Saturday, February 29, 2020


La madre de todos los cocidos—the mother of all cocidos. Such has adafina been called. Adafina is a one-pot meal prepared by Sephardic Jews, a people who had a long-established community in Toledo before the expulsion order of 1492. The pot with meat, chickpeas and vegetables is put to cook before sundown on Friday and allowed to slowly cook overnight in the embers of the fire, to be served on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath when it was prohibited to cook. 

Is this the origin of the Spanish cocido? Adafina is a one-pot meal with meat, vegetables and chickpeas that dates back to Spain's medieval Sephardic community. 

The present-day Spanish cocido, one-pot meal, and its antecedent, the olla podrida, probably is descended from this Sephardic dish. In the days of the Inquisition, conversos, Jews who had converted to Catholicism rather than face expulsion, added pork and sausages to the pot to demonstrate good faith. Adafina gradually evolved to be the cocido known in every region of Spain, a meal that, in addition to beef, vegetables and chickpeas, almost always includes pork, sausages and ham bone. 

The name adafina derives from the Arabic, meaning “covered,” as it once was cooked in the coals in earthen pit ovens. Variations of the name (worth knowing if you are searching indexes) are dafina, t’fina, and hamin (which means “hot”). 

In medieval Toledo the pot would not have included potatoes, a vegetable not known until after the New World was“discovered.” But, modern-day adafina, as made by Sephardic Jews from Morocco and Tunisia, does contain potatoes or even sweet potatoes as well as a palette of spices that includes pimentón (paprika), another New World contribution. It often includes whole wheat-berries and/or rice. The grains are seasoned, wrapped in cloth and cooked right in the pot with meat, vegetables and chickpeas.

Unshelled eggs are a typical addition to adafina. The eggs hard-boil in the slow-cooked pot and darken from the meat juices. While the eggs are not found in a Spanish cocido, the relleno, meatballs or rolls of ground meat or chicken that cook with the meats and chickpeas, definitely is very much a part of many Spanish cocidos and pucheros. Another difference: the adafina usually has honey, date syrup or even caramel, adding a subtle sweetness and emphasizing the deep color of the broth. 

This recipe is adapted from the adafina I enjoyed at Restaurante Adolfo in Toledo, during a week of special events devoted to Jewish heritage in Europe (see below for link). 

 The meat, chickpeas, and vegetables cook 3 or more hours in a slow oven. Should you wish to cook the adafina overnight, after bringing the water to a boil, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven preheated to 225ºF. Cook the adafina for 6 to 10 hours. Modern-day Sephardic cooks usually leave the pot on an electric hot-plate (placa) to stay warm overnight.

Strained broth can be served alongside.

The broth cooks down considerably in the long cooking and, unlike cocido, it is not usually served as a separate soup course. However, I decided to strain it and serve small cups of the caldo (broth) to my guests. 

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this heart-warming meal. Nor does it have to cook all night nor be served exclusively for the Saturday Shabbat midday dinner. I loved waking up to the aromas of that delicious food, knowing that dinner was ready any time I wanted to serve it. 

The adafina is a festive one-pot meal for the Jewish Sabbath.

Meat roll (this one of ground chicken breast with rice), marrow bone and brisket so tender it is falling into pieces.

These carrots roasted all night alongside the pot of adafina. I sprinkled them with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrapped them in foil. Deliciously sweet.

Serve meat, vegetables and chickpeas with a little of the broth ladled over.

Sephardic Cocido (Meal-in-a-Pot), Toledo Style
Adafina de Toledo

Two days before serving the adafina: Soak the chickpeas in water to cover overnight or at least 8 hours. 

One day before serving: Place meat, vegetables, meat roll and eggs in pot with water and start cooking on stove. Place in a very low oven (225ºF)  overnight (or, at least 4 hours).  

To serve the adafina: Remove cooking pot from the oven. Slice the meat roll and place on a platter with the meat and potatoes. Peel the eggs, cut them in half and place on the platter. Ladle some of the broth over the meat. If making the ajada sauce, separate one potato and the head of garlic. If you intend to serve broth, ladle it through a strainer.

To cook the adafina you will need a large (6-quart) stew pot with a tight-fitting lid that can go from stove-top to oven. A full pot is extremely heavy, so take care moving it into and out of the oven.

Serves 6-8.

For the meat roll:
Most recipes for adafina call for ground beef to make the meat roll or balls that cook in the adafina pot. I chose to substitute ground chicken breast.

1 pound ground chicken or veal
1 egg, beaten
½ cup uncooked rice
3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves

To prepare the meat roll:
Wrap meat roll in cloth.
Combine the ground chicken or veal, egg, rice, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, ginger and clove in a bowl. Knead the mixture to combine well.

Cut a double-layer of cheesecloth into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle. Shape the chicken mixture into a 12-inch log and place it on the cheesecloth. Roll the log in the cheesecloth. Tie the ends with kitchen twine. Cook in the adafina pot.

For the adafina:
1 ½ cups dried chickpeas (about 10 ounces), soaked 6 to 12 hours
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 turnip, peeled
1 stalk celery
1 onion, unpeeled
1 meaty shin bone or marrow bone (12 to16 ounces)
2 ¼ pounds beef brisket
8-10 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 head of garlic, not peeled, top sliced off
Meat roll (recipe above) wrapped in cheesecloth
6-8 small red potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled
2-inch cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf
6 medjool dates
6 whole eggs, room temperature
Sprigs of parsley to garnish
Ajada garlic sauce to accompany (optional)

Ready to fill the big pot--at the top, brisket cut into two pieces and marrow bones; potatoes, garlic, celery, onion and turnip; and, on the platter below, a mesh bag containing chickpeas that have soaked overnight, a meat roll wrapped in cheesecloth, raw, unshelled eggs and a few dates. If you don't have a mesh bag for the chickpeas, just add them loose to the pot.
To prepare the adafina pot:
Drain the chickpeas. Place them in a mesh bag for cooking legumes.

Put the olive oil in the bottom of a large oven-safe stewpot. Put in the turnip, celery and onion. Place the shinbone and brisket on top. Add the water and bring to a boil.

As the water comes to a boil, keep skimming off the froth that rises to the top.

Skim off all the froth that rises to the top. Lower heat so the water bubbles gently. Carefully place the bag of chickpeas, the wrapped meat roll and the potatoes into the pot. Bring again to a boil and skim. Add the salt. Tuck the head of garlic in with the cinnamon stick, peppercorns, bay leaf and dates. Carefully lower the eggs into the pot. 

Cover and simmer the pot 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Remove lid and check to make sure that enough water remains—there should be enough liquid to almost cover the meat and potatoes. Add more water if needed.

Lower oven temperature to 225ºF. Very carefully transfer the pot to the oven.  Cook the adafina in the low oven at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours. (If the adafina will not be served for several more hours, turn the oven to “warm” (180ºF).

Remove the meat roll from the pot and discard the cheesecloth and twine. Slice the roll crosswise and arrange the slices on a platter. Remove the shin beef and brisket to the platter and cut them into serving pieces. 

Slow-cooked chickpeas are unbelievably tender. They darken from cooking with the beef.

With a slotted spoon, ladle the chickpeas onto the platter with the meat. Tent with foil and keep warm. Skim out the head of garlic and reserve it  and one potato to make ajada sauce, if desired.

Slow-cooked eggs darken too.
Remove the eggs and peel them. Place them whole or sliced on the platter. Arrange the potatoes and turnip around the meats on the platter. Discard cooked onion, celery, cinnamon and bay leaf. Spoon some of the hot broth over the meats and vegetables. 

Garnish the platter with sprigs of parsley. Serve immediately accompanied, if desired, with ajada garlic sauce.

White Garlic Sauce
Ajada Blanca

Sauce for meat and chickpeas.
Serve this sauce with the cooked meats, potatoes and chickpeas.

1 cooked head of garlic
1 small cooked potato
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Mash cooked garlic. 

Squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins into a small bowl. Mash them with a fork. Add the potato, cut in pieces, and mash it well. Stir in the oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. If necessary, thin the sauce with a little broth from the cooking pot. It should be the consistency of thick cream.

Recipes for traditional Spanish cocidos:

This year the Semana Sefardí in Toledo takes place 16-24 of March. More information and programming:

References for adafina recipes:
The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (Alfred A. Knopf; 1996).
The Scent of Orange Blossoms, Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco by Kitty Morse (Ten Speed Press, 2001).
A Drizzle of Honey, The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews, by David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson (St. Martin’s Press; 1999).
La Cocina Hebrea, La Gastronomía Melillense Conserjería de Cultura de Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla, 1997.
La Cocina Judía by Uriel Macías Kapón and Ana Benarroch de Bensadón (Red de Juderías de España; 2003).

Facebook groups: Sephardic Recipe Swap; SEC FOOD (Sephardic Educational Center). 


  1. Janet, this is just terrific. Very interesting food history.

    1. Cynthia: Thanks for your comment. It's interesting to me that adafina exists in modern-day cooking via the Sephardic peoples who migrated to North Africa. Whereas, the original, in Spain, became the cocido with pork products.

  2. Excellent - they say that cassoulet is related to the Sabbath stew and in particular cholent.

    1. MadDog: Cholent is the Ashkenazi version of a Sabbath stew. I don't know the origin of cassoulet. But all these one-pot-meals must have a common origin.

    2. I believe there are versions of cholent in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi cuisine.