Smokey paprika, chickpeas, cinnamon, zesty preserved lemon, apricot, fennel. This spicy Moroccan chickpea stew is stupid good stuff.
Stupid Good Moroccan Chickpea Stew
Damn, this is good. Stupid good.
Do you ever make some scratch-made dish that shocks you by how good it is? That’s not easy to do. Surprise yourself, I mean. After all, if you cook and experiment a lot–especially within a particular style or genre or cuisine–you have a pretty good idea what your creation will taste like in the end, right? I mean you’re familiar with ingredients and techniques, and know what you put in there. You have a pretty solid understanding of how certain ingredients play together.
For this reason I am often really surprised and delighted by other people’s food, but I am rarely surprised and delighted by my own. Oh, I’m often delighted by my food. Gosh, if I wasn’t I probably would have given up cooking long ago. But I am rarely surprised.
But every once in awhile this thing happens where you’re kind of dumbstruck. You realize there is other stuff going on with ingredients and proportions, some ineffable chemistry appens. I had that experience with this spicy Moroccan chickpea stew. It’s spicy, and sweet, and zesty, and just a bit smokey. But I think the fennel may have been the curve ball here. Anise. Licorice. In this Moroccan chickpea stew that familiar licorice flavor dissolves into Moroccan spices until it’s not discernable as licorice. But it adds something–a lot of something really good.
Moroccan Chickpea Stew: The Details
The fennel, as I just noted, is the thing. Beyond that, there is nothing particularly traditional or authentic Moroccan about this recipe. It’s got Moroccan spices, giving it that signature profile. And stews with chickpeas are common in Moroccan cuisine. And dried apricots and preserved lemons figure regularly tajines.
These things in Morocco are often lamb based affairs, but mine is meat free. In fact, it’s vegan. It’s also ridiculously high in fiber (13 grams per bowl).
I used sweet potato, but you could use another veggie. Squash, regular potatoes. And I used a mix of kale and rainbow swiss chard. But almost any green will do. Mustard greens would be good. You might even swap the dried apricot for prunes. But I would not substitute or omit the preserved lemon. Its pop of bright lemony intensity is key.
Sadly, you can’t just “make” preserved lemons on the spot., It takes some salt, and some bacteria, and some time. I have a recipe for preserved lemons here. You can probably buy them in jars at your more fancypants markets, but it’s not the same. They will have been canned (pasturized) more than likely, which is a shame. This is why I’m an advocate of making your own and keeping a giant jar around at all times.
Hope you enjoy.
- 1 Cup Dried Chickpeas
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Large Yellow Onion, peeled and diced
- Pinch of Kosher Salt
- 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons finely minced Fresh Ginger
- 1 Medium Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
- 1 Large Fennel (Anise) Bulb, diced
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
- ½ - 1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette (or use ground cayenne)
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- ½ teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 1 Bunch of Greens (Kale, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard), coarsely chopped
- Preserved Lemon, finely diced
- Dried Fruit (Prunes, Apricots, Dates), finely diced
- Place the chickpeas in a pot or bowl and cover with water several inches above the top of the chickpeas. Allow to soak overnight (or at least 6 hours).
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Slowly cook the onions with salt until they soften and begin to become translucent.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
- Add the skillet ingredients to a soup pot. Add the sweet potato, fennel, spices, and stock. Bring to a simmer.
- Drain the chickpeas and add them to the pot once the ingredients simmer. Return to a simmer and cook until the chickpeas are done and the sweet potato is soft.
- Add the greens and cook about 10 minutes more.
- Serve in bowls garnished with preserved lemon and dried fruit.