Although I have been to Morrocco, I did not eat a vegetarian stew there. I found food a bit disappointing in Morrocco. Morroccans seem to be a private people– houses face inward to tiled courtyards and neighborly discourse happens on the roofs. I got the impression that aside from the street food and cafes, locals didn’t eat in restaraunts much. I think the best food is made in people’s homes. So, we had amazing food from stalls and carts — really memorable sardine and potato sandwiches, apple frappes, and boiled udder. But every time we sat down in a restaurant I was bored and unimpressed.
However, this post is not, in fact, about Morrocco. It is about the Morroccan inspired vegetable stew that was first prepared for me by Kathy in her Upper West Side Apartment after I babysat her infant twins one evening. Like everything Kathy made (makes) it was tasty and surprising and simple and nourishing. Since she is an intuitive cook, her dishes lend themselves to variation. The key elements to this stew are: spices: turmeric, cinnamon, cumin; something sweet: dried prunes, dates or apricots; some beans: chickpeas and/or red lentils; hearty vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, or winter squash.
You will want to cook this in your biggest pot on a lowish heat. Get your ingredients ready. Don’t cut your vegetables too small– they might get mooshy or too big– they’ll by hard to eat or take too long to cook. This is a real Goldilocks thing, but you want to aim for 1/2-1″. You also want to add them with the tougher vegetables first (carrots, potatos, winter squash).
Morroccan Vegetable Stew:
- Heat in soup/sauce pan/dutch oven:
- A few table spoons of olive oil or coconut oil
- Add 1 large chopped onion and cook till translucent
- Add the spices: 1 Tablespoon tumeric, 1-2 tsp cinamon, 1-2 tsp cumin and let warm up for a couple of minutes
- Add 2 cloves garlic crushed/minced/ or whole – cook a minute
- Add chopped hearty vegetables: 2 carrots, 2 small sweet potatoes (or 2 cups butternut squash)
- Add: chopped prunes (4-5), dates (3) or dried apricots (5-6) (to taste— if not crazy about the fruit, chop it small and it will pretty much disappear)
- Stir with spices and onions and cook for a minute
- Add: 1 28oz can of chopped or crushed tomatoes and about 2-3 cups of vegetable stock (or water) you can add more later if you need it.
- Bring this to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are just soft — 12 minutes or so, depending on size of vegetables.
- Add: other vegetables such as red/yellow pepper, chopped cauliflower, green beans (this is where you can improvise, I like the cauliflower.) AND 1 15oz can of rinsed chickpeas.
- Simmer until new vegetables are soft– 5 minutes or so.
- At this point you can add a handful of chopped greens (spinach, chard, kale) and stir until wilted (optional) and more water/stock if needed to desired consistency (more soupy? or more stewy?)
- Taste for seasoning– add salt as needed, more spices?, perhaps a little sugar if the tomatoes are acidic?
- Serve over couscous with a dizzle of olive oil and some lemon. warm flat bread and some yogurt are good on the side.
For the couscous: Mix equal amounts dried couscous and boiling water in a bowl or pot. Cover with a lid or plate until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. You can fancy it up with currents or almonds or sauteed diced vegetables, but for this dish keeping the couscous simple is fine.
Shopping Note: You want to buy your spices at bulk bins so you can just get a small amount and not have to shell out $$$ for more than you need. This is also true of the couscous. If you decide to go with Butternut squash, it might be worth buying it pre-peeled and chopped for this dish. Prepping winter squash can be tasky and hard without good knives.
Want inspiring pictures? There is a good post with a not bad version of this dish at The First Mess.