Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew made to cook in the oven overnight. Centuries ago, those who observed the Sabbath had to come up with a clever way to prepare their meals so as to not violate the Jewish rules forbidding cooking from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. The universal solution was Cholent - a meal that can be slow-cooked in the oven for up to 12 hours. I do believe that our slow cooker recipes today originated from it.
While growing up in Brazil, my mom used to make it during our "winter" months. She called it Hamin. I remember waking up on Sunday mornings to the wonderful and comforting aroma in her kitchen. The basic ingredients she used for the Hamin were rice/barley, white beans and lamb. She also added whole eggs in their shell, which would turn brown overnight and acquire a distinct taste – these were called huevos haminados. In this recipe, although I abide by all her spices, her "trick" of sauteeing the onions and skipping on the traditionally used chicken stock, I've tweaked her recipe just a bit. I hope you enjoy this delicious soul food.
By Leora Barak
1 large onion, coarsely chopped and sauteed in olive oil (I used leeks here, instead of onions, which also work very well)
1 ½ pounds organic lamb (I use boneless lamb for stew)
1 cup cannelini beans, dry and pre-soaked
2 large oriental yams or red potatos, peeled and quartered
1 cup barley, dry (you may also use buckwheat groats, if gluten is a problem)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Fresh herbs (a mix of basil, thyme and rosemary)
6-8 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350F.
Begin by sauteeing the onion (or leeks) with some olive oil. Set aside.
Scatter lamb on the bottom of a large roasting pan. Top with beans, sauteed onions, then yams, then barley.
Combine garlic, all spices and herbs with 2 cups of boiled water and mix well. Pour liquid over ingredients and add more water, just until everything is covered.
Rinse eggs in shells and place on top of ingredients.
Cover with lid and bake for 4 hours. During this time, check on it every now and then and add more water.
Lower oven heat to minimum setting and continue baking for additional 2-4 hours. At this point, you can also choose to leave it overnight, for up to 8 hours.
Serve hot and enjoy.