Beid hamine is a specialty of Sephardic Jewish cuisine. It is the same recipe for long simmered eggs, which can be found in the cuisines of the various Jewish communities around the Mediterranean in Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey or Greece but also in Egypt under the name of beid hamine or beid haouzi, and in Spain where the dish is known as huevos haminados, huevos sefardíes or huevos enhaminados.
How to make beid hamine
One of the first characteristics of this dish is the cooking of hen eggs for many hours.
Slow, steady heat makes the egg yolks creamy and smooth, and the onion skins impart a delicate flavor and attractive brown color to the whites. The more they are cooked, the softer the eggs. The long cooking time is the result of the Jewish tradition of slowly cooking food overnight from Friday to Saturday and serving it on Saturday, day of Shabbat, when cooking is prohibited.
Coffee is not mandatory and doesn’t give any taste to the beid hamine. However, it has become a tradition because it helps to give eggs that characteristic brown color. As for the oil, it basically doesn’t add anything to the taste or texture either, but it just prevents the water from evaporating too quickly and peeling the eggs becomes easier.
Origins of beid hamine to present day
The Talmud, one of the foundational texts of rabbinical Judaism and Jewish law that originated with Moses, already mentioned the use of whole eggs in meat stews on Shabbat. It also mentions roasting eggs in hot ashes or under sun-heated sand.
These ancient methods gave birth to one of the most distinctive Sephardic dishes, the beid hamine, or the huevos haminados.
Originally in Spain, these eggs, known as huevos asados (roasted eggs), were buried in the hot ashes of an open hearth, usually near the pot of the Shabbat lunch stew.
Some North African Jews still use this technique to prepare their Shabbat eggs, covering them with sand and/or ashes. Or they use more modern aluminum foil and bake them in an oven at low temperature overnight.
Some Ashkenazi communities, particularly in Austria and southern Germany, have adopted the Sephardic method, superimposing whole eggs and hot coals in a simple terracotta pot, sealing the lid with a soft dough made of water and flour, and baking them next to the pot of cholent (Shabbat stew) in the oven.
When the cooking technique of Shabbat stew moved from this old domestic hearth to the large local commercial oven, probably after the 13th century, eggs were also added directly to the hamin to slowly cook them overnight.
Hamin (חמין), which means “hot” in Aramaic, is a stew simmered on low heat for long hours, typical of many traditional Jewish cuisines. It was born in order to comply with the prescriptions of the Sages concerning cooking during Shabbat. The wise men allowed to keep the heat of a cooked dish or to continue to simmer it if it was already consumable before the Shabbat started.
The hamin, called tcholent by the ashkenazes and dafina, tafina, or pkaila by the Sephardim, is declined in as many variants as there are Jewish communities and customs, constituting one of the main dishes of the table of Shabbat and holidays.
Thanks to the humidity in a pot of hamin, eggs do not shrink like those originally cooked in ashes or hot sand. Eggs cooked for a very long time in the sauce of a hamin have a softer texture and a richer flavor than simple boiled eggs. The secret is to keep the temperature below the boiling point, as a temperature too high will dry the eggs. And this is typical of cooking a hamin.
However, according to Jewish law, eggs cooked in the sauce of a meat stew cannot be eaten with dairy products.
Consequently, going back at least to the beginning of the 15th century, in order to obtain parve eggs (neither dairy-based, nor meat-based), Sephardim and more especially the Egyptians developed this technique to easily simmer them in a large amount of water with the skins of onions used throughout the week.
And it is therefore this combination of a long cooking time and onion skins that give beid hamine their brown color.
Subsequently, many Sephardim, and more specifically in Greece, added a little coffee and/or a few tea leaves for a more sustained brown color.
Beid hamine and huevos haminados, usually served hot, are ubiquitous during Sephardic celebrations and during life cycle events. These include the meal following Yom Kippur, the commemorations of birth and the hazkara sououdots, the meals of memory and consolation which follow a burial.
These eggs are also the first dish of the Passover Seder and are served throughout the holiday.
Due to the similarity of the word hamine to the name Haman, the ugly villain of the Purim festival, beid hamine have become a traditional Purim dish for many Sephardim.
The cooking technique of beid hamine is regularly used, to garnish various dishes, in particular stews.
Beid hamine can indeed be cooked for many hours in a brown hamin.
Today in Egypt, beid hamine are traditionally eaten for breakfast, but it is also a hearty and very nutritious meal at any time of the day. They’re also incredibly delicious in a sandwich with mayonnaise and salad.
The Bukharans in Uzbekistan call them tchumi osh sevo and cook them in the classic rice dish for Shabbat lunch.
The egg is simple, inexpensive, nutritious and low in calories.
The egg is a useful and sometimes essential ingredient for the preparation of sweet and savory recipes: it is present in doughs, cakes and pies and in most creams and toppings, but it is also used for example for fresh pasta, stuffed or not, soufflés, savory pies, mayonnaise, and creamy mayonnaise-based sauces.
The most used egg is that of the hen, but it is not the only one: on the market, quail, duck, goose and ostrich eggs are also available.
The term “egg” without indication of species can only refer to that of the hen.
The use of the egg in the kitchen dates back to Antiquity. According to historical research, the Egyptians were eating hen eggs at the time. Most of the information on the eating habits of the Egyptians comes from the study of tombs and certain historical documents, such as the first book of the Bibliotheca Historica “The Historical Library of Diodorus the Sicilian” written in Greek in the 1st century BC. AD, originally consisting of 40 books of which only 15 remain today.
This monumental universal story recounting the history of humanity in all known geographical areas, covers a vast period, from the mythological beginning of the world to Julius Caesar.
The role of eggs in human nutrition immediately took on great importance: according to Galen (139 – 201), a Greek doctor of Antiquity, considered as the father of pharmacy, this ingredient should never be lacking in food, especially in the elderly.
Boiled eggs were also one of the foods commonly served as an appetizer, gustatio, before dinner in ancient Rome.
Egg is THE protagonist of the history of gastronomy.
The Romans used them for desserts, for accompaniments with sauces and as excellent food for breakfast. The Etruscans probably also had these habits, because in the gravestone banquet scenes we can see the guests holding an egg, a metaphor for food and the beginning of a path of the deceased in the underworld.
The shape, the color, the perfection of the egg made it a fundamental element of very complex myths. The egg, ancestral symbol of life, has crossed millennia between the civilizations of the Earth offering irreplaceable sources of inspiration to artists and thinkers: the “cosmic” egg which, in certain ancient civilizations, is placed at the origin of the world.
In Egyptian cosmology, for example, the god Ptah, creator of man, is depicted by forging an egg.
Also in ancient Egypt, the egg as a symbol of life is dedicated to the goddess Isis. The Phoenicians used an upright snake with an egg in their mouth as a symbol.
The ancient Persians, during certain religious ceremonies, exchanged colored eggs: the simplest painted in red, the richest in gold.
The egg is also a symbolic object in Christian culture. When the chick emerged from the egg, the first Christians depicted an expressive symbolism of the resurrection of Christ. Symbolic marble eggs have been found in the tombs of the martyrs of Rome.
Later, it became a ritual to bring the eggs to church on Easter, so that they could be blessed: the bond between the eggs and Easter became stronger and stronger, until the great tradition of the Easter chocolate egg has its origins all over the world.
The link between the egg and our food is therefore lost in the mists of time.
Over 1,000 billion eggs are produced worldwide each year. In Europe, hen eggs are the most consumed, ahead of goose, duck and quail, and even ostrich eggs. France is the leading European producer of eggs, and each French person consumes an average of 260 per year.
Nutritional value of eggs
From a nutritional point of view, the egg is a food and an ingredient composed of two elements, which can also be used separately:
- yolk, which weighs approximately 20 g and therefore represents approximately 30% of the weight
- egg white, which weighs about 30 to 35 g, accounting for almost 60% of the egg.
- The inedible part, i.e. the shell, weighs approximately 8 g.
- The nutritional value of the egg is mainly linked to the protein intake. An egg weighs on average 60 g and provides about 12 g of protein, mainly contained in the egg white and 8 g of fat, mainly contained in the yolk.
- 11 proteins of very high biological value have been isolated from the egg: 8 in the egg white and 3 in the yolk.
Eggs can also be stored in the freezer, but without the shell. Depending on the future use, the yolk and egg white may or may not be separated.
How to know if an egg is still fresh
Fill a saucepan with cold water and observe: if it is lying at the bottom, it is very fresh. If it is not fresh, use it for pastry by breaking them one by one in a cup.
If any of them have an unpleasant smell, they will be spotted right away and should be discarded. Discard the barely cracked eggs and never wash the shell, which is a barrier against bacteria.
- 8 eggs
- 6 yellow onion peels
- 2 tablespoons ground coffee
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover them generously with water and bring to a boil over low heat.
- Simmer for at least 10 hours or overnight on low heat.
- Peel and slice.
- Serve as is or as a garnish for stews.