Skhina means “hot” in Arabic and is the cholent/hamin (which also mean “hot”) of Moroccan Jews prepared for the Sabbath midday meal. It is typically cooked the day before (to abide by Jewish law which prohibits all forms of cooking on the Sabbath) in a public ferran, a Moroccan communal neighborhood wood-fired oven. Ferrans still exist to this day and are still successful and far from going defunct despite modern commodities because of their practicality and cheap price. You drop off your bread or cookies, skhina or tangia and come back to pick it up when it’s ready without a hassle in the world, and for no more than a few dirhams (about 50 cents).
So here I am, a shiksa attempting my first skhina. I used a recipe adapted from a wonderful cookbook my mother owns called La Cuisine Juive Marocaine by Viviane Moryoussef but the measurements and some of the touches are my own. I did not send it to the ferran but rather cooked it in a slow cooker. It was delicious and hearty. It tasted ancient. It tasted of history and survival.
Skhina is sometimes made by preparing the eggs and the wheat separately from the stew or placing the wheat in foil poked with holes and burying it in the sauce. I cooked everything together in the slow cooker and only separated the ingredients when serving. The eggs are cooked whole, with their shells on. When you peel them after they’re cooked, the whites are brownish, the color of café au lait. They taste of the stew they were cooked in. I never had eggs cooked this way before. They were beautiful.
Celebrating Jewish Moroccan Cuisine
1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 to 1/2 pounds top round roast or brisket, cut into 4 pieces
3 cups water
¾ cup bulgur wheat
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 dates, pitted and chopped
4 small red potatoes, peeled
4 eggs, thoroughly washed
In a medium skillet, sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, chili powder, ginger, cumin, turmeric and nutmeg. Add the meat and brown it on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the skillet to the Crockpot. Add the water, bulgur, bay leaf, garlic and dates. Bury in the potatoes and eggs in the sauce. Cook on high setting for 20 minutes until the sauce starts to simmer. Lower the heat to low setting and slow cook the skhina for 6 hours.
Using tongs fish out the eggs and wash them in the sink. Peel and plate them. Serve the rest of the ingredients side by side on the plate.