The most emotive of dishes
IT’S COLD outside, so I’ve been holed up in my kitchen perfecting my cholent. I have to confess to growing up in a cholent-free family, but for many it’s an extremely evocative dish. So many people remember the mouth-watering aromas of the rich meat and bean-filled stew curling around the Shabbat home. My sister-in-law (based in Israel) was amused by her husband’s family who shlep a cholent with them every Shabbat, often on searingly hot days. My father-in-law remembers how there always seemed a pot of cholent bubbling away on the stove during his formative years.
Food blogger Fabienne VinerLuzzato recalls her family eating tfina — the Tunisian version — each Shabbat. “There were often 20 people at our table. As the youngest of 7 children we were already 9 and then my aunts and uncles would join us. We started eating often around 1.30pm and finishing at 4 or 5pm. First kemia (Tunisian tapas) with lots of colourful salads, some boulettes — spicy and tasty meat balls wrapped in vegetables and delicious homemade challah. After this we weren’t hungry, but couldn’t refuse the traditional Shabbat lunch dish our mother had prepared with so much love. She made enough for 40 even if we were only 20 or 25 people. Each week we were eating left overs until Tuesday... but we couldn’t complain, we loved it and we loved her!”
Liz Alpern, co-founder of the Gefilteria website is a fan. “It’s one of my favourite symbolic dishes of the Ashkenazi canon. Each family would put their cholent pot into the town baker’s oven before sundown on Friday and it would slow cook in the dying embers overnight until retrieved on Saturday for Shabbat lunch. The cholent tradition symbolises community to me, and I love imagining myself taking part in that ritual. In the winter it’s one of fat and give you something to bite into and refresh the palate. Try:
Pickled red cabbage; my go-to dishes, Shabbat or not.”
It may not be fashionable, but it’s an authentic heimishe delicacy and fits today’s trend for slow cooking. It also plays the economy and sustainability card — using the cheaper meat cuts and seasonal root veg.
It’s also one of the few true Jewish foods. A recipe evolved to reflect our religious practice, instead of borrowed, magpie-like from the cuisine of whichever culture we were camping in. Cosy up with one this Shabbat. VP.
Quick pickled beets – slice them fine with a potato peeler and pick interestingly coloured candy or golden beets;
Gherkins — new green would work well, with plenty of dill; or
Pickled radishes or baby balsamic onions.