If you’re looking for a Moroccan chickpea stew with the perfect pedigree, go look elsewhere. But if you want comfort in a bowl, hearty with chickpeas, tempeh, butternut squash and potatoes, all of it stirred together with some fragrant, appetizing harissa, then you’re in the right place.
I always have a jar of harissa paste sitting in my refrigerator and I add it to almost everything. Yes, everything. It is great to smear on a sandwich, stir into a hummus or a couscous salad or a pasta, or into just about any stew or curry that needs an extra pop. If you haven’t tried making it, you must. It’s incredibly easy. Soak a few red chilis in some water, toast up a couple of spices you no doubt have in your pantry, peel a bulb of garlic, and then blend it all up. You’ll get a good amount that you can refrigerate or – if you plan to keep it for a longer time – freeze.
Use just about any red chili pepper for a harissa. I used a blend of guajillo and arbol chilis this time, but in the past I’ve used Kashmiri, ancho, and byadgi chilis, all with great results. You want a mix of moderate and hot peppers, so you get a harissa that’s spicy but not so hot that it’ll send you screaming out of the house with smoke billowing out of your ears. You get the picture?
I add all kinds of veggies to Moroccan stews, including carrots, summer squashes, and sweet potatoes, but to make it more seasonal this time, I added some butternut squash. And some potatoes, just because. The tomatoes came out of a can, although if you have fresh tomatoes, those are wonderful too.
This Tempeh Butternut Squash Chickpea Stew is a one-pot recipe– I used a pressure cooker to make it, but you don’t really need one. A large stew pot or dutch oven would work perfectly. The pressure cooker makes short work out of this, but even without one it won’t take you too long. At the very end I stir in a secret ingredient: a dollop or two of peanut butter. Peanut butter and harissa are two flavors that go together beautifully for some reason — something you might already know if you ever cooked up my African Peanut Stew.
So here it is: my spicy, savory, absolutely delicious Tempeh Butternut Squash Chickpea Stew. Serve it with some couscous or quinoa or brown rice. You’ll be back for seconds.
- 4 cups cooked or canned chickpeas drained
- 1 inch small butternut squash peeled and cut into a 1/2- dice
- 2 inch medium potatoes cut into 1/2- cubes
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 8- oz package of tempeh cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- Salt to taste
- 3 tbsp harissa paste recipe follows
- cup For harissa :1 mix of moderate and hot red chili peppers like guajillo and arbol, recipe makes enough for several uses
- 10 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Make the harissa: Soak the chilis in boiling water for an hour
- Roast the coriander and cumin seeds in a hot skillet until fragrant, four to five minutes over medium heat.
- In a blender, place the drained chilis (reserve the soaking water), garlic, toasted spices, and oil.
- Add enough of the chili soaking water to keep the blades moving and blend into a smooth paste.
- You can save leftover harissa in an airtight jar and freeze. Thaw before using.
- Make the stew:Heat the oil in a large pot or in a pressure cooker.
- Add the onions and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft.
- Add the tomatoes and potatoes and stir well.
- Add the butternut squash and chickpeas and 3 cups of water.
- If using a pressure cooker, at this point put the lid on and bring the cooker up to pressure. Cook five minutes under pressure or, if you have a pressure cooker that whistles, for up to two whistles. If you're cooking in a stew pot, bring the stew to a boil, cover and let it cook 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Once the pressure releases, open the pressure cooker or pot, and stir in the harissa paste and tempeh. Add more or less depending on your taste. Bring to a boil and let it go two to three minutes.
- Add the peanut butter, salt and squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir well, and then sprinkle on some chopped parsley. Turn off the heat. This stew gets even more flavorful as it stands, so make it the previous day if you can and reheat thoroughly before serving.
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I watched a couple of really interesting BBC documentaries about India via Netflix. One, Dowry Law, focuses on the crime of bride burning — a term used to describe women who are murdered by the husband and/or in-laws for dowry, gifts in cash or kind given by the bride’s family at the wedding. This terrible practice — which should be shunned by every self-respecting young woman — continues to be common in India even though it has been against the law for decades, and thousands of women are killed each year with the murderers rarely being brought to justice. In fact, the problem has only worsened in the past years as capitalism has led to the easy availability of all sorts of “stuff” like cars and electronics, leading to more greed.
The other documentary, Mumbai Railway, goes into the inner workings of Bombay’s fabled and beautiful Victoria Terminus, or CST, building. This was the first railway station built in India by the British, and it holds a special place in my heart because I walked through its doors every day for a good part of six years that I worked in south Bombay. It was fascinating to learn more about the history of the building itself and the workings of Bombay’s incredibly efficient but also scarily crowded and sometimes dangerous rail network.
Desi just got me a copy of Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” and I can’t wait to read it. I am a huge fan of Noah’s The Daily Show (although I still miss Jon Stewart), whenever I can catch it at the late hour, and his story of growing up biracial in a South Africa where his parents’ union was illegal should make for a compelling read.
Here’s one of the most inspiring videos I’ve watched in recent weeks, the story of Daniel, a little puppy who was pulled out of a puppy mill in Arkansas. When Daniel was rescued, he and other dogs at the puppy mill had been living amidst the dead carcasses of many other dogs. He was so malnourished, he couldn’t walk. Daniel’s story is a great reminder of why you should never get a puppy — or a kitten — from a pet store, which are usually supplied by puppy mills. The only place to bring home a dog or cat from is from a shelter or a rescue.