Sofrito – Slow Cooking Meat in Little Oil and Water

Avichay Eisenger took us to a small restaurant in the Ben Yehuda market in Jerusalem that specialises in slow cooked food. I had Sofrito and it was wow. I’ve been trying to master it ever since.

Sofrito - Slow Cooking Meat in Little Oil and Water

Steven Thomas
Sofrito was originally a Spanish style of cooking which passed into Sephardic Jewish cuisine. It involves long slow cooking with little oil and water. Effectively it is a combination of roasting and stewing. The result is a very tender. Serve with rice - consider Egyptian Rice - and salad.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 - 3 tablespoons of oil
  • Optional 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1.5 - 3 kg shoulder or leg of lamb or shank of beef, joint of veal, leg or loin of veal, or chicken cut into large pieces (approx 3 cm) or whole
  • Optional 2 large onions, cubed
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Baharat or Bahar spice mixture
  • Optional Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Optional Up to 1/3 cup extra boiling water
  • 4-8 medium potatoes up to 900 grams cut into cubes (about 2.5 cm) and deep fried until golden
  • Optional 25 unpeeled cloves of garlic deep fried with the potatoes
  • Optional 500 g tomatoes, sliced

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot
  • If using crushed garlic, sautĂ© until starting to become transparent
  • Brown the meat on all sides (in batches if necessary)
  • Add the onion to the pan, if used
  • Add water to the pot, pouring onto the sides of the pot
  • Cover tightly. Bring back to the boil. Reduce to low heat
  • Sprinkle the meat with salt, spice and most of lemon juice (if used)
  • Cook for 1 hour for chicken, otherwise 2 hours. Shake the pot occasionally (don't stir the meat). Add extra boiling water if the pot gets dry (needs about 5mm of liquid). Add a tablespoon at a time, with at most 2/3 cups in total. Pour water onto the side of the pot rather than directly onto the meat. Then shake the pot.
  • Lift the meat from the pot
  • Add remaining vegetables to cooking juices in the pot (deep fried potatoes plus optional tomatoes and deep fried garlic cloves)
  • Layer the meat on top of the vegetables
  • Adjust seasonings
  • Cook for another hour on low heat
  • Drizzle with remaining lemon juice

Notes

Adapted from Ansky (2000), Ben David (2007), Roden (1986), and Tamimi and Ottolenghi (2012)

References

Ansky, S. (2000). The Food of Israel: Authentic Recipes from the Land of Milk and Honey. Periplus Editions.
Ben David, A. (2007). Sofrito Spanish-Jerusalem. The Treasure: Al Hashulchan’s Best Recipes (p. 137). Israel: Al Hashulchan.
Tamimi, S. and Ottolenghi, Y. (2012). Jerusalem: A Cookbook.
Roden, C. (1986). A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Penguin.

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