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Sephardic Sofrito

A rich festive dish from Jerusalem Sephardic cuisine. The cooking cycle is shorter than for hamin so it is usually served on Friday night, but it can survive in the oven overnight and be served for Saturday lunch. The technique of deep-frying the potato wedges described here is worth adopting in other dishes (for example, root vegetables in various meat casseroles). Deep-frying retains the shape and texture of the vegetables even after long slow cooking.

Ingredients (serves 8)
  • 11/2 kg (3 lb 5 oz) beef brisket cut into large chunks

  • 1/3 cup oil

  • 8 small whole onions, peeled

  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled

  • 3/4 cup chicken/beef stock or water

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 8 potatoes cut into uniform wedges

  • Oil for deep-frying

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and brown the beef on all sides.


Generously grease a wide, flat ovenproof saucepan (use 5 tablespoons of oil) and lay in the meat, onions and garlic.


Mix the stock or water with the spices, pour over the chicken and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and cook for one hour over low heat. If more liquid is needed, add some boiling water. Up to this point, the dish may be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator.


Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).


Heat the oil for deep-frying and fry the potato wedges until golden. Transfer to paper towel to drain the excess oil.


Arrange the deep-fried potato wedges over the cooked beef, cover the pan and transfer to the oven for about 2 hours. Or, set overnight on an electric hotplate or in a 100°C (225°F) oven. Shake the saucepan once or twice during the cooking so the sauce covers the potatoes. The sofrito is ready when all of the pieces are tender.

Chicken Sofrito Substitute the beef with 16 chicken drumsticks. 


photo: Eilon Paz ("The Book of New Israeli Food")

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