Mushroom cholent: The Weiner family’s vegetarian stew

Who are we?

Noémi Egnell

Born in 1988 in Paris. Works at ‘Shakespeare and Sons’ bookstore and cafe in Berlin. As someone who grew up in a French home and loves food – how could she not? – Noémi discovered the delicacies of the Jewish cuisine only after meeting and marrying Josh. Noémi is vegetarian, she loves raw tahini and uses it as a dressing for pretty much anything.

Josh Weiner

Born in 1985 in Jerusalem. Josh moved with his parents to London when he was five years old. In 2014 he relocated to Berlin, was ordained as a rabbi and teaches Jewish philosophy. As a child Josh was in charge of preparing the family’s Shabbat table headed by his father, the Rabbi. Every week, dozens of guests were invited to the family’s table, but there was always room for more. Even today in Berlin, Josh and Noémi continue this tradition – the only difference is that the menu does not include meat, since Josh is also a vegetarian, “as was Rabbi Kook”.

And baby Amitai

Born in 2020 in Berlin – Amitai is already quite the glutton, his happy parents attest. Amitai is a big fan of semolina porridge with dried fruit. He prefers spinach over cabbage, and despite his young age he eats everything he can put in his mouth. But most of all he likes to play in the kitchen and drum on the pots.

Where was the photo taken?

The Weiner family’s kitchen, in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, is so small that Noémi and Josh cook in shifts. “Towards the Shabbat, while I am shopping in the market, Noémi kneads the challah dough,” says Josh. When I arrive back home Noémi leaves the kitchen and it’s my turn to make the cholent or the soup. When I finish – we take turns again, and she puts the challah in the oven.”

“I bake the challah according to a recipe Josh’s uncle gave me,” says Noémi proudly.

Our family kitchen

In virtue of keeping kosher and sticking to a vegetarian kitchen, Noémi and Josh prefer to eat at home. “We enjoy entertaining and so, through the food we prepare, we make new connections,” says Josh. “In fact, we never really know how many guests to expect for Shabbat– it depends on who we meet at our synagogue, Fraenkelufer.”

They acquired the craft of cooking and baking mostly on their own, also in view of how far they are from the rest of the family. “Before the holidays, I call my mother or grandfather and ask how to make this and that – and then I change everything,” says Josh with a smile. “Grandmother, for example, has a recipe for tzimmes, a carrots and plum stew, but she makes it with beef. Since we are vegetarians, I replaced the meat with root vegetables. ”

Josh also makes Hummus himself, “but only when I have enough energy to wash all the dishes afterwards.”

The house recipe: Mushroom cholent

Serves 12

Just as there is no Sabbath without challah at the Weiners, not a weekend goes by without a vegetarian cholent. The meat in the traditional recipe is replaced with oyster mushrooms, “They are similar to meat in texture and even in taste,” says Josh. Until the pandemic outbreak, Josh helped lead the “Berlin Tisch” program – a series of Sabbath study sessions around food. “Unfortunately, these days we host less,” says Noémi. “But we still cook this mushroom stew.”

This recipe is very flexible, depending on the size of your crockpot and the vegetables currently in season.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs Olive oil

5-7 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 leek, coarsely chopped

Cloves from 1 head of garlic, peeled

1Kg/ 2.2lb carrots/ sweet potato/ potato/ celeriac, peeled and coarsely chopped

200 grams/ 7ounces Tofu, diced

10-15 whole oyster mushrooms, washed

2-3 cups of black/ kidney beans, soaked for at least 4 hours and drained

1 cup mung beans/chickpeas/ barley, soaked for at least 4 hours and drained

4-6 whole eggs (optional)

a handful of salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Paprika, to taste

Ground cumin, to taste

Ground cinnamon, to taste

1 tsp Harissa paste (optional)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Sauté the chopped onions, leek and garlic cloves until golden and caramelized. Add water to cover and turn off the heat.
  2. In a large crockpot, arrange in layers the sautéd onions mixture, chopped vegetables, beans, tofu and eggs (if using). Add water to cover and add seasoning to your taste. Cover and cook over a low heat for at least 8 hours.
  3. Serve with steamed white rice.

(Edited by Ofer Vardi, family photo by Boaz Arad)