Cholent (Faith Kramer)
Cholent (Faith Kramer)

Cholent, Shabbat stew, is perfect for a chilly winter day

Winter weather calls for comfort food, and nothing is more comforting than the thick stews known as cholent or hamin.

These dishes were cooked overnight to provide a hot Saturday lunch without breaking Shabbat restrictions. While there are regional differences, the stews are found throughout Jewish communities.

Leah Koenig, in her recently published “The Jewish Cookbook,” explores these dishes and their modern successors as part of her comprehensive and recipe-filled survey of Jewish food yesterday and today.

Koenig traces hamin (“warm” in Aramaic) from the Middle East to France, then eastward to Germany and beyond and where the French schalet (hot) became cholent.

Below are two modern recipes perfect for weeknights: a vegetarian cholent which cooks in less than two hours (and reheats well) and a slow-cooker hamin. Both recipes are adapted from “The Jewish Cookbook.”

Leah Koenig’s Vegetarian Cholent</h3?

Serves 8

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced into ½-inch rounds
  • 1 lb. baby potatoes, scrubbed and halved if thick
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (chili spice mix)
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, plus more as needed
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, baby potatoes, sweet potatoes and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add chili powder, onion powder and paprika. Cook, stirring 1 minute.

Add kidney and pinto beans, barley, soy sauce, tomato paste, honey, stock and pepper. Increase heat to high. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook until barley and vegetables are tender and liquid thickens into a stew (45 to 60 minutes). Add stock, as needed, while cooking.

My notes: Add salt if needed when done. Garnish with chopped green onions or parsley.

Leah Koening’s Hamin

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 onions, halved through the root and thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 lb. beef marrow bones
  • 1½ lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 large eggs, in the shell
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1½ tsp. sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. crushed pepper flakes
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water plus additional as needed

Layer the onions, potatoes, carrots and garlic in the bottom of 8-quart or larger slow cooker. Pour wheat berries and chickpeas over vegetables, then layer on bones and beef. Nestle eggs throughout.

Whisk together honey, tomato paste, cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cinnamon, pepper flakes, salt, pepper and 1 cup water until fully combined. Pour over ingredients in slow cooker, then add just enough water to cover. (Do not stir.) Close lid. Cook on low until thick and stewy, 10 to 12 hours. Taste. Add salt, if needed.

My notes: Wheat berries are available in Middle Eastern and natural foods markets. Order beef marrow bones in advance. Garish with chopped fresh herbs.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].