Cookbook Profile


Makes 12 servings


Dafina is the Moroccan equivalent of Cholent. This dish is meant to be eaten on Shabbat afternoon, served hot. The name means "covered" and refers to either the cooking vessel it is prepared in or the technique of burying an accompanying wheat-based dish in the stew while it cooks. I have included two variations for authentic Moroccan dafina. Some families use an accompanying side dish of toasted wheat berries and others swear by a hearty, fragrant rice dumpling called kouclas bi ruz. After many trials and tastings, it is unanimous in my house: We love both, for different reasons. I suggest you experiment in your own home and see which version wins over the crowd. Both are delicious.

My friend Marc Botbol says his family passes ground toasted cumin to sprinkle on top of the dafina.

For The Dafina

For The Wheat Berries

For the Kouclas bi Ruz (Moroccan Rice Dumpling)

Suggested Garnishes

1. Make the Dafina. If using the marrow bones, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the bones with olive oil and place them in a roasting pan. Roast the bones for 45 minutes until they are very dark brown but not black. Transfer the bones to the slow cooker insert.

2. Preheat a 6-1/2 quart slow cooker to Low.

3. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.

4. Add the onion and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is brown and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for several minutes until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly. Transfer the onion and garlic to the slow cooker insert.

5. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add a little more oil to the sauté pan and brown the meat in batches on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the meat to the insert. Add the chick peas, potatoes, spice mix, and dates to the insert. Stir with a large spoon to combine. Gently bury the eggs in the mixture.

6. Make the Wheat Berries. Place a clean sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until the onion is translucent and softened. Add the garlic, rice, and wheat berries. Continue cooking until the rice has turned a golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

7. My friend Isaac Elkayam says to enclose the wheat mixture in a piece of foil that has been poked with small holes. Bury the foil into the dafina with the top of the foil packet still exposed. Or, like Coty Finegold, place the wheat mixture in an earthenware cup and bury the cup only enough so you can pull it out.

8. Add the chicken stock to the dafina mixture. Add water to barely cover.

9. Make the Kouclas. Mix the ground meat, ground nuts, sugar, parsley, whisked eggs, rice, spice mix, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Knead the mixture to get a smooth texture.

10. Cut a large piece of cheesecloth. Place the mixture in the cheesecloth. Roll the mixture into a sausage shape about 1-1/2 x 10 inches. Tie the ends with kitchen twine. Place the dumpling on top of the dafina.

11. Cover and cook on Low for 15 hours.

12. Serve the Dafina. Carefully remove the kouclas. Unwrap it, cut into chunks, and place it on a platter. Remove the wheat mixture and place it in a serving bowl or on the platter next to the kouclas. Remove the eggs and place them in a separate bowl or on the platter. Spoon the dafina into another bowl or onto the platter. Place the marrow bones, if using, in another bowl or on the platter. Each person can customize her or his own plate. Pass the ground cumin, if using.


Marc Botbol and his family make the wheat berries separately as he learned the technique from his mother who is from Casablanca and always made it that way.

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

2. Place a small sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Sauté the onion until it is lightly browned and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly, about 2 minutes.

3. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium ovenproof casserole. Stir in the wheat berries and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook overnight, until the wheat berries are soft but still chewy


Moroccan Spice Mix

Makes 1/4 cup

This mix is a tour de force of flavor and fragrance. The complex aromas permeate meats, vegetables, and grains to give food a dynamic oomph. These flavors have a chance to do their magic in the slow cooker where they can spend many hours happily bubbling away. I use this mix often when I make Lamb Tagine (page 104 of the book) and Moroccan-Spiced Duck with Sweet Tart Orange Sauce (page 120).

Place the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, chili flakes, fenugreek, anise, and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder and process until completely ground. If using the brown sugar, transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the sugar. Store in a tightly covered container away from light for up to 3 months.

Fenugreek is an ancient seasoning that has been found in excavation sites in the Middle East dating back to the Bronze Age. Sephardic Jews frequently eat fenugreek on Rosh Hashanah, as the Hebrew name for fenugreek means the same as "to increase merits," a common theme during the High Holidays. Both the leaves and seeds are commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian recipes. (See Sources, page 233 of the book)


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This page created December 2009