Known by a number of names, Chulent/Adafina/Hammin is the Jewish Shabbat stew. It is a dish that is cooked partially before Shabbat and then left to simmer on a low slow heat until Shabbat day. As Jews are prohibited from cooking on Shabbat and yet it is a strongly held custom to eat warm food, a Shabbat stew developed. In every region that Jews lived, and though regional differences exist the basic concept doesn’t alter. A Shabbat stew is a dish with layers of bean, legumes or grain, vegetables, fat and meat, all placed in a pot and sealed to be cooked overnight and then served after the traditional Shabbat morning prayers.
The history of chulent is a long one, but unlike other foods that Jews adapted from their non-Jewish neighbours. This is the one dish that is uniquely ours, in fact a number of classic regional non Jewish dishes find their roots in the Jewish Shabbat stew
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 large onions chopped
- 500g shin of beef, flanken or other long cooking beef
- 4 -6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 500ml chicken stock
- 150 g (3/4 cup) pearl barely
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper
In a large sauté pan heat the oil, add the onions with a pinch of salt and sauté until soft and golden brown. Push the onions to the side of the pan, add the beef to the hot pan with the onions. Brown the beef on one side until a deep brown, about 4 minutes, turn over and brown the second side.
While your onions and beef are browning, prepare your crockpot. Place the peeled and cut potatoes at the bottom of the pot. Add the cooked onions and beef on top of the potatoes. Return the sauté pan to the fire, add half the chicken soup and as the soup boils scrape all the brown bits off the pan. Add the chicken soup and brown bits to the crock pot.
Add the barley to the pot, now add the remaining soup to reach about an inch over the ingredients in the pot, you may need extra water to get the right level. Add the seasoning and be generous with the salt and pepper.
Every crock pot is different, it may require some trial and error until you know on what setting and how much water you need to reach the perfect consistency for chulent the way you like it. For me I need the pot to be on low for at least 18 hours, but as I said trial and error!