by David Bodrug
Many a winter’s Shabbat was graced with this cholent recipe, a vegetarian modification of a meat-based recipe from Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen’s What’s Cooking Jewish (Parragon Publishing UK). You’ll find that in time, you’ll find your own intuitive balance of spicing – and feel free to experiment with this as an “Al Dafina” Sephardi version using North African spicing. Crockpots can be of different sizes, so if you think there’s too many ingredients, omit a couple of potatoes or a half-cup of the navy beans. You can also make this recipe in the oven in a heavy pot (the ceramic flameproof casserole ones are best), cooking it at 225°F.
Prepare in advance:
- 2 cups white navy beans (I use dry beans soaked overnight)
- 4 onions, diced and/or sliced
- 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped small
- 1 can red kidney beans
- 1 package of veggie sausages
- ½ cup short grain brown rice
- 6-10 potatoes
- 1-2 large yam(s)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1-2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1-2 tsp cumin
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 6-8 tbsp water
- 1 28oz can of diced canned tomatoes (unseasoned, low sodium if possible)
- pepper to taste
If you like it hot, you can add ½ tsp of cayenne, or 1 tbsp of Sambel Olek sauce.
I usually put 2 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of the slow cooker and spread it around the bottom and sides with paper towel.
In a large frying pan, saute the onions on medium heat until golden brown, and then add the garlic for the last 30-60 seconds. Remove onions and garlic to the slow cooker, and saute the veggie sausages so they soak up the onion and garlic flavour and carmelize a little. When they’re finished, layer on top of the onions.
I usually put the navy beans as the next layer and dust them with thyme and cumin. Nestle the bay leaves amongst the beans. Potatoes are next, with paprika (in recent months I’ve taken to covering the potatoes with a dusting of paprika before putting them in). Then yams with cumin. Then the rice and kidney beans with chili powder. Then the canned tomatoes. I usually add the salt and pepper here.
It all melds in the end, but I think the above combo layers melds particular spices with particular items in a way that does make a subtle difference. You can also repeat layers if you have a bigger crock pot.
Once the layers are set up, I clean the pan used for the onions and garlic. I put it on medium-high heat and put the brown sugar in. Pour about 2 tbsp of water over the sugar and let it bubble and carmelize – stirring gently. Have the remaining 4-6 tbsp water in a glass ready to pour in before the sugar carmelizes. Once carmelized, I slowly pour the rest of the water in and swirl it around as I transit the pan from the stovetop to above the slow cooker. Pour the contents of the pan over the contents of the slow cooker as you would salad dressing. Then pour water to cover all the contents of the cholent pot.
Make sure you have enough room to get enough water that it won’t dry out, but you should also aim to have a good half-inch between the water covering the cholent and the top of the crockpot – or else if may bubble up and overflow when the rise and beans expand. You’ll find the right balance of ingredients to the size of your crockpot in time. Also check your crockpot before starting to cook. Some crockpots will turn themselves off after 12 hours, which won’t help in the winter months when you’re setting up a cholent at 3 in the afternoon to be eaten for the next days lunch!
I hope this recipe brings you as much nachas and simcha as it did for me in making it for the Emanu-El kehillah over the years. If you find improvements on the recipe through your own experimentation, please send them to me! I’m still in the directory.
Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!
[Find this and other recipes in the forthcoming Sefer Emanu-El book in honour of the congregation’s Sesquicentennial]