I was oblivious to Moroccan, Tunisian and more broadly North African recipes until late in life. I spent a ton of time really getting into Asian and French cuisines / methodologies. It also didn’t help much that what some restaurants (in my early years) touted as their North African menus were in fact a combination of Middle Eastern and Moroccan which simply did not help me understand the genre.
While not entirely 100% North African this recipe does portend a formidable list of North African ingredients. If that’s not enough, it’s also gluten free and totally vegan. There are so many “rights” with this dish that you owe it to yourself to at least try it. Even the omnivores will be impressed.
My North African Method
If I am looking to preserve as many nutrients as possible, I generally steam the veggies. Steaming is done at about 210-215º F vs. the massive convection temps of 400º with ovens or grills. If you want an intense concentration of flavors then baking or grilling is the ideal option. I use this option with grilled veggies on burgers or on salads or when you want to eat them by themselves.
So why the “baked” squash on this one? There are already so many nutrients in this soup that I can afford to slightly reduce it with the baked or grilled squash.
Note: While you are simmering the last step grab the sesame seeds, fennel seeds, and a pinch of cumin seeds. Toast them in a pan as well. Do not add oil.
Just as they start to smoke a bit take them off the heat to cool. Take a mortar and pestle and grind all the seeds down down into a coarse crackle. Then roughly chop some flat leaf parsley with some mint and add those to the lemon zest. Set that aside. Once the simmering is done, squeeze the entire lemon into the mixture and give it a stir.
Plating Your North African Stew
This is actually a very important step. You are ultimately dropping the flavor hammer here. Drop the mint at the bottom of the serving bowl and serve a few ladles of stew on top. Give it one mix and then sprinkle the aromatic, flavorful crackle on top along with the dried lemon zest. You have done it. A vegan stew that is simply bursting with flavor and nutrients.
North African Stew Recipe
- My Moroccan Stew Ingredients
The Roasting Ingredients
- 500 grams of peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 2 grams cumin seeds
- .5 grams red chilli flakes
- A big drizzle of olive oil
- 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt
The Stock Ingredients
- 25 grams diced celery
- 2 kale leaves ribs taken out and chopped
- 15 grams minced garlic
- 15 grams minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 100 grams finely diced red onion
- 1 liter organic vegetable stock
- 220 grams dried chickpeas hydrated a day ahead of time or 1 can of cooked chickpeas
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika + 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt
The Crackle Ingredients
- 1/2 tsp teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1/2 tsp teaspoon pumpkin/squash seeds
The Fresh Finisher
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp of lemon zest
- 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- a few big sprigs of fresh mint leaves picked and roughly chopped
- Preheat your oven to 400ºF.
- Peel and clean your squash (keep the seeds). You will find butternut is a little more dense/sweet and the acorn a bit more fibrous and carrying a bit more water.
- Cut the squash in big bite-size cubes and dress them with the cumin seeds, a tablespoon of chili flakes and olive oil.
- Roast them for 35-40 minutes.
- While that is cooking…
- Take your hydrated chickpeas and cook them for 15 minutes.
- Prep your veggies.
- Start to sauté the garlic, parsley, celery, kale and onion in a stock pot.
- Once the onions are a bit translucent add the veggie stock, cayenne and paprika.
- Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the drained chickpeas and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the cubes of baked squash and simmer for 20 minutes.