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Saturday, October 23, 2010


Dafina Pot Sealed in Flour and Water to insure
that no non-Kosher Ingredients could be added
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCast adefina, Ar. shalet, adafina, dafina (hidden, covered), Ashkenazi, cholent, shulent, Heb hammin (hot), Eng. dafina, Jewish Sabbath stew. This was prepared on Friday. That afternoon it was paraded down winding medieval streets on a servant’s head or carried on poles by pages with merry children dancing in the procession to the local public ovens to cook overnight. 

The baker wrote a number in chalk on each pot and issued a piece of paper to the head servant with the corresponding number. A Jew held 
vigil throughout the night to insure that no  Christians tampered with the kosher stews at the bakery. 

The following day, the pots, wrapped in  blankets to keep them warm, were carried back to the respective homes and the stew was served at lunchtime on Saturdays. This cooking process was necessary for the prohibition of Jews to  work on the Sabbath.  

Dafina is the successor of hamin (a cabbage stew). Actually, it did not acquire  the name “dafina” until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Those who went to northern Africa renamed  it.  Jews explain, “a good Chabbat (Sabbath) cannot be complete without a good daf (ina)!” 

It has been adapted to include available food products. Today, potatoes are permitted in lieu of bulgur, fava beans or chickpeas and paprika and other hot peppers are used instead of long pepper, which was common in the Middle Ages. North Africans have added whole red peppers.   Spanish Jews sometimes used mutton instead of beef and rice or chickpeas instead of the barley  used by Ashkenazi Jews, in Eastern Europe. Sephardi spices included pepper, saffron and ground  coriander seed. Other ingredients consisted of items that were not spoiled by lengthy cooking.  Dates and raisins could be added. Following the North African tradition, a little cracked wheat  could be added also.
White Eggs with Onion Skins
Photo by: Lord-Williams

Further, dafina still requires one hard-boiled  egg per person in its shell. These eggs are  called hamine, as they are cooked in onion  skins until shell becomes brown as it absorbs the color of the skins. 

While Ashkenazi Jews served their dafinas  with puddings, Sephardi dafina could be  served with boronía, a Hispano Arab  eggplant mixture. Because of the custom of  using fava beans today Jews claim to be the  founders of bean dishes that pilgrims of the Middle Ages and later Puritans copied. The  latter version is known as “Boston Pork and Beans.”   [Ency Judaica. 1971:5:C:489-490; ES: Heiges. Apr 21, 02; Israel. 2007:77-79; Roden. El libro. 2004:95:276-278]  

For 6-8 personas 

Peeling Turnips
Photo by: Lord-Williams

¼ lb chickpeas
¼ c olive oil  
¾  lb oso bucco
¾ lb veal breast
1 veal trotter
3 peeled turnips
2 bay leaves  
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick  
1 tsp ras el Canut  (a mixture of spices, which may include: black pepper, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and/or ginger; there is no standard recipe)
1 tsp mashed saffron
salt to taste

Hamine Eggs with Onion Skins
Photo by: Lord-Williams

For hamine eggs:
6 white eggs
5 onions
½  tbsp ground coffee[1]

For the stuffing:
½ c rice
¼ c olive oil
1 tsp mashed saffron
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp ginger scrapings  
salt to taste
¼ lb ground beef
2 eggs beaten

Pressure Cookers are Used Today
Photo by: Lord-Williams

Soak the chickpeas in water with a pinch of salt on Thursday night. The following day strain them and set aside.

For hamine eggs: remove the skins of the onions and place raw white eggs in their shells in a pot with the skins. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and gently boil for four hours until the shells become as brown or browner than brown eggs take. The eggs are not shelled until ready to eat. The egg white will be brown and the yolks creamy. These eggs, in the shell, are symbolic of procreation and the continuity of Jewish life.

For the stuffing: sauté rice in olive oil with saffron and other spices. Remove from heat and mix with the remaining ingredients. Place this on a thin muslin cloth roll it like a sausage and tie the two ends.  Slack should be left for rice to expand.

Dafina at its Finest!
Photo by: Lord-Williams
General Preparation: Fill a large clay or stainless steal pot half full of water. Heat it. When it begins to boil add in the chickpeas that have been soaked overnight. Cook 15-20 minutes.

Brown the meat in the oven or in a frying pan with a little olive oil.

Remove the chickpeas from the pot, letting the water continue to boil gently and add ingredients to the pot in the following order: hamine eggs in shells, chickpeas, meat, stuffing and on top peeled, whole turnips.

Dissolve mashed saffron in a little broth and add it to the pot with the remaining herbs and spices. Add more water if necessary to completely fill the pot. Pour a drizzle of olive oil over the surface. Bring to a boil and skim the foam that forms on top.  Then cover the pot with the lid.

Make a paste with flour and water and smear it around the circumference between the pot and the lid to hermetically seal it shut. This helps to prevent the pot from drying out and insures that no one can tamper with the ingredients. Reduce heat to a medium setting and let simmer overnight.[2]

[1] This appears to be a modern addition but it is possible that coffee was available in parts of southern Spain under Muslim domination during the Middle Ages.
[2] Electric burners are used as the settings are lower than those of gas stoves so there is less chance of burning. Also, strict Jews follow to the letter the prohibition to do any work on the Sabbath including the restriction of adding more wood to a fire, adjusting gas settings or turning on electrical outlets including burners. As the latter are turned on Friday night, this is a preferred method of preparing Sabbath day dishes today. 


  1. Hi Susan! I would like to get in touch with you regarding this Adafina recipe, but I can't seem to find a contact section on your blog. Do you have an email address where I could write to you? Many thanks, Pia

  2. Would love to communicate privately. Please send you your email.