A word of warning about this stew. Do not, and I repeat do not, put the pot in the middle of the kitchen table whilst you are having dinner. If you do, you will sit there for hours slowly consuming its contents. This is addictive stuff. I made that mistake the other night and it took a lot of willpower to get up and put the leftovers in the fridge. Even then I couldn’t help sneaking an extra few mouthfuls. In the end I guess it isn’t too serious a crime if you eat more than you really should – it’s healthy to a tee. The kind of dish that makes you ‘glow’ afterwards.
Strangely, it reminds me of spaghetti bolognaise. Why? It has a comparable richness to it that is incredibly comforting and the texture is similarly sloppy – not runny but nice and thick and goopy. Not a particularly appetizing description but it does sum up the stew quite well. However, I believe it is far tastier (and healthier) than good ol’ spag bol. The combination of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and saffron is deliciously warming. My sister declared that it was a “curry with a different name” but I strongly disagree. The dish is fragrant rather than spicy and more akin to a tagine. I could be stating the obvious there as both have North African origins but oh well. However, it does underpin the fact that everyone has his or her own food definitions, which is perfectly fine. I now just have to be aware that a certain lady will be rather put out if I cook two ‘curries’ in the same week. According to her anything remotely ‘spicy’ is a curry. Including chilli con carne!
I felt that the risoni in the stew provided sufficient carbs and consequently didn’t serve it with any extra. However, either couscous or wholemeal flat-breads would compliment the dish nicely. It’s entirely up to you. The dates on the other hand are essential in my book. They add an extra dimension to the dish, with the sweetness complimenting the ‘nuttiness’ of the chickpeas. You can either serve the dates whole so that each person can add their own or chop them up and stir in just before serving. I didn’t have Medjool dates on hand, so used Sayer instead and they worked fine. However I would recommend using Medjool if you have some lying about.
North African Pumpkin and Chickpea Stew
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 spring onions, white part only, halved lengthways
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
½ ground ginger
100g red lentils
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Pinch of saffron strands
400g can crushed tomatoes
50ml tomato paste
Handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Large handful coriander, roughly chopped
300g butternut squash, peeled de-seeded and cut into large cubes
1 litre vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
50g risoni or other small pasta
Dates, quartered, to serve
Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and spring onions and sauté until softened, about five minutes. Reduce the heat and throw in the garlic, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger. Stir constantly for a few minutes or until the garlic loses it’s raw smell.
Add the lentils, chickpeas, saffron, canned tomatoes and tomato paste and half of the coriander. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, stock and bay leaf. Stir well then cover and simmer gently for around 15 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until the pasta is al dente (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
Serve, sprinkled with the remaining coriander leaves and dates.
Source: Inspired by River Cottage Veg Everyday.