Updated: Jun 11, 2021
Firstly, what is cholent (also pronounced chulent)? Secondly, when do you eat it?
Cholent is also known as 'hamin' and in Morrocco, they have a version called 'dauphine'. Because cooking is prohibited over the Sabbath, cholent is cooked on a pre-existing flame that simmers overnight. By Saturday morning, the smell of cholent is dense in the house, and in a visceral sense, it is the smell of the Sabbath.
The recipe for cholent varies depending on regional and cultural differences but what is common is that it is eaten on the Sabbath. Cholent was developed over centuries to conform with laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. Being in Dubai, with limited access to meat, the recipe continues to adapt to our environment.
For many years, we were unable to access meat on a daily basis. We were never big meat eaters anyway, so the transition to a vegan cholent was not a big issue. The recipe below is for the vegan cholent. The same process applies to meat but you will include braised brisket (the South African way) or stewing beef chunks (as per the UK) into the recipe. In some communities in Europe, they use goose meat!
Over the years, my vegan cholent has become better and better. This is a recipe that takes intuition, practice and adaptation to tastes and number of people you are feeding. There are a many of additions you could include to spice it up (e.g., rosemary). I use my homemade cholent spice to give it an extra kick of flavor. When this dish is good, it's GOOD!
Needless to say, I don't have exact quantities. But I can give you a guide.
Crockpot / slow cooker
Pearl barley: checked, washed and rinsed
Potatoes: peeled and cut into chunks
Onions: cut into 1/8 wedges
Garlic: wholesaled cloves smashed
Carrots: peeled and cut into thick slices
Butter beans, red kidney beans (you can use a mix): checked and rinsed
Red lentils (dhal): 1 cup (helps thicken the 'soup')
Salt and black pepper: to taste
Spices: I use my Emirati cholent spices
Oil - at least 2 cups
Layer the ingredients in the order presented above
You should put enough barley to create a thick layer at the bottom of the pot.
Then place the vegetables and spices.
Pour in enough water - approx. double the height of the ingredients.
Then pour in the oil.
Switch the pot onto low. Cover with the lid and do not open for approx. 18 hours. If you need to add water to prevent it from burning, lift the lid and add sufficient water. Do not stir. Close the lid and allow to continue to cook.
The outcome should be a thick caramel like bean stew. The taste may appear strange at first but once you get used to it, it is addictive.
I love to eat it with a dollop of tahini, some fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. YUMMMM.