Sweet caramelized wheat hamin with winter vegetables


Can recipes become out-of-date? I certainly hope not. I made this lovely wintry stew a week and a half ago, in the midst of one of Israel’s fiercest winter storms in decades. But life happened — I was busy, least of all redesigning this site, as some of you have already noticed — and then in the blink of an eye, the rain abated and we’re now enjoying some of the sunniest days you could ask for. It’s still chilly, particularly at night, but it also kind of feels like early spring. In January. Global warming, anyone?

Anyway, I’m guessing this is just a brief respite from winter — all the more reason to get outside. It seemed like everyone else had the same idea this week, what with the country off work for election day. You vote for your favorite party in the morning, and then you vote for your favorite falafel stand/coffee shop/open-air market by early afternoon (our vote that day went to Falafel Benin, on Tchernichovsky 2 right off Allenby, with its fabulously crispy falafel balls).

Speaking of which — we ran into our mayor at the voting booth. We now know exactly what we’d say to him, given the chance. Not that we didn’t vote for him last time but we like how he’s increased his focus on young, middle-class families in his current term; not that we really appreciate all the new bike paths, even if the ones on the sidewalks are less than optimal. Always thinking on our toes, we managed to stammer “Hi.”

But back to this hamin — this slow-cooked Sabbath stew is based on wheat berries, preferably the tougher unhulled ones, which retain a good degree of chewiness despite the long cooking time. The mix of sweet vegetables — squash, carrot and fennel, the latter of which you won’t find in too many hamin dishes — become infused with a deep caramel flavor, with the sweetness accented by prunes.

It remains to be seen whether the groundhog will see his little shadow, but I’m guessing we’ll have plenty more chilly weekends to make this before spring truly is here.

And on an unrelated note — feedback is welcome on the new blog design, which is still a work in progress.

For about 3 liters of hamin:

  • 2 cups unhulled wheat berries
  • oil for frying
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4-6 fat garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed under the blade of a knife
  • 3 carrots, chopped into large chunks
  • 1/2 butternut squash (±500 grams/1 lb), chopped into large chunks
  • 1 medium fennel (±500 grams/1 lb), chopped into large chunks
  • 6 prunes, diced into little bits
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • about 1.25 liters boiling water (5 cups)

Leave the wheat to soak in advance if you have time.

Note: I generally make my hamin in a slow cooker, so I fry my vegetables in a different pot. If you’re making it in the oven, you can use the same oven-safe pot for both frying and baking it afterward.

Put a bit of oil in your pot and start frying the onions. Add the garlic cloves, then the carrots, squash and fennel (I add each vegetable as I chop it). Stir and let fry until the vegetables are golden and slightly soft.

If the pot is going in the oven, add the wheat and the other ingredients to the vegetables. If you’re using a slow cooker, arrange the wheat across the bottom of the pot, and top with the vegetables. Pour some hot water into the pan to deglaze (remove any juices) and then empty that water into the slow cooker. Fill your pot/slow cooker with water, leaving the top centimeter/half inch of vegetables exposed.

Let cook at a low temperature — 110 degrees Celsius in the oven, or on the automatic setting of a slow cooker or Shabbat hot plate — for 12 hours or so.

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