Moroccan-Style Stew

This is another variation on my most recent recipe. I made it while I was in Norway and for some reason decided to make it a little more interesting by adding spices. It was a resounding success! Even the omnivorous members of the family, in a decidely carnivorous country, enjoyed it which was encouraging.

I don’t really give a lot of thought to the “authenticity” of my cooking; in my view, if I made it instead of just heating it up, then it’s authentic. But I couldn’t in good conscience call it Moroccan Stew, because I haven’t the faintest idea whether it resembles anything ever eaten in that country. (I have to admit, I’m not even sure I could point to Morocco on a map – I get it mixed up with Monaco.) I simply drew inspiration from a list of spices which are apparently the ones usually used in Moroccan tagines, and added whatever I had from that list. Today that meant cumin, paprika, white pepper, mixed spice containing cinammon, coriander, dill, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and a pinch of sugar because my tinned tomatoes are pretty acidic. I hope to improve my spice selection, but at the moment my Lidl herb and spice rack supplemented by two or three other basics seems to suffice!

This really is one of the easiest things to cook. You chop up an onion and fry it gently until soft (this time, I attempted to caramelise my onion but I don’t have enough patience for that sort of thing so it ended up soft and goldish), add a tin of tomatoes and either sugar or salt, or both, as needed, then mix in your spices. Once it’s all simmered for a while, chuck in some chickpeas – usually, about half a tin will do – and once you’re happy with the flavour and consistency of the tomato mix, add some couscous, cover the pan and leave it to simmer for a few minutes while the pasta soaks up the liquid. If it looks like there might not be enough liquid, add some water but be sparing or it’ll take forever to get back to the lovely thick consistency of a stew.


The chickpea risotto dream is realised

One of the few meals that really excited me while I was working away was a vegetable risotto with chickpeas. Perhaps it was partly because I was very tired that day, and therefore any food would have tasted heavenly, but I was completely smitten by the concept and determined to replicate the recipe as soon as possible.


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The community shop is a gem

This afternoon, I headed down to the community market to get to know my new neighbourhood and hopefully pick up some delicious food. I wasn’t disappointed – although there weren’t a huge number of stalls, they were all selling intriguing things. I came away with a bottle of strawberry vinegar (fancy vinegarettes! And apparently really good on pancakes), some green chilli sauce, and two rather pricey but absolutely heavenly pieces of cheese. I hadn’t planned on buying any cheese and I won’t be repeating the purchase every month, but I was promised the best cheese I’d ever tasted and it really was. So now I have a small piece of a sweet, creamy blue and a slightly larger square of British Roquette, waiting for me to do something special with (and in the meantime, I must transfer them to new wrappings apparently – something I never knew!).

After the market I headed up to the community shop, which did have a stall on the market but sells far more than they could fit on a single tressle table. Again, I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve come away with a bag of dried chickpeas, £2.33/kg compared to £2.88/kg of tinned from Sainsbury’s (with almost half the weight being water), a bag of porridge oats at 94p/kg compared to £1.10/kg from the supermarket, half a dozen local free range eggs at £1.06 instead of £1.70, and some golden granulated sugar, the price of which I’ve forgotten (I suspect it was actually more expensive than the supermarket bags, but never mind).

It wasn’t a bad haul! I’m really happy to have such a great shop within walking distance. They also sell pasta, rice, dried fruit, nuts, flour, butter, milk, tins of beans, spreads, syrups, cordials… all the sorts of things you’d expect from a health food shop, but without the price mark-up. Since it’s a co-operative, I’d get a 10% discount if I joined, but I’d also need to commit to a certain number of hours a month working there and I can’t quite do that just yet.

Now I’m off to my cookery lesson, which I’m sure will be just as inspiring! I’ll let you know what I learn.

Vegetable Risotto with Chickpeas

Although the food I’m eating this month is pretty consistently good, I’ve not come across anything particularly exciting. Until last night, when I dithered between the creamy pasta, the vegetarian hot pot and the vegetable risotto before finally plumping for the latter. It had chickpeas in it! I’d never even considered adding chickpeas to a risotto but it was so good. I’m adding it to my list of recipes to try (although I’ll have to improvise, since I have no idea how it was cooked or indeed what else was in it) and making a mental note to do more with chickpeas.

I’m considering re-introducing the In the Spotlight series which I started many moons ago and ditched out of boredom. Perhaps chickpeas will be one of the first stars! Just a couple more weeks before I’m back in my own kitchen cooking up a storm.