This week we wanted to highlight the work of our online friend Ilda Dabda, creator of Inspired By Solange
My children have politely told me to stay off TikTok and that’s just fine with me. I spend plenty of time (let’s be honest—way too much time) on my other social media.
Checking my Facebook notifications inevitably leads to lots of scrolling. All of a sudden, I’m immersed in the dramas of total strangers in groups like LA Mommies and Secret Jerusalem and I’m drooling over pictures of irresistible food in our Sephardic Spice SEC FOOD group and I’m catching up with my friends and family in faraway places like Australia, South Africa, England and Israel.
Our Sephardic Spice Girls Instagram account is actually a whole job, with Sharon and I working really hard to create posts and stories. I spend a lot of time figuring out how to make reels. We have been rewarded with many passionate followers who like and comment and write to us privately. They thank us for posting recipes that remind them of their mothers’ and grandmothers’ food and for reconnecting them to past memories. We have been rewarded with awesome online friendships with other creators like Shannon Sarna of The Nosher, Nina Safar of Kosher in the Kitch and the amazing sisters of the Challah Back Girls. Recently, we became part of the Savor project, a movie highlighting female Sephardic chefs cooking Sephardic recipes set to romantic Ladino songs. It’s the brainchild of Ladino singer Sarah Aroeste and White House Pesach Seder chef Susan Barocas, Instagram friends who have become real life friends.
This week we wanted to highlight the work of our online friend Ilda Dabda, creator of Inspired By Solange. Ilda was born in Casablanca, lived in France and has called Montreal home for the last 50 years. After working as a legal assistant for many years, she decided to become a caterer. That gig ended when Ilda was lured back to work for the largest law firm in Canada. Cooking during the pandemic brought back memories of her mother’s wonderful cooking. Her website and Instagram were born from a desire to share her love of food and keeping the memory of her mother Solange alive. She cooks the food (from memory), writes the recipes and translates them from English to French. She credits her sister, Annie De Lisi, for her amazing assistance in editing recipes, writing the captions and handling all the aspects of social media.
The first time I ate Pastilla was at my cousin Aron’s bar mitzvah in Maharat Ha’Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The memory of the deliciousness has haunted me ever since.
When Rachel and I asked Ilda for a recipe to share with our readers, she sent us Chicken Pastilla. The first time I ate Pastilla was at my cousin Aron’s bar mitzvah in Maharat Ha’Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The memory of the deliciousness has haunted me ever since. I would always bug Rachel about it. One day, Rachel and I were baking baklava in my kitchen and she made it for me with the extra Phyllo pastry and some leftover chicken. It was truly amazing and just as delicious as I remembered.
Rachel’s recipe differs from Ilda’s because Ilda uses egg roll wrappers and Rachel bakes where Ilda fries. Rachel sweetens with cinnamon and brown sugar and Ilda uses raisins. But the general idea is the same — a fabulous chicken filling with a crunchy, crispy, flaky shell.
This chicken Pastilla recipe has lots of steps — boiling the chicken, sautéing onions, chopping cilantro, stuffing the wrappers and frying — but the flavorful results are truly worth the effort!
Solange’s Chicken Pastilla
Makes 25-30 pastillas
1 medium chicken (boiled, skinned,
deboned and shredded)
4 onions, finely chopped
½ cup slivered almonds
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup warm water
½ cup all purpose flour
1½ packages egg roll sheets
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
- In a large pan, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and sauté until translucent and slightly golden, then add the raisins. Sauté until raisins have softened. Place onion mixture in a large bowl, then set aside.
- Warm the second tablespoon of olive oil, then crack the eggs into the pan and scramble.
- Add eggs to the onion mixture.
- Add the shredded chicken, chopped cilantro, almonds and salt and mix well. Allow to cool completely.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Wet a clean dish towel, making sure to ring out most of the water. Place the egg roll sheets on a plate and cover with the dish towel so they remain moist.
- Whisk the flour and water in a small bowl.
- Place an egg roll sheet on a lightly floured surface and add 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture and roll into a rectangular shape.
- Dip a finger into the flour mixture and run along the edge of the roll to seal.
- Lay pastilla on the baking sheet until all the ingredients are used.
- In a large skillet, warm vegetable oil on high heat until it reaches smoking point. Reduce flame to medium heat and add pastillas, making sure not to overcrowd the pan.
- Fry until golden brown, approximately 3 to 4 minutes each side. Place fried pastilla on a large plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the oil.
- Reheat pastillas for a few minutes in an oven warmed to 250°F before serving.
Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food.