This is a delicious, homely and easy-to-make dish. A traditional Yiddishe cooking method, gedempte is basically a pot-roast, whereby the ingredients slowly steam-cook together so that every part of the dish comes together and plants a bubbe-sized smacker on your lips. Perfect for those winter evenings with friends or family, accompanied by a full-bodied red and – if you’re feeling particularly indulgent – some steaming, buttery cous cous or crusty bread.
Serves 6-8 people
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes
2 red onions, finely grated
3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 chicken, cut into halves and quarters
400g lean minced beef or lamb
1 medium egg
6 carrots, finely grated
2 red peppers, sliced into half-inch slithers
8 medium-sized potatoes (Cyprus or another firm, waxy type), cut into quarters
6 medium-large soft tomatoes, quartered
5 dried (or 10 fresh) bay leaves
2 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of tomato puree
1 tablespoon of olive oil
150ml of water
1 teaspoon of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 large baking dish
Preheat your oven to 190°C / 170°C fan assisted / gas mark 5
Place your minced lamb or beef into a large mixing bowl. Beat the egg and add to the meat. Add to this a quarter of the grated onion, 1 clove of the minced garlic and the teaspoon of finely chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper, and work the elements together with your hands. Then, with slightly wet hands (this helps to bind the meatballs together), roll about a dessertspoon sized amount of the mix together between the palms of your hands until you have a juicy, spherical ball of yumminess. Place at random in your baking dish and continue until you have used up all the mix.
Then, leaving aside the paprika, water and tomato puree, take the remaining ingredients and scatter amongst the meatballs, working everything gently together with your hands. Next, mix the tomato puree into the water and pour into the dish – this liquid, along with the grated carrots and onions, will provide you with a scrumptious and rich gravy. (And as this is a one-pot-wonder please don’t worry about aesthetics – it’ll all go down the same way at the end of the day.) Finally, sprinkle the whole thing with paprika.
Now cover the dish with tinfoil, making sure every corner is secure, and place in your preheated oven for 2 hours 30 minutes. Check every 40 minutes or so, basting and turning all the ingredients to ensure that everything cooks evenly.
Once ready, serve immediately, and enjoy the embracing warmth of your imaginary Jewish grandmother.
Bubbe – grandmother
Gedempte – slowly cooked/stewed
Yiddishe – relating to the traditional culture of Ashkenazic Jews of Central and Eastern Europe