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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dafina - Sephardi Cholent

The following was sent in by a new contributor, Yaffa (from the USA). Because I really try and use the words of the author without changing anything when quoting your stories, I have to explain a few words and ideas here, (as Jews can be a terribly complicated bunch - especially when it comes to food!) I also will not alter your recipes except for spelling mistakes. Therefore this is NOT in the traditional way of presenting a recipe at Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen. However, since this is Yaffa's first, we are going to present it here as she wrote it and give her a bit of leeway!

"Sephardi" refers to the cultural roots of many Jewish communities. As I linked this to Wikipedia, let us just quote a paragraph from there.

A Sephardi is a Jew originating in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) , including the descendants of those subject to expulsion from Spain by order of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella (as codified in the Alhambra decree of 1492), or from Portugal by order of King Manuel I in 1497.
Sephardi Jews have their own customs and certainly their own way of making food, much different from their Ashkenazi brethren.

Now next word here. "Milchig" is Yiddish for "dairy" or a product that has milk in it. The fact that Yaffa is using a Yiddish word shows cultural pluralism as Sephardim do not as a rule use or know Yiddish as the countries they come from are more often Arabic, Spanish or Ladino speaking countries (though Ladino is no longer used or spoken generally).

"Fleshig" is the Yiddish word for "meat" or a product that has meat in it.

And as all regular readers know "Parve" means that the dish can be eaten with milk or meat as it does not contain any specific meat or specific milk products within it.

"Breslov" refers here to the "hassidim" (followers) of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and Uman is where Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is buried and a place where many Jews travel to, in order to visit the grave of the "Rebbe". (See the Wikipedia article I linked here.)

With these notations made, let us get to Yaffa's submission for Sephardi Cholent, known as Dafina. (Sephardim also use the original Talmudic word "Chamin"as mentioned in the post, The Magic Of Cholent - Introduction.) Dafina and Chamin are not really the same thing though. Dafina is a more "refined" Cholent.

"Shabbat" - simply is the transliteration from Hebrew of Sabbath. It is accepted and used today by most English speakers. You will often here "On Shabbat..." and will not hear "On the Sabbath..."

So as you can see there is a big mixture of words and traditions in this recipe. Another reason I left it like it is. It is a great example of how cultures and traditions merge over the years.

Yaffa Writes:
I love your web site, and I have been trying to read whatever I can when I have time, which hasn't been often...

Here is my recipe for Sephardi cholent which can be made either vegetarian or fleishig. When my late husband Avraham Chaim (a sabra from Kfar Saba) and I moved from Montreal, we made it parve, a bit lighter and so pleasant to be able to have a milchig desert! (Mostly ice cream)!

I agree with you about pots too. I will tell you a wonderful story.

I once put the ingredients of the cholent together at home as I would normally intending to put it in the oven before Shabbat to cook at our hosts home. It was a house of single Breslov men, friends that Avi learned with and went to Uman with. The fellow had an unbelievable stove without a properly working thermostat and the cholent, or dafina as it is called, cooked and cooked without any way to add water! I was going crazy, thinking that it will be impossible to eat after it is all burned up and we will have nothing hot on a freezing Canada day! He had no hot water prepared for Shabbat! No samovar. I prepared it as normal in my blue porcelain oval oven roaster pot and brought it to our guests home in Ville St Laurent and put it in the oven that was already set.
Ingredients & Directions (directly quoted from Yaffa's email):
The way I make it is this:

I take one or two onions and I slice them in about eight sections long. I put them in a saute pan, stainless steel, with a bit of olive oil and a drop of butter or margarine depending on weather or not I use meat or black bean veggie burgers by New Morning! This trick I learned from my late husband who brought me home the wrong thing once! With the onions I add a piece of fresh ginger, and the meat (there is a special cut of meat for dafina which you can buy from any sephardi butcher) or the veggie patties. I saute them until they carmelize and the veggie patties brown on both sides. Over a medium heat, about five minutes..

I take them out and put them into either an oval shaped crock pot or the oval baking pan which comes with a cover.

Everything has a place!! No sloppiness here. It is different from Askenazi Cholent in that you have everything whole. It isn't served like a stew, but rather all separate!

So, I layer the whole bottom with the onions and the piece of ginger. Next, I STACK the veggie burgers or meat into a corner. I place a couple of whole, scrubbed with a veggie brush (I prefer sweet) potatoes in the pot, along with whole, washed eggs, one for each guest. I also add a head of whole, rinsed garlic to the bottom.

I take a tall glass of filtered, good water, add approximately a teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of honey, a bit of turmeric, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon or two of extra virgin Olive Oil. I take an oven baking bag and add to it a cup or two of rice, (depending on the amount of guests) along with a bit of tumeric, and bit of salt and pepper. Then add a bit of olive oil (only enough to separate the grains) and mix them so they are all coated with the oil, add a cup or more of water, depending again on the amount of rice, seal the bag and lay it on top of the rest of the ingredients. Stir the glass of water, seasoning, ingredients and pour it over the dafina, adding as much water as is necessary just to cover all and bake overnight on low oven or cook in crock pot on low. Then on Shabbat you take it all out and lay it on a platter. The meat, or veggies burgers, the potatoes, eggs, all on a serving platter in tact and the rice in a bowl. It is a winner! You should also know I make the most amazing whole wheat, sunflower seed, anise, flax seed, Multigrain Challah that I am famous for! Even children love it!

In the case of the Shabbat when we were guests at our friends in Montreal, it turned out that although his oven was very very hot, and I was terrified that the dafina was going to be burnt and dried out because all of the water evaporated and all of the food was browned and crispy-- it was the best Dafina we ever ate and the men happily dined with laughter, Torah, sharing, song, and breaks for dancing. We always say the cholent is only as good as our guests! Well, it was the best Dafina I ever had. It was a great Shabbat!

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With this recipe you are going to have to do your own detective work and mark out all the ingredients. This is truly a real "Sephardi" dish, something I truly know nothing about. Yaffa seems to love cooking though, so we hope to hear more from her. Once again, I did not want to interfere with Yaffa's rhythm of the story telling, so I left her recipe as is. Next time though we will ask her to put her story first and then the ingredients and then directions. As to the mention of eggs here. Even in Cholent as well as Dafina, a lot of people put eggs on top and let them cook all Shabbat until the time for being served. I do not, and of course you will not find it in my cholent recipe. First off, I am not a big fan of hard boiled eggs, and even a less fan of eggs cooked for 24 hours. But that is up to your taste buds. 4 Stars for difficulty as this takes a real long time to prepare as Yaffa makes it clear that you have to layer the pot in a specific order before making it.

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