Grandma Belha began the art of making chamin the night before, to gain some time on Friday. All the frying was done on Thursday evening (remember when the prevailing food trend in Tiberias was frying?).
The highlight of this chamin is a bread patty called “Kouklia”. We are talking about patties with (lots of) bread and (little) meat that absorb the chamin’s flavors that develop throughout its overnight slow cooking. As a kid, just before the Thursday night basketball game on TV, I received three of these meatballs, straight out of the pan. You should know – the person who receives these is the most loved at that moment… these meatballs are the most delicious three times – when they come out of frying in the pan, on Saturday morning and of course at lunch itself – taste for yourself.
On Friday afternoon, as the chamin begins to cook, the anticipation builds and is satisfied on Saturday by noon (and not a moment after!). Chamin is a ritual. Start on Saturday morning – open the pot carefully, take out some beans on a plate, place a koukla between two slices of challah with salt and black pepper and eat. It is impossible to explain the elation.
On Saturday morning we eat the kouklas sandwiched between challah. When lunchtime rolls around, take the chamin to the table, prepare a fresh vegetable salad, with plenty of tartness to balance out the fat, and from there immediately go take a nap and dream about the next Shabbat.
Every Shabbat Mom and Dad argued: Dad liked his chamin with plenty of broth, so that the kouklas were tender, and he would sneak up and add extra liquid from time to time; Mom liked it as we did- brown and crispy kouklas on top, juicy and tender on the bottom, so she preferred the chamin with less broth. Either way it is delicious.
For holidays and celebrations it was customary to add lamb fat, which made it clear it was a special occasion by taking the taste up several degrees.
And to wrap it up – a little story: we used to eat chamin up until noon on Shabbat, after that it feels like desecrating Shabbat… When I met my wife Efrat, I learned that this food is still delicious on Sunday. But don’t do it, it’s only to keep the peace at home.
Due to its amazing quality, Tiberian chamin is now common all over the country…
Ingredients for Tiberian Chamin
For the kouklas (enough for 15 each):
- 6 slice of bread from the previous day, soaked in water, squeezed and crumbled into small pieces
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup ground beef or chopped
- ½ cup parsley finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the chamin:
- 1.1 lbs (500 grams) white beans dried, no need to soak overnight
- 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) beef short ribs/osoboco/neck (can be replaced with chicken)
- 2 bones beef, washed in hot water
- 6 potatoes small, according to the number of diners
- 6 hard boiled eggs unpeeled, according to the number of diners
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons Salt
- 1 tablespoon Chicken soup powder
- a little cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon date honey or one date, my addition for the deep color
1. Mix all the ingredients, and fry until brown meatballs (don't forget to invite someone who likes to eat 3 fried meatballs straight from the pan).
2. After the frying is finished, place in a bowl and add some frying oil with a spoon, chamin likes a lot of oil, those who don't like oil won't have as good an experience.
3. Fry (of course) the meat and the potatoes; the kouklas are already fried.
4. At the bottom of the pot build the chamin - oil from the fryer, beans with the spices. Place the meat and bones on top of the beans, around them the potatoes and eggs and on top of all the kouklas. Cover with water up to the top of the patties, don't worry some of the water will evaporate and you will get brown and soft kouklas.
5. Cook for about half an hour on the stove, then the pot is transferred to the oven and baked at 212F (100C) degrees overnight.
6. A small final note - save Shabbat's challah because an equally important part of the chamin eating ceremony is wiping up the sauce with the challah.