Dafina is an iconic slow-cooked Moroccan stew served especially on Shabbat. It has a long history and no two are the same. For centuries, Jewish women around the world have prepared some kind of similar dish each week, usually prepping the ingredients Friday to be served for lunch the next day. Although recent generations have immigrated around the globe to different countries, the tradition of this classic dish has prevailed and is close to each family’s heart.
There is no right or wrong way to make this, and recipes vary from city to city and from family to family. Every Jewish house is distinguished by their dafina and what is included in it. There is even a legend that noble rabbis can sense the peace and holiness of the house from the smell of the dafina. The most commonly found ingredients are potatoes, sweet potato, chicken, meat, rice, barley, chickpeas and of course, a famous golden brown egg. A lot of recipes call for each item to be placed in individual cooking bags. Everyone adds their personal touch and favorite spices to it; some of the most commonly used spices include paprika, cinnamon, cumin, honey, dates and garlic. I even have a family member who throws in a whole peach, pit and all.
Like the mothers and grandmothers who come before me, I have adapted the recipe handed down to me to my own family’s taste and cook the rice separately. It may not look like much but there are few things that warm the soul quite like a hot dafina on a cold winter day, and I invite you to add your own family’s take on this beloved dish.
2 lbs flanken meat, on the bone (flanken is short ribs cut across the bones)
4 pieces of chicken, on the bone
12 large red potatoes, peeled
2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed
4 eggs (in the shell)
4 pitted dates
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp of honey
1 tsp cinnamon
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp of olive oil
Arrange the chickpeas on the bottom of the crockpot. Add the potatoes around the interior walls of the crockpot. Place the meat, chicken, eggs and pitted dates in the center.
Add all of the spices and mix very well but gently as to keep each ingredient in it’s place. Pour in enough water to cover everything. The top of the water should hit around 1/4″ above the ingredients.
Set the crockpot at a medium temperature and set to cook for 24 hours. Sephardic tradition is to not add any water, even boiling, to the crockpot on Shabbat.