Kurdish Slow Cooked Wheat

by Sarah on December 29, 2010

hamin kurdish wheat

Someone trying Jewish food for the first time might think,

“How delicious! This tastes exactly like Moroccan food!”

This observation is correct, at least partly so. Jewish cuisine has been shaped by geographic region, whether European, Middle Eastern or North African and merged with the local style of cooking. The unifier of Jewish cuisine is religious dietary law and regional cuisines had to be adopted to fit these observances.

dusk, nahal akhziv

olive trees at dusk, nahal Akhziv, Galilee

One of the hallmarks of Jewish cuisine is the slow cooked Shabbat stews. Observant Jews do not cook or use electricity on Saturday, the Shabbath and on some religious holidays.  Long term cooking was developed where food is prepared on Friday, before the onset of Shabbath and left to slow cook throughout the night. This is known as hamin in many Middle Eastern countries, cholent in Eastern Europe, dafina in Spain, skhina in Morocco and mebosa in the Aramaic dialect of Northern Iraq. Today the recipes and their names have traveled wherever Jews have settled.

A popular Kurdish version of this stew is made with wheat berries and is called paku’ata in Aramaic. My Grandmother Zarifa calls it Hita, which translates to wheat in Hebrew. In Aramaic it may have been known also as Kiteh or keteh. Kubba, or Middle Eastern dumplings are often added to the stew for a more substantial dish.

Kurdish Slow Cooked Wheat

My Aunt told me she adds tomato paste to hers and this is what I do. My relatives also cook the wheat berries before adding it to the stew for a mushier consistency. I omitted this step and added chopped onions for extra flavor.

2 cups wheat berries

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

800 grams stewing meat such as chuck cut into cubes or four chicken thighs

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

A few tablespoons of olive oil, vegetable oil or lamb fat (I used olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 100°C. In a cast iron pot or other oven proof pot, brown the meat in olive oil. Add the onions and cook until beginning to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients-the wheat, tomato paste and spices. Cover with water so it comes to about 2 cm above the wheat (about four cups of water). Bring to a boil. Cover and put into the oven overnight. The following morning check to see if additional water needs to be added. If the wheat begins to stick to the bottom of the pot it’s a good idea to add a bit more water so it doesn’t dry out. I served it with a grated carrot and radish salad, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.

carrot and radish salad

Carrot and radish salad

Who is this? Meet Nesher (Eagle) our new pet cockatiel

cockatiel chick

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Yael December 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Another beautiful post. Nesher looks so funny but cute. Unfortunately wheat recipes are not a big hit in our household :)

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Liz December 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Friends of mine also make wheat hamin, although I don’t think they’re pulling from any particular ethnic tradition — they just happened to like it.

What an adorable bird! My sister has a similar looking one. Cutest nesher I’ve ever seen.

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Sarah December 29, 2010 at 9:31 pm

you would not believe how squawky nesher is, noisiest little bird I ever heard. He is also a spoiled brat, refuses to eat his seeds like a normal bird but wants hardboiled eggs all day.

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Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) December 29, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I make a slow cooked hamin / chulent / stew every weekend for Shabbat. I’m on a mission to find a new recipe and am trying a new one each week. I’ll add this one to the queue – it looks great. I use wheat berries a lot, I like how they stay firm and don’t get mushy like barley or rice do.

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Sarah December 30, 2010 at 3:51 am

that sounds like a great mission to me! how many different shabbat stews have you made so far?

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OysterCulture December 29, 2010 at 9:58 pm

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Joyce Goldstein who wrote a great book on Jewish cooking through this region. You’ve made me think its been too long since I cracked open that book.

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Natalie - Turkish Travel Blog January 1, 2011 at 2:11 am

Nesher is gorgeous. I am a lover of birds and I can tell he is going to be a very good friend to have around.

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Sarah January 1, 2011 at 3:07 am

thanks Natalie, he is still a little chick, but eats like a sumo wrestler, think perhaps I am feeding him too much

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