches: a jar of yellow flowers, drawings on the wall, magnets on the fridge and child-made knick knacks displayed with pride. When you’re away from loved ones for a time, and see the beauty of family reflected in such a way, it makes you appreciate, once again, how truly special family is. Family is worth investing in. I’ve always believed that, however my time with the Hermoni family strengthened this resolve.
I enjoyed sitting next to Neta at dinner, who was immediately warm, so-very-kind and utterly joyful. She’s the sort of person who makes you feel happy, just because. Our conversation topics included community living, backyard gardening, enjoying food, and the parenting discovery that teens, although independent, still really need you around.
Neta, her husband Noam and their three children live within a Kibbutz commune in Israel. They enjoy a beautiful meal like this, every Friday night before shabbat; it becomes a hub of the week. What’s special about this regular time is how it’s an opportunity to reconnect and bond, where every member at the table can share about their week. It’s something I have also fostered this year over Sunday lunch each week. We set up the table with flowers and candles, and during the meal, each person answers these two questions:
- What was your favourite thing about the week?
- What was the most challenging thing about the week?
It’s amazing how those two simple questions can provide a peek into what each person is enjoying, and also what they might be struggling with. This simple ritual has added a lot of value to our family life, and our own family time was strengthen because of my time in Israel with the Hermonis.
Enjoying a performance from the children.
Squishes with Amy from MomSpark
Loved how Neta reused coffee capsules into cute magnets for the fridge
When this spinach pastry came to the table, I was like OOOOOH! It turns out it only has three main ingredients: spinach, cheese and pastry. Neta explained how to make it and I recreated the recipe and have shared the step by step instructions below. It was a big hit with my entire family.
- 2-4 sheets of puff pastry
- 500 grams spinach
- Salt Pepper
- 500 grams feta cheese (I also made a batch with Bulgarian goats cheese)
- Egg yolk & sesame seeds (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
2. Roughly cut the spinach on a board with a shape knife and place in a large bowl.
3. Crumble the cheese on top of the spinach and add pepper (salt if desired, however I found the cheese was salty enough).
4. Mix with your hands. Don’t be afraid to scrunch it together.
5. Cut each square piece of puff pastry in half and join together at the narrow parts, so you have a very long thin piece of pastry. Depending on how long your kitchen bench is, you may need to do this in sections. For a medium size pastry dish, use 2 puff pastry sheets cut in half (making 4 lengths of pastry joined together). For a large party dish, use 3 puff pastry sheets (each cut in half to give you 6 sections joined together. The amount of spinach in the recipe does a large pastry.
6. Place spinach mix in the centre all the way along the pastry strip.
7. Fold over, and press to seal the sides so you have a long tube.
8. Roll up the pastry like a snail on a baking paper lined tray or a greased (with oil) circluar dish, but not too tightly so the pastry in the middle parts can cook.
9. Top with egg yolk wash and sesame seeds.
10. Cook in an 180ºC oven for 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and crispy.
Tip: Use the same ingredients to make mini individual pies. Simply place square pastry sections in a greased muffin pan, fill with spinach mixture and pinch corners to seal before baking.
Family is central to Israel’s culture and I saw that manifest clearly in the obvious strong bonds within the Hermoni family. The evening delighted my soul, and made me even-more determined to invest in regular family times with my own precious ones.
More Posts from Israel
I was invited to Israel by not-for-profit organisation, Vibe Israel to share my experiences of the country. All opinions and story ideas are my own.