As we made our way through Sefer Bamidbar, I continued to experiment with the cholent recipe. I put a whole bottle of barbecue sauce in the vegetarian cholent and it came out something like Jewish Boston baked beans. I also poured a bottle in the fleishig cholent and while I did not try it (I am trying to cut down my meat consumption) those who did thought it was good. Admittedly, a few dastardly souls dared to say there was too much barbecue sauce in the cholent, but there are always spoil-sports in any crowd. Nevertheless, I must confess that after two weeks straight of barbecue cholent, I myself was also ready for something different.
I think I found it. For Shabbos Parashas Matos I made my usual Morroccan dafina with chickpeas, barley (I am not brave enough yet to do it with rice), cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and who eggs. I did add a new ingredient that made a big difference: wheat kernels, which are also know as a wheat berries. In the past, I added the wheat kernels in place of the barley. The cholent would often come out soupy and undercooked because the wheat does not soak up water the way the barley does, and somehow, there has to be the right proportion of dry ingredients to water in order the the cholent to cook properly. For this last cholent, I put a full cup of barley in and a half a cup of wheat kernels, plus the regular chickpeas, spices, oil and eggs. The additional wheat kernels had a great effect. The cholent was completely cooked through. even the chickpeas, which tend to be hard, were soft and fully cooked. And the wheat kernels were chewy and gave the entire cholent a sense of weightiness. In other words, the density and the texture were perfect, something which is hard to achieve in a vegetarian cholent. The following week, for Shabbos Parashas Masei, I made my usual Ashkenazi cholent but added the additional half cup of wheat kernels, and this improved this cholent's texture and density as well. Ah... the sweet taste of success! Have a good Shabbos!