King of Stews, the Cholent

Its name is Cholent and is a Jewish dish designed to provide a Saturday lunchtime meal for a family at a time of the week when, because of Sabbath restrictions on what work can be done, no lighting of fires or stoves is allowed from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. It is a slow-cooked beef stew and is put on the stove on a Friday afternoon and taken off the heat and served on a Saturday lunchtime.

King of Stews
King of Stews

There is no one standard recipe for Cholent as the content of it varies according to where a family lives and what types of meat and vegetables are available. A Spanish or Moroccan Cholent is very different in ingredients and flavor from a Cholent cooked by a family whose descendants were originally from Eastern Europe.

  • 1 kg chopped stewing beef.
  • 450g celery, roughly chopped
  • 400g chopped onions
  • 450g mushrooms (big ones chopped into quarters, small button mushrooms left whole)
  • 175g pearl barley
  • 140 g tomato puree
  • 800 g tinned tomatoes
  • 500 g carrots, roughly chopped
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 750 ml of vegetable stock
  • 5 dessert spoons of sunflower oil for frying the onions.

King of Stews
King of Stews

Note: Halfway through the first ‘hob stage’ of this dish preheat the oven to gas mark 7

  1. Chop the vegetables and measure and get ready your other ingredients.
  2. Cook the onions until soft in the 5 dessert spoonfuls of sunflower oil.
  3. Add the stewing beef and stir to brown the meat a little. When meat has browned, turn down the heat.
  4. Add the stock to the pot along with the tins of tomatoes, the tomato puree and the chopped carrots and celery.
  5. Add pearl barley and stir.
  6. Add mushrooms and stir.
  7. Bring to the boil and boil for five minutes stirring occasionally.
  8. Remove from the hob and place covered pan in oven preheated to gas mark 7.
  9. Cook on Gas mark 7 for about ten mins and then reduce the heat to its final cooking temperature which is gas mark ½ or gas mark 1.
  10. Cook in oven for at about 12 to 18 hours stirring occasionally and adding a small amount of fluid, such as stock, if it looks necessary.

What you should be left with after cooking and the adding of the dumplings is a thick rough meaty gloop with not too much loose fluid on the top. Care should be taken that this food doesn’t stick to the bottom or sides of the pot. This is really important to watch for in the latter stages when the dumplings are added. This cooking method does concentrate the flavors of the ingredients and if you do not like too much salt then you should check the salt levels in the stock that you are using and change them to taste.

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