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Cholent (Hamin)

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Cholent (Yiddish: טשאָלנט) or hamin (Hebrew: חמין‎) is a traditional Jewish stew simmered overnight, for 12 hours or more, and eaten for lunch on Shabbat (the Sabbath.)

Left: Hamin (Sephardi-style cholent).

Cholent was developed over the centuries to conform with Jewish religious laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. The pot is brought to boil on Friday before the Sabbath begins, and kept on a blech or hotplate, or placed in a slow oven or electric slow cooker until the following day.

There are many variations of the dish, which is standard in both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi kitchens. The basic ingredients of cholent are meat, potatoes, beans and barley. Sephardi-style hamin uses rice instead of beans and barley, and chicken instead of beef. A traditional Sephardi addition is whole eggs in the shell (haminados), which turn brown overnight. Ashkenazi cholent often contains kishke or helzel a sausage casing or a chicken neck skin stuffed with a flour-based mixture. Slow overnight cooking allows the flavors of the various ingredients to permeate and produces the characteristic taste of cholent.

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Left: Vegetable cholent.

In traditional Jewish families, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, cholent or hamin is the hot main course of the midday Shabbat meal served on Saturdays after the morning synagogue services. Secular Jewish families in Israel also serve cholent. The dish is more popular in the winter.


Ashkenazi cholent recipes

There are many recipes for cholent. Ingredients vary according to the geographic areas of Europe where the Jews lived and especially the personal preferences of the cook. The core ingredients of a traditional cholent include beef (shoulder, brisket, flank, or any other cut that becomes tender and flavorful in long slow cooking). The meat is placed in a pot with peeled potatoes, any type or size of beans, and grains (barley, hulled wheat, rice). The mixture is lightly seasoned, mainly salt and pepper, and water is added to the pot to create a stew-like consistency during slow cooking.

While beef is the traditional meat ingredient, alternative meats may include chicken, turkey, veal, frankfurters, or even goose (echoing the French cassoulet). Other vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, and zucchini may be added. Spicing may be enhanced to include paprika, peppercorns, and even tomato sauce or ketchup. For additional flavor and browning, some cooks add unpeeled onions or a small amount of sugar caramelized in oil. Some are known to add also beer or whiskey for extra flavor.

A common addition to cholent is kishke or helzel. Kishke is a type of kosher sausage stuffed with a flour mixture, chicken or goose fat, fried onions and spices. Traditionally, kishke was made with intestinal lining from a cow. Today, the casing is often an edible synthetic casing such as that used for salami or hot dogs. Helzel is chicken neck skin stuffed with a flour-based mixture similar to kishke and sewed with a thread and needle to ensure that it remains intact in long cooking.

Sephardi hamin recipes 

Sephardi-style hamin calls for whole, stuffed vegetables in addition to meat or chicken. Whole vegetables such as tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant halves and zucchini are stuffed with a mixture of beef and rice, and are then placed into the pot with meat or chicken and chickpeas. Sephardim also add spices such as cumin and hot peppers.

The ingredients and spiciness of hamin varies from area to area. Iraqi Jews prepare their version of cholent, known as tebit, with a whole chicken stuffed with rice. Jews from Morocco or Iberia make a version called dafina, which calls for spices like garlic, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and pepper, as well as whole eggs that turn brown and creamy during the long cooking process. The Spanish cocido ('stew') containing chicken and chickpeas is a likely offshoot of the traditional hamin of the Spanish Jews.


Sephardi-style hamin typically includes whole eggs in the shell, which are placed on top of the mixture in the stewing pot and turn brown in the course of all-night cooking. The brown eggs, called haminados (güevos haminadavos in Ladino, huevos haminados in Spanish), are shelled before serving and placed on top of the other cooked ingredients.

In a Tunisian version, the brown eggs are cooked separately in a metal pot on the all-night stove with water and tea leaves (similar to tea eggs). Haminados can be cooked in this way even if no hamin is prepared. The addition of tea leaves, coffee grinds, or onion skins to the water dyes the shell purple and the white a light brown, giving the egg a smooth creamy texture. Brown eggs are a popular accompaniment to ful medames (an Egyptian dish of mashed broad beans) and in Israel they may also be served with hummus (a spread of mashed chickpeas).


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