moroccan

MOROCCAN SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP

MOROCCAN SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP

My cupboard is always full of spices, that way I can always create a dish with influences from different cuisines. Sometimes I buy pre-mixed concoctions but I do love creating my own blends. They may not be authentic but it is all about the taste.

Last weekend we had a Moroccan feast so perhaps that’s why I reached for Moroccan spices again to make this lentil and spinach soup. It was thick, chunky and filling, just the thing one needs after a long dog walk through mist and fog. I though it could have done with a bit more chilli. Mind you I always have a handy chilli flake grinder or a bottle of chilli sauce within my reach...

This is a great soup for batch cooking, just double the quantities and keep some in the freezer for those “can’t be bother to cook” days. And if you want to shorten the preparation a bit more look out for Moroccan spice mixes such as Ras El Hanout in your spice isle.

I had about a cup of the soup left over for today, due to the lentils it thickened considerably overnight in the fridge. I considered pouring the leftovers over a baked sweet potatoes but had no patience to wait an hour for it to bake... I opted for sauteing some mushrooms, cooked couple handfuls of brown rice pasta and mixed it all together with the leftover soup and few squirts of ketchup. It turned out to be a very yummy lunch for one.


letnil-moroccon-soup

MOROCCAN SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP
Serves 3-4

ingredients
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into fine dice
1 stick of celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp harrisa paste (depending on how spicy you like your soup)
1 tin of tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) red lentils
3-4 cups of vegetables stocks
100g spinach

method
  1. In a large soup pot heat 1/3cup (60ml ) water (or 1 tbs oil) and saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic till soften, add more water if the vegetables are starting to stick.
  2. Add the spices and cook for about 30seconds.
  3. Next add the harrisa paste and tomatoes and cook for couple of minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and vegetable stock and cook for 20min or until the lentils are soft, nearly falling apart and the soup is thick.
  5. Add the spinach leaves and let them wilt into the soup, this will take about a minute.

Leftover magic
leftover-bolognaise

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SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW

There is no denyingl that the Hairy Bikers are a loveable duo. They have always been the two overweight middle aged Harley riding chaps who like nothing more than good grub. They still are all that except they managed to loose quite a few pounds and are looking rather trim. Of course they also have a diet book out. I had a chance to have a good look through it today.

First I have to say that anybody who looses excess weight deserves a credit. How did Si and Dave managed to shed their pounds? They claim calorie counting and portion control was the key. They devised lower calorie meals without compromising flavour. I would never doubt that their food would lack flavour. But (yet there is one) I can’t claim their diet book is a healthy one.

No doubt they have replaced their usual butter, cream, pastry with lower fat versions. However I couldn’t help but notice that this book is still extremely heavy on meat. Carbohydrates don’t seem to appear that often (and indeed are not included in the calorie count) . Most of the carbs I saw were of the refined variety. They do recommend grilling meat as a way to cut down on fat, but I see carcinogens! Vegetables seem to be an afterthought: 300g of carrots vs 700g of lamb in a hotpot, no extra veggies in their chilli con carne... There are only a handful of recipes in the 'vegetable and salad' chapter and of the few salads most seem to include meat...Desserts? Their cup cakes may be lower in fat but they are still covered with icing made out of icing sugar (that is converted to fat in your body). There is one recipe I would make: the spicy vegetable and bean stew, my kind of food.

The Hairy Bikers are trying to help Britons to combat obesity, a commendable undertaking, but they could do more. As celebrity chefs they have influence and should use it to promote more healthier cooking. Not just replacing full fat mince beef with a leaner version. What is wrong with a veggie and bean chilli? Leaner bacon and egg will not make as much difference as a green breakfast smoothie would. IFor the entertainment value I will still watch their shows as they indulge their appetite through their travels. I don't think I would take their dietary advice.

Here is my low fat recipe. A spicy stew of aubergines and chickpeas with warming Moroccan spices, perfect for the suddenly chilly nights. I know "another aubergine recipe" but I do feel there are never enough aubergine recipes in one’s repertoire :)

SPICY AUBERGINE AND CHICKPEA STEW
Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that includes whole range of spices, even rose buds. In Morocco this is a blend of the best spices the shopkeeper had to offer. They vary enormously so beware of how hot your mix is. My favourite brand is the Seasoned Pioneers.

Serve with couscous, rice or quinoa and some green salad or veggies. Also great served with a flat bread.

Serves 4

spicyaubergineandchickpea2

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into bite size pieces
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs ras el hanout seasoning (or Moroccan seasoning)
2 tbs tomato puree
1 Date, finely chopped (or 1 Tbs agave, date or maple syrup)
1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes

  1. In a non stick pan heat the olive oil and add the aubergine. Fry gently until soft and cooked through. If the aubergines starts to stick add some water. Remove and set aside. (For oil free version steam the aubergine first.)
  2. Add the onion to the pan and garlic to the pan, cook gently till softened. Add a bit of water if sticking to the bottom.
  3. Put the aubergine back to the onions and garlic. Add the ras el hanout and the tomato puree. Cook stirring constantly for about a minute.
  4. Next add the date, chickpeas and tinned tomato.
  5. Cook on a gently heat for 20 min or till sauce is rich and thickened.

spicyaubergineandchickpea
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MOROCCAN INSPIRED TAGINE OF WINTER VEGETABLES AND DRIED FRUITS



After extremely warm December the winter has finally arrived, temperatures dropped, grass has a lovely frosty hue shimmering in the wintery sunshine. It is absolutely gorgeous ! Weather like this is perfect for something warming, comforting, something that will fill your house up with irresistible aroma. What can be better than winter veggies, warming spices, rich sauce slowly simmering on the stove...I am using up some of my dried fruit stash, chickpeas (again), the other half of squash leftover from making the hummus and lots of different spices from my spice cupboard. It may not be North African weather here, but the gorgeous smells sure do evoke a Moroccan souk.

tagine

MOROCCAN INSPIRED TAGINE OF WINTER VEGETABLES AND DRIED FRUITS

The quantities of individual vegetables depend on what is in your veg drawer, my butternut squash made about half of the mix, purely because I wanted the use it all up. This dish will freeze and reheat well. You can use mild or hot paprika whatever you prefer, I went for the mild version making the dish more kid friendly. Preferably do not use smoked paprika for this dish.

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix, each mix is slightly different as traditionally this is a special mix from each individual spice shop. I love mine to contain rose buds to lend the dish lovely but not overpowering fragrance.If you cant find ras el hanout, use any Moroccan spice mix or omit all together.

When preparing parsnips it is a good idea to cut out the middle core.

Serves 4 hungry people

ingredients
900g mix of carrot, parsnip and butternut squash, cut into large chunks, about 11/2 inches (4cm)
1 large red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot)
2 tsp ras el hanout or moroccan spice mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 heaped Tbs tomato paste
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of chickpeas
100g dried apricots
100g dried prunes
2 Tbs honey or dark agave syrup
2 1/2 c (725ml) vegetable stock
1 cup of barley couscous

method
  1. In a large pan on medium heat saute the onions in the olive oil till soft about 10min. Add the garlic and cook for further 1 min.
  2. Add all your spices, stir into the onions. Tumble in all your vegetables and quickly stir in to coat with the spices.
  3. Next add the tomato paste, let the cook about 30sec before adding the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, dried fruits, agave (or honey) and the vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 1 hour, or till all the vegetables are tender and sauce is thick and rich. Season with salt if needed.
  5. Cook the couscous according to package instructions.
  6. Serve the tagine with couscous.

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