Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Stew

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.

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Arlington Bluebell Wood

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?

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Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

Muttabaq (2)

Well, not just for Big Man, but for some dear friends who came to visit recently. Time for desserts, sitting around after a meal chatting until the candles burn down, sipping coffee and eating “just one more little piece” even though the waistband is straining a little.

To be honest, most of my girlfriends are not big dessert eaters. Not for any health or diet reasons, we’re just more fans of all things savoury. A good compromise was found once more in the pages of Jerusalem, the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I decided to make Muttabaq, a delicious dessert made with layers of buttery filo pastry and filled with creamy cheese.

If you want a look at the original version, hope over to see how Chaise Longue of Olives and Artichokes made it.  I decided to add a little Chica twist of my own.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of filo pastry
  • 100g melted butter (the original recipe calls for about 50g more but I found I didn’t need it all)
  • 2 x 250g packs of ricotta (Check out Chgo John’s method if you want to make you own)
  • 1 x 250g pack of mascarpone (the original recipe calls for goat’s cheese but I have a goat’s cheese hating pal)
  • A large handful of chopped pistachios

Then my additions

  • About a dozen fresh dates, finely chopped
  • About half a cup of chopped walnuts
  • The grated rind of an orange
  • A tablespoon of icing or caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Using half the packet of filo, place layers of pastry in a deep baking dish brushing with melted butter between layers. Cut off any edges that curl up the side of the dish. Mix together the cheese, orange rind and sugar and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the dates and walnuts and then place the remaining pastry over the top in layers, brushing again with butter as you go. Tuck the outside edges of the top pastry section under the bottom half, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle over the pistachios. Cut into squares, without cutting right through to the bottom

Muttabaq Pistachios (1)

Bake for25 mins approx. at 225 degrees (or a hot oven) until golden brown. Meanwhile make up a lemon sugar syrup using 250g sugar, 90mls of water and the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour over the sugar syrup (it seems like a lot but just keep going). Serve just warm but it’s also good cold.

To accompany the Muttabaq I made a Moroccan inspired dish of sliced oranges sprinkled with chopped mint, pomegranate seeds, rosewater, sugar and cinnamon. Very pretty and fresh.

Oranges & Rosewater (1)

We talked for hours, we reminisced, we laughed…now that’s what I call a perfect evening. And now I wish all of you and your loved ones peace and joy over Easter and I hope you all get to enjoy some wonderful food, time and laughter together.

Chicken Pinchito Salad

A tickle of spices...

Pinchos, or Pinchitos, are Spain´s answer to Kebabs.  Despite their “Moorish” (i.e. Arabic) origins, they are usually made of pork, but you can also find them made of chicken.  This is typical Feria food, cooked in front of you at the bar, speared with a slice of bread, and if they use metal skewers, you just hand them back when you´ve finished eating!

The spices which the cubes of meat are rubbed in can vary slightly, shops and butchers sell their own mixes.  Typically though it´s a mix which is like Ras el hanout, which is used widely in North Africa, from which Andalucía receives many food influences. 

When we went to Morocco earlier this year, we bought a supply of spices to see us through a few months and because it´s so good, I didn´t want to just save it for kebabs. 

Beautiful Spices...

Here´s an easy salad, which (if you have any kind of spice mix you like to use on meat) you can pull together from store cupboard ingredients.  This recipe made a light supper for two.

For the salad

  • Two chicken thighs deboned, cubed and rubbed in 1 heaped tablespoon of spice mix and seasoned with salt.  These are then cooked on the griddle (plancha) with a small amount of olive oil and left to cool
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon cooked for 6 minutes in the microwave then left to cool and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium cooked potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Half a cos lettuce finely chopped
  • Half a cup of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
  • One small green pepper, finely sliced

For the dressing

  • Half a cup of mayonnaise
  • Two tablespoons of milk
  • An additional teaspoon of spice mix
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl then in a jar shake together all the dressing ingredients.  Pour over the salad and toss well to get all the dressing into the leaves.  Would also be good with some croutons.

Falafel – Chick Pea Patties

My birthday falls at the end of January.  A month of cold and damp here and after the excesses of Christmas, it feels like a time to shy away from more celebration.  Especially when you´re suffering from bronchitis like I was.  Big Man asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday and I told him I wanted to be like the Queen of England and celebrate on a second date, preferably when the weather was warmer.  Anyway, last year he surpassed himself and surprised me with our rescue puppy, Luna, so I didn´t think a bottle of perfume or a box of chocolates was going to tick the boxes for me. Selfish moo that I am.

The local town hall often organises “cultural activities” for the village folk, not something I have ever been interested in.  Probably a bit of smug self importance creeping in, thinking I´m already culturally aware enough already and mixed with a healthy dose of a severe fear of group activities of any kind.  When Big Man surprised me (again!) on my birthday by telling me that we were going to join 35 other villagers on a three day trip to Tangier at the end of February, I wasn´t really sure what to think.  It´s a destination I´ve always wanted to visit, but Big Man had always said it didn´t interest him, and we both hated anything that involved coaches and tour guides.  I decided to keep an open mind about the whole thing, dose myself up with cough medicine and make Falafel to get us in the mood.

Here´s how we got into the Moroccan vibe and made six Falafel.  Enough for 2 as a light lunch or 6 “tapas” sized servings:

  • 1 tin (400g) or jar of cooked chick peas
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Salt
  • Half a teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Half a teaspoon of ground coriander
  • Large pinch of chili powder (optional) or a chopped fresh green chili
  • 2 level tablespoons of flour plus extra for dusting.
  • Parsley (enough to chop down to about 2-3 tablespoons according to taste)
  • Oil to fill a frying pan to a depth of about 1cm (I used olive oil)

Serving Suggestion

  • Pitta or flat bread and chopped lettuce and mint, a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

This is a dish which is very fast to prepare if you have a food processor.  It took me longer to wash up than to whizz the ingredients.  It can also be done by hand with a potato masher and a bit of fine chopping and mixing in a large bowl.

Put all of the ingredients apart from the oil and serving suggestions in a food processor and whizz them up for about 30 seconds then pulse until they reach the texture of grainy, wet cement. If it looks really sloppy add a little more flour but it will still be fairly wet when it´s ready.  Add salt to your taste.

Put a couple of tablespoons of extra flour in a bowl and drop in a heaped tablespoon full of the chick pea mixture and using two spoons get it lightly covered in flour.  If you can work quickly just drop this straight into your frying pan of hot oil, or if you prefer to work more slowly, prepare the falafel first and put them onto a plate, then heat the oil and drop them in.

Sizzle those Patties!

Make sure your oil is hot, let is start to smoke then turn the heat down slightly.  You only want to get a nice crust to the outside, the chick peas are already cooked.  Flatten the balls of mixture down as you put them into the pan and after about a minute flip them over (but make sure they´re nice and browned first).

The second side will take slightly less time, so just check on them, take them out and place onto kitchen paper to blot the excess oil and you´re ready to serve.  They´re great with a squeeze of lemon juice then stuffed into pitta bread with some finely chopped lettuce and mint and a spoon full of natural yogurt mixed with an equal quantity of mayonnaise.  I´m not sure how authentic that is – but it´s delicious!

The Missing Falafel was Eaten By The Chef!