Now that the temperatures are dropping, I am diggin’ being able to cook soups and stews again, and it’s great to be making a dent in all our thyme and sage in the garden (well, the thyme anyway…I swear one sage plant is enough for an entire community!). It’s the last of parsley season, so if you plan to make the veggie stock for this recipe, then remember to add some parsley if you have it around.
I love this stew because it’s so very flexible. It’s vegetarian, but has protein from the chickpeas, and more liquid can be added if you wish to incorporate quick-cooking red lentils as well. You can easily add meat to this recipe; chicken, beef and lamb would all taste delicious. Although this is only a Moroccan-spiced dish, and not really Moroccan, I’ll let you decide if you want to add pork or not. For me, somehow it feels like too much of a culture clash.
The warming spices are wonderful this time of year, with just a hint of cinnamon. The spice-blend, ‘ras el hanout’ means ‘top of the shop’- I like to think it refers to the tall pyramids of spice on display in the souks in Morocco- a sight my eyes couldn’t get enough of when I traveled there. The blend is similar to Indian garam masala, in that every shop-keeper and every chef will make their own special blend- there is never one way to make either of these blends.
So feel free to tweak the amounts of the spices to make your own. The mix can often have 30 different spices, but generally includes cumin, coriander, cinnamon, all-spice, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, turmeric and cloves or cardamom. Some blends, such as in the picture above, will include dried rose petals, saffron, cubeb berries, lavender and more.
If you’re looking for a great blend (a nice little stocking-stuffer, no?), you can find one here- it’s from Calgary- a granted, you should be able to find a more local source, but if there’s no success, then this is a great shop) http://www.silkroadspices.ca/
Moroccan Spice Chickpea & Squash Stew
Serves 4 as a main course
- 1 heaped cup or 1 1/3 cups yellow onion, diced
- 2 cups carrot, thinly sliced (rainbow carrots are great too)
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 4 cups squash, peeled and cut into roughly ½” wedges, then cut into ½” pieces
- 3 cups chopped sweet potato or potato, peeled and cut the same as the squash
- 3 fresh (or 4 store-bought) garlic cloves, medium chop/not quite finely diced
- 2 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (not dry)
- 800g can diced tomatoes (28 oz. or 1lb.11oz of diced tomatoes)
- 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable or organic chicken stock
- 150g Spinach or 1 large bag or mixing bowl full, washed, and large stems removed
- 1Tbsp ras el hanout spice blend or ½ Tbsp garam masala mixed with ½ tsp of ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp cloves or all-spice
-Over medium-low heat, sweat the onions for a few minutes in 1 Tbsp oil, then add a pinch of salt, followed by the diced carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
-Make a well in the centre and add the spice blend; toast it for a minute before mixing it into the vegetables
-Increase the heat to medium-high and add the diced tomatoes and stir. Cook for a minute.
-Stir in another pinch of salt and add the stock.
-Add the sweet potato, squash and chickpeas. Place the lid on top and cook for 10 minutes. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve with rice, couscous or bread.
- Spice it up by adding fried slices of chorizo sausage
- Add stewing beef or lamb. Before step 1, brown the meat over medium-high heat, then remove to a plate and then proceed with step 1. Sweat onions, carrots and celery, then add beef back in if it is stewing beef. Otherwise add red meat when you add the spinach.