Reprinted with permission from Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic (Hippocrene Books).
This dish is also called Schenna, Hamin(m), or Chamim.
Writings from talmudic times stated that eating hot food on the Sabbath was a good deed. Cholent is a Sabbath dish (a meal in a pot!) that was born out of this observance. It is prepared on Friday prior to sundown and cooked overnight, in a very slow oven (usually the village baker’s oven), and brought home and eaten Saturday for lunch after returning from services. This provided a hot, hearty meal without violating the commandment against cooking on the Sabbath.
When the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many fled to northwestern Africa across the Straits of Gibraltar. The hamin was changed, adjusting for local ingredients and then called dafina (covered) in Morocco. Every family seems to have its own version, and when you return from Sabbath service it’s the first thing you smell upon entering any Sephardic home. Any other favorite vegetables can be added, and the eggs can be removed and eaten at any time.
fresh ground pepper
4-6 large eggs
pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2-1 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2-3 sweet poatoes cut into chunks
4 Tablespoons honey
2 beef bones with marrow
3 lbs brisket or chuck roast cut into 4 pieces
3 lbs small potatoes
2 15 oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic
Preheat oven to 225F.
In a large pot, heat the oil and sautee the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the chickpeas, bones, meat, potatoes, honey, paprika, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough water to cover, place the unshelled eggs in the center, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 1 hour. Skim off the foam occasionally. Cover the pot tightly, place in the oven, and cook overnight, or cook on low on the stove for 5 to 6 hours, or until meat is tender and done.
In the morning, after cooking all night, check the water level. If there is too much water, turn the oven up to 250F or 300F, cover, and continue cooking. [If cooking over Shabbat, traditionally observant Jews would refrain from changing the heat level, for doing so would run counter to Sabbath laws against manipulating flame and cooking.] If there is no water, add another cup, cover, and continue cooking.
To serve, place the chickpeas and cooking liquid in one bowl, and the eggs, potatoes, and meat in separate bowls.
Pronounced: seh-FAR-dik, Origin: Hebrew, describing Jews descending from the Jews of Spain.