Category: middle east

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have written some of the most delicious recipes that I have ever tried. The pair have a way of taking whole foods and transforming them into vibrant, flavourful dishes that absolutely never disappoint. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the duo, they are the co-authors of the Ottolenghi and Jerusalem cookbooks. Ottolenghi has also published two excellent vegetarian books, Plenty, and Plenty More, collections of recipes from his vegetarian newspaper column over at the Guardian. Whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I flip one of these gorgeous books open, scan around, and stop at whatever catches my eye, or whatever suits the vegetables in my fridge. I am in no way affiliated with these authors, and this isn’t a promotion. This is just a little fangirl blogging about her biggest inspirations!

This weekend, I was invited to a very meat-centric potluck dinner, so I felt it appropriate to provide a hearty vegetarian option for those of us who are slightly less carnivorous. I wanted to make something simple, but that had a complex flavour profile. Enter this colourful dish – stewed chickpeas with caramelized sweet potatoes. Sounds simple, but Oh. Baby. I want to eat this stuff all day, erry day. Now, note that you can probably make this vegan by subbing coconut oil for the butter, but really, if there’s ever a time to use butter, that time is now. Replacing it would be, just… well, it would be just OK. It would kinda be like the difference between going to see a Stones cover band, or seeing the actual Rolling Stones. The butter is Mick Jagger. You just won’t get the same satisfaction. (See what I did there? Ok, ok, I’ll get on with it.)

This recipe is a variation of the recipe titled Chickpeas and Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato (Ottolenghi, 82.) In the spirit of respecting intellectual property, I always like to give credit to those recipe authors who have inspired me, so, thank you kindly, Ottolenghi & Tamimi. You made my potluck dish a big hit!

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato
serves 3 to 4 people

ingredients
500g sweet potato, cubed
50g salted butter
4 tbsp honey
3 cups water

3 tbsp oil
1 small onion (or about 6 shallots), finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 can (591ml) chopped, unseasoned tomatoes (no salt added is preferable)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mango powder (found in most spice stores, Indian or Asian grocers, or bulk stores.)
(note: if you can’t find mango powder, 1 tsp of lemon juice or zest will also work.)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups torn spinach (or baby spinach)
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

cayenne pepper, to taste (use more if you like it spicy!)
salt, to taste

method
In a wide pot, bring water with potatoes, butter and honey to a boil. Lower heat to medium, and continue to cook until water is absorbed and butter & honey start to caramelize. Do not stir.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onions or shallots, and cook over medium heat, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and corriander seeds. Continue cooking until onions are brown and have reduced, about 3 more minutes. Add ketchup and stir, scraping any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add canned tomatoes with their juice. Add ginger, cumin and mango powder. Stir well. When mixture starts to bubble, add chickpeas and spinach. Continue to cook until mixture starts to thicken. Add cilantro after about 10 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed. Add cayenne , a little at a time, until you’ve reached your preferred level of heat. By this time, your potatoes should be ready, or almost there. Once they are, pour them into the pan, along with their buttery juices. Scrape as much of the browned butter into the pan as possible. Give it one nice, gentle stir.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro.

Mid-East Feast (Roasted Squash with Cardamom)

Walking through the Plateau in Montreal on a friday night is always a new adventure. I love to immerse myself in the hubbub – which exists in large part thanks to the plethora of ethnic restaurants, trendy cafes and re-vapmed dive bars that line the streets. Whichever side of the world you’re from, you’re guaranteed to find a restaurant in this city that has what you’re looking for. And, if you’re in the mood to try new things, you will never be short on options.

Many people have voiced to me in the past their discontent with my vegetarianism (whether directly or indirectly) as it is an “inconvenience” to have to cater to my needs. To that sentiment I say, “Ha!” Being a vegetarian should never be viewed as limiting – it should instead be viewed as exciting: an excuse to get creative and try new food! I was quite excited when a friend suggested that we check out this funky looking place on Duluth, Khyber Pass, an Afghan restaurant with a number of  appealing meat-free menu items.

The food itself was similar to many of the middle-eastern dishes that I’ve tried before – looking around, I spotted many different rices and stews, I noted the common use of onions, tomatoes and legumes. What stood out to me however was the combination of spices and flavours. I immediately recognized the unique taste of cardamom in my main dish – and I absolutely loved it. I’ve only ever used cardamom in teas or in desserts before, never in anything savory. What a fantastic spice! The flavour complimented the sweet earthy squash, balanced out with the acidity of tomato, and softened with a hint of yogourt. I just HAD to re-create this dish at home. And I did – with great simplicity and success.


Roasted Butternut Squash 
with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Cardamom
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
1 medium butternut squash, cubed (about 3 cups)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup basic tomato sauce*
2 tbsp real maple syrup
3 tsp cardamom powder / ground cardamom

for the garnish (optional)
1 tbsp plain yogourt
Roasted squash seeds

how to do it
Peel and cube squash, removing seeds. (Set seeds aside if roasting). Toss squash with olive oil. Wrap squash in parchment paper {How to: Cut double the length of parchment paper you’d need to line a 8×8” Pyrex dish. Place parchment in middle of dish and place squash inside. Fold paper over so that the squash is covered (the idea is not to let any of the squash be exposed.)} Poke holes in the parchment. Bake at 385F for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, combine tomato sauce, cardamom and maple syrup. Once cooked, remove squash from parchment and place directly into pyrex dish while still hot. Coat with tomato sauce mixture. Return to oven uncovered and bake for another 10 minutes.

Garnish with yogourt and roasted squash seeds. Enjoy!

*For the tomato sauce, you can make your own, or shortcut and use some good quality store-bought. I used Classico Tomato and Basil and it tasted wonderful. To make your own tomato sauce, scroll to the bottom of the following post: Drunken Tomato Sauce