This Moroccan chickpea stew gets its spiciness and flavor from a North African spice mix called Ras El Hanout! Serve this grain and gluten free stew with vegan or dairy yoghurt over quinoa or enjoy as is!
This is the story of how I traveled to Morocco (almost completely) by myself when I was a teenager!
Let me set the scene: It was the summer of 1999, I was 18 and had just enough savings from my after school jobs that I decided to take off for a few months. I didn’t have enough funds for Australia or Japan or some other crazy exciting place so I picked the sunniest place in Europe that I could think of: I flew to Costa del Sol in the South Spain!
It was the summer of my life. I met a bunch of mad Irish kids that I shared a flat with; we were 15 people sharing a 3 room apartment. I found work in a cute English pub right by the beach in Fuengirola; I worked and club hopped every night, spent the days at a swanky pool bar of a 5 star resort (we snuck in through the staff entrance), became friends with a group of Scandinavian girls who owned a yacht and took us out to sail along the coast.
I felt like the world was my oyster and I was fearless. I was young, wild and free and no adventure seemed big enough!
One day, I walked past a travel agency and noticed a poster for Morocco. I went straight inside, sat down in front of the travel agent – a grey haired man in his fifties, and cheerfully requested a ferry ticket from Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco.
The travel agent was gobsmacked and responded: “You travel alone? No, señorita, no ticket for you”. He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms in front of his chest. It took a while (what with my (then) broken English and basic Spanish) for me to understand what was going on: The man was worried about my safety and would only agree to sell me a ticket for a group trip to North Africa. He looked serious enough so I obliged, bought a group ticket (thinking I could split anytime, anyhow), took the bus to Gibraltar and boarded the ferry with mostly Canadian and Australian travelers and a Dutch travel guide.
I honestly don’t remember that much about Morocco. I only stayed for a few days; what I do remember is setting foot on Moroccan soil for the first time in the port of Tangier, hoards of kids pulling on my cloths asking for money and food, grim looking locals, dusty roads and a distinct feeling that my travel agent knew exactly what he was talking about – safety was a concern for sure! (Mind you, the area we were in played a large part in this).
What I enjoyed the most, of course, was the food! Fresh, spicy, exotic, delicious. I grew up with Moroccans in Germany so I wasn’t a complete newbie to this cuisine but to experience this food in the country of its origin took it to a whole new level!
Chickpea stew was my favorite. I remember asking one of the cooks how he prepared it and in his broken English, he explained: “Ras el hanout” which I later learnt means as much as “top shelf spice”.
I didn’t even waste time looking for Ras El Hanout in North Carolina (although I’m sure you can find it somewhere). No, I made it myself and was pretty chuffed to find that I had all the ingredients I needed in my spice cabinet! (Been collecting spices like it’s going out of style).
Every region in Morocco (and neighboring countries) has their own spice mixture and these vary from family to family, even. Check out my recipe for more details!
I made this stew as an exercise for Rouxbe but felt like I needed to share it with you – it really turned out great!
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 2 onions, finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Ras El Hanout (see notes)
- 26oz chopped tomatoes (I use packaged tomatoes)
- 2-3 cups vegetable broth
- 30oz or 2 cans chickpeas, cooked
- 2 tablespoon sambal oelek
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup parsley, chopped
- Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions followed by the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until soft and golden.
- Add ginger and garlic. Stir to coat with the oil and let cook for a minute or so until they release their aroma. Next, stir in tomato paste and Ras El Hanout and fry for 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, broth and chickpeas, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Finally, add the Samabl Oelek, lemon juice and fold in parsley. Serve with (vegan) yoghurt, pita bread or a quinoa.
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne