Mina is a common Passover food in Balkan and Turkish Jewish communities, yet it’s rarely known outside of Sephardic circles. It’s time to bring mina to the masses.
Nobody is hungry after a nice piece of mina, which has sautéed ground meat and onions mixed with potatoes and layered with matzah to create a crust. If you’re a fan of matzah pizza, you will love this meaty version — and you’ll find it very simple to make for a chol hamoed dinner. It’s very comforting and children especially like it.
I’ve made this with lamb and with ground beef, and both options hit a home run. The traditional version uses lamb and leeks, but you can’t go wrong with chopped meat and onions if that’s more to your taste.
The matzah pieces will fit perfectly into a square baking dish. This recipe makes 6 large pieces of mina.
4 pieces of square matzah
2 pounds ground beef or ground lamb, browned
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced, or 2 cups of chopped leeks, washed and sliced thin
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
½ cup of water, divided
3 eggs, divided
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or spice or herb of your choice)
1 large handful of chopped fresh parsley, about half a cup
1 lemon cut into wedges
Brown the meat, taking extra care to make the cooked pieces as small as possible. A friend recently recommended using a potato masher to achieve the best result, and it’s been a game-changer for me.
Once the meat is fully cooked, set aside to cool for a few minutes and then drain off the fat when it’s safe to handle. You can reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat to sauté the onions (or leeks), or you can start fresh with oil in a new pan.
Over medium-low heat, sauté the diced onions or leaks with 2 tablespoons of oil or beef fat until translucent, about 10-15 minutes.
Stir the diced potatoes into the pan and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ¼ cup of the water to the mixture, and use a spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The water will evaporate fairly quickly.
Add the salt and pepper and the other ¼ cup of water to the pan, mix, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer for 10 minutes. When the potatoes are soft enough to mash, turn off the heat and mash them with a potato masher, mixing them with the sautéed onion. The potatoes should be a little firm so that there are still some visible chunks of potato in the mixture.
Mix the browned meat into the potatoes until just combined, then mix in 2 whole eggs. The mixture can be warm when you mix in the eggs, but be sure it isn’t too hot or the eggs will start to cook.
Mix in the chopped parsley and oregano (or herbs and spices) at the end. The parsley doesn’t add a lot of flavor, but it adds some nice color to the dish.
In a small bowl whisk 1 egg with a dash of oil and a pinch of salt and set aside.
Some people don’t use spice mixes on Passover because they can contain kitniyot or are not approved. I am Sephardic and I do use kitniyot. If you use spices, this is a great dish to get creative with. You can omit the oregano and season with cumin, baharat or a more Middle Eastern mix of your choice. This recipe also tastes amazing with dried or fresh sage, which gives it a country French vibe. Start with 1 teaspoon of herbs or spices and add more to taste.
To build up the pie it’s really important to wet the matzah. Run each piece under water for 30 seconds on each side until the corners start to soften so that they are pliable. Matzah is pretty forgiving as long as it isn’t soaking wet. If you have a small tear, you can piece it back together and you won’t notice it after it’s baked.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a square baking dish.
Lay one full sheet of matzah across the bottom of the pan.
Break the second piece into 4 horizontal pieces (break along the lines) and line the side of the pan with these 4 pieces. The side pieces may look a little uneven and they will stand a bit taller than the edge of the pan — you will need this extra bit of matzah when it’s time to finish the pie.
Spoon half of the meat and potato mixture into the pan, gently pressing it down evenly and into the corners of the pan.
Add another layer of moistened matzah to the pan, then add the rest of the meat mixture, spreading it across the pan as you did with the first layer.
The best way to prepare the top layer is to wet the matzah and lay it across the top layer of meat. Work on one side at a time. Gently press down each side piece of matzah so that it lays underneath the top layer of matzah. The top layer just rests over the top and keeps the side pieces folded into place. This step seals the pie and creates a real crust that will stick together when baked.
Once all 4 sides are tucked underneath, brush the pie with the egg wash and bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 F. You should see bubbling at the bottom of the dish when you take it out of the oven.
Allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
You can gently cut squares with a sharp knife and serve right out of the pan. If you’re feeling adventurous, gently cut along all sides to loosen any baked-on pieces and turn the pie onto another platter for serving, then cut into pieces. It’s amazing how the matzah melts together to create a seamless crust, and this dish presents really well if you want to serve it at the table.
Serve this with a colorful salad to add some vibrancy to your plate. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice both lightens and brightens the dish.
I hope this is a recipe that becomes a part of your Passover tradition. Wishing you and your loved ones a Chag Kasher v’Sameach, a happy and kosher holiday.
Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.