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Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Stew

9 May

Regular readers will know that in our house, pulses rule supreme and we often bring supplies of chickpeas and lentils grown locally in Spain, over to England. In a tidying up frenzy the other day (family are visiting from Spain soon!) we came across further supplies that we had forgotten about. Result.

I decided to try something different from our regular Puchero and came across various recipes using Moroccan inspired spices which I adapted to suit us. I included chicken in this version, but I feel sure that you could quite happily leave it out which would give you an amazing vegan main course dish.

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Feel free to play with the spices, next time I’ll double the harissa to give more of a kick. I used my slow cooker but this could easily be cooked (covered) in a low oven, braised gently on the hob or even in a pressure cooker (although I don’t own one so can’t offer any advice on cooking times). If you prefer to use ready cooked, canned beans just skip the soaking stage and use double the volume in the ingredients list which will give you roughly the same quantity as the dried ones after soaking.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course)

  • Approx 400ml of dried chickpeas (measure by volume) soaked overnight in plenty of cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate then drained
  • 4 chicken thighs or drumsticks (optional)
  • Approx 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of peeled and crushed or chopped garlic
  • 1 level tablespoon of harissa (or chili powder to taste). Use more if you like a little tickle (and who doesn’t?!)
  • 1 teaspoon each of paprika, turmeric and ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons each of ground cumin and cinnamon
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (mine was 390g)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • About 220 ml of water (If using a slow cooker, make sure everything is covered by about 2cm of liquid).  You may need to top up with more liquid if cooking in the oven or on the stovetop. Just keep an eye on it and add more hot liquid if necessary.
  • Salt (season after the dish is cooked to help the chickpeas soften when cooking)
  • To serve – a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some finely chopped radish, coriander and red onion.

Heat the oil gently ad add the onion and garlic. Cover and soften then add the spices and cook (uncovered) until the spices release their aroma.

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Add the chicken (if using) and the tomatoes, tomato puree and liquid. Bring to a boil and cook on high for 10 minutes. Now put everything into whatever you use to cook (casserole dish, slow cooker etc) and cover. I cooked mine on slow in the slow cooker for 6 hours and the chickpeas were soft and creamy with the chicken cooked through and still holding to the bone. Stovetop should take about 2 hours and a slow oven about 4 hours. Add salt to taste once the dish is cooked.

When you’re ready to serve (and it’s even better the next day), ladle into deep bowls and serve with the garnish and your favourite bread. Enjoy!

Bluebells (6)

PS. Because the photos of the stew weren’t great (although the stew was…photo quality is due to a desire to eat quickly!), I have included some gratuitous shots of a recent walk we took in a Bluebell Wood nearby, do hope you enjoy a little burst of English springtime.

If you enjoy chick peas and North African inspired spices, why not try this soup?

Syrian Style Roast Leg of Lamb

6 Jan

I was very lucky to have been given some fabulous cookbooks by my best buddy Ria. Ah she knows me so well! One is titled Almond Bar, written by Sharon Salloum, co-owner and chef of Almond Bar restaurant in Sydney, who was bought up in a traditional Syrian household. Ooh I’d love to go and eat there! Her recipes are based on family traditions, but adapted for the modern kitchen.

Syrian Lamb

As soon as I saw her recipe for roast leg of lamb, I knew I would make it for New Year’s Eve. We had family visiting from Spain and were going to have a fairly typical Spanish Family Celebration meal – masses of seafood and shellfish to start, lamb for main course, flan (or crème caramel to us!), fruit, Spanish biscuits, turrón and 12 grapes at midnight. The lamb was not typically Spanish because of the spices, but it was a big hit with everyone. The meat is cooked on high to start with then slowly cooked to tender perfection. Don’t wait until next New Year’s Eve to try this, I know I won’t be waiting that long!

(Apologies for the photo, it’s a cropped section of a family snap which also featured the lamb…)

Serves 8-10 (but you can scale it down for a smaller leg of lamb)

  • 2.5kg leg of lamb, bone in
  • 60ml olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 8 cloves crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • 3 teaspoons salt flakes
  • 6 cloves of sliced garlic
  • About 10 small sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 glass of white wine (not in the original recipe)

Preheat the oven to 200C (fan)/425F/Gas 7

Mix the oil with the spices, salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub the mix all over the leg of lamb then cut small incisions all over the lamb with a sharp pointed knife. Push the garlic and rosemary sprigs into the incisions.

Place the lamb in a deep oven dish and bake on high for an hour, turning after 30 minutes to brown on both sides. Pour the wine over the meat, cover the dish with foil to make a tent and reduce the oven temperature to 170C (fan)/375F/Gas 5 and return to the oven. Cook for another 2 ½ – 3 hours, basting every 20 minutes (but don’t stress if you do it a little less).

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven, keep it warm (I wrap it in foil and a couple of towels) and leave to rest for 15-30 minutes and serve with all the beautiful juices you will have left in the pan.

Carrots with Cumin and Garlic Dressing

19 May

Well, the party’s over, the “Spanishes” have all gone home and fortunately Big Man and I walked miles and miles doing touristy things which helped burn off the excessive drinking/partying/eating calories which have been consumed over the last few weeks. I’ll share some photos of places we visited once I’m a bit more organised but for the moment it’s noses to the grindstone and back to renovations and a bit of healthy eating needs to be done.

Here’s another lovely, and very simple, recipe from the Moro Cookbook. In their version it´s billed as a salad and has coriander sprinkled over. I didn´t have coriander, so I made do! The dressing was fabulous and as I only made enough carrots for the two of us, there was plenty left over to dress a salad the next day.

Carrots with Cumin (3)

The Moro version cooks the carrots whole and then chops them when cooled but mine were too big to fit into the pan whole so I peeled and chopped them first.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 450g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry fried
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Juice of ¾ lemon
  • Sea salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Some roughly chopped coriander

 

Cook the carrots in boiling salted water until tender, drain and leave to cool.

Pound the cumin in a mortar then add the garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt and continue to pound. Add the lemon juice, sugar and olive oil and mix before dressing the carrots with this delicious smokey, tangy dressing.

This recipe is made thinking especially of a wonderful fellow blogger, Fran, aka narf7 over at Serendipity Farm. With her husband Steve and beautiful dogs Earl and Bezial they are based in Tasmania and living a life which is as self-sufficient as possible. Miss narf is vegan and I’m not, but she makes wonderful comments on my posts (even those pork and beef laden ones!) and makes me laugh with her brilliant sense of humour. Do take the time to pay her a visit, you won’t regret it!

Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

6 Aug

I’m not an expert on poetry, I can’t even claim to get immense pleasure from reading it regularly, but there are some poems that stick in my head. One such poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Different lines from it seem appropriate at different times.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

That seems to be the part that resonates right now, and I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to you all for your kind words of support and encouragement while Big Man and I deal with the highs of a wonderful year of hard work behind us, and the lows of the ill health of loved ones in the here and now.

However, life really does go on. We live, we laugh, we cry and of course, we cook and eat. Cooking soothes the soul, eating does too. Well, we all knew that didn’t we?!  Today I have another beautiful Ottolenghi recipe that is stunningly simple and simply stunning. I followed the recipe almost exactly, which is rare, and I wouldn’t change a thing. When we ate this dish, I found myself thinking what beautiful Arab flavours it contained. As I looked up the recipe again to pull this post together, Yotam Ottolenghi says that he was influenced by a recipe from Claudia Roden’s book, Tamarind and Saffron. Aha, now I need to buy that one too!

Chicken with Saffron Hazelnuts & Honey (8)

Serves 4

  • 1 large (organic, free range if possible) chicken cut into portions
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp each of ground ginger and ground cinnamon
  • A generous pinch of saffron strands (but use turmeric if you don’t have saffron)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 100g hazelnuts (actually, I did change this, he says unskinned, mine were skinned!)
  • 70g honey
  • 2 tbsp rosewater

In a large bowl mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, spices, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper and leave to marinate (from 1 hour to overnight in the fridge)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees (Gas 5). Brown the hazelnuts on an oven tray for 10 mins (I dry fried mine in a pan), cool slightly, roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a large tray or oven dish (you want to spread it all out) and bake for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the honey, nuts and rose water to make a rough paste and spread it over the almost cooked chicken. Return the meat to the oven for about 10 minutes (or until cooked) and it is all golden brown.

This dish looks so beautiful (well, less so in my photo!) and is good even when cold.

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