My husband spends a lot of time working on a bi-national grant with France, in Paris and Nancy. A few
years ago he returned with wonderful descriptions of a T'fina (a warm, slowly cooked
sabbath dish in the Sephardic tradition) he had eaten called Pkaïla. T'fina is the
Sephardic equivalent of the Ashkenazic cholent. Another Sephardic term for this type
of dish is hammim, a warm dish. Pkaïla is a dark, nearly black, stew of spinach,
meat, garlic, and white beans. The sauce has a unique aroma and flavor of mint and dill. I prepare
Pkaïla without the osbana sausage because I have never been able to find it (and
haven't had the inclination to make sausages myself).
Because the only time consuming
part of preparing this beautiful dish is the spinach confit, I recommend that you prepare
a cup or two of the confit and store it, coated with a layer of oil in the refrigerator. You
can even freeze some of the confit if you prepare a really large amount. The flavor of
Pkaïla, of course, is very different if you prepare it with lamb instead of beef. I would
try it both ways, and then decide which you prefer.
Put all the ingredients (cold) in a very large saucepan. Cover with cold water, just to the top of
the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat, adjust the temperature so that the
mixture is just bubbling, keep uncovered for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to a simmer, and cover.
Cook slowly for 4-5 hours until the meat is soft. You can salt and pepper the mixture any time after the first
- 3 pounds brisket, beef pot roast, or lamb
- 2 medium onions, grated or chopped finely in the Cuisinart
- 12 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 bouquet flat parsley
- 1/2 bouquet dill
- 1/3 bouquet mint
- 10 ounces or 300 grams dried white beans, soaked overnight and drained
- 1 tsp. harissa*
- 8 T. confit d'épinards (see below)
- optional: osbana sausage in 4 portions
- salt and pepper to taste
Alternatively, and even better, you can serve this as a T'fina or
Sabbath day dish which is cooked slowly over Friday night. Begin the cooking
Friday mid-day. Be sure that the mixture is cooking at a slow simmer, and
after two hours of simmering, place the pot on a blech (sabbath warming tray), cover with a heavy
towel (or use a crock pot), and allow it to cook slowly until Saturday
Serve over couscous with optional extra harissa.
*Harissa is a North African condiment, available in many Middle-Eastern or French specialty
shops. It is a mixture of hot peppers, garlic, salt, and usually oil. Occasionally coriander or
other herbs are added to the mixture.
Wash the fresh spinach, dry well, and coarsely chop. Put the spinach in a large frying pan. Heat over a high flame
while constantly stirring. Slowly, the spinach will cook down, and the water will evaporate. When the water is all
gone, add the oil. The spinach will begin to fry. As the mass decreases in size, and no further steam is escaping,
and the color starts to darken, remove from the heat. The spinach should not burn, but cook slowly for about 40 minutes to 1 hour in all.
- 2 pounds fresh or frozen spinach
- 1 cup olive oil
If you are using frozen spinach, squeeze as much water from the spinach before beginnning. Then proceed as above.