Hearty Dinner With a Bonus

Because some of you have asked for more food, here’s another recipe that  not only satisfies on a number of levels, but this big batch almost assures some leftovers that get even better when allowed to rest for a day or two. The Germans call that “Ziehen,” which translates to “draw,” as in drawing the flavor out of the ingredients. Also, it gets you to hunt for a fabulous spice blend, common in Morocco, that you will use again and again once you taste what it can do for a dish. So, continue reading for the recipe, and a bunch of additional information.

Marrakesh Lentil Stew

This one-pot Moroccan stew is packed with spicy flavor and healthy vegetables. It is based on a combination of two vegan stew recipes that meld into one tasty, hearty dish.

  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Total Time 3 ½ hours
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large onion, medium diced
    • 6 -8 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
    • 1 cup chopped celery
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
    • 2 teaspoons hot yellow curry powder
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 4 Tablespoons Hunts® Tomato paste
    • 3 fl oz cooking sake
    • 4 large carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces
    • 3 small red potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
    • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
    • 6 large or 12 small Brussels sprouts, quartered
    • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
    • 1 ¼ cup dry lentils
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • Cooked couscous or saffron rice (optional), for serving

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain the dry lentils. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add cumin, Ras el Hanout, curry powder, smoked paprika, tomato paste, and a sprinkle of salt and cook until fragrant stirring constantly, 1 minute. Do not let spices burn to bottom of pot. Deglaze with the sake.
  3. Add carrots, potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Mix to coat thoroughly. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to sweat, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and broth (vegetables should be completely covered by liquid; add water to cover if necessary). Add lentils, stir thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer lower heat and cook, uncovered, 1 ½ hour, stirring about every 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover the pot and continue low simmer for another 1 hour or until lentils are soft but not mushy.
  5. Adjust salt and pepper as necessary and serve over couscous or saffron rice if desired.

Cook’s Note

The spices quantities can be adjusted to allow for individual tastes.

To store, let cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

Based on a Martha Stewart recipe modified by me.

Some Background and Additional Information

Whenever you buy lentils, there’s a small risk that a little pebble has found its way into the mix. So, it’s suggested that you spread the dry lentils out on a baking sheet and just sort through them before you rinse them. The rinse serves two purposes; it moistens them to help them cook, and washes away any traces of grit and dirt. In many pounds of dry lentils, bought both packaged and in bulk, I have only ever found one tiny stone, so it’s only a small risk if you don’t screen them.

Ras el Hanout! It loosely translates to “Top of the Shop,” as in “The best this spice shop has to offer.” The part of the world that it comes from, Northern Africa and the Middle East, is dotted with a myriad little spice shops and market stalls fragrant with dozens of cone-shaped piles of fresh spices. Their owners proudly and carefully grind and process bulk spices and then meticulously shape them into smooth sided pyramids for display. Each shop owner also creates a carefully blended mixture of his best and most flavorful and fragrant spices into a savory “masterpiece,” which serves as their trademark or signature combination, which usually sits right out front and hopefully draws in customers. This is Ras El Hanout.

Because it is a blend, logically, no two blends are going to be exactly the same. Therefore, you should purchase and try out Ras El Hanout from different sources until you find the one that’s perfect for you. Of course, Amazon lists a huge variety, but you can now find it a Trader Joe’s, Cost Plus World Market, and many supermarkets. McCormick® spices, a National brand often found at Walmart, offers “Moroccan Seasoning” as part of their new “Gourmet Collection Blends.” So, find some, use it here, and I think you’ll be convinced to try it in may other recipes. But, if your first experience with it leaves you wanting, remember that no two blends are the same. Try others! My favorite comes from Angelina’s Gourmet, an online purveyor.

Next, you will notice a nice selection of vegetables in this stew, but no meat. Of course, you can easily modify it to include lamb, stew beef, pork shoulder, or even chicken, and each or all are possible variations. But, when you make it for the first time, try it pretty much as written. Maybe make a small concession and use chicken stock instead of vegetable, but in any case, I think you will be surprised as to how “meaty” it tastes. Don’t feel that you have to duplicate the vegetable ingredients exactly. Sometimes I make this stew for the express purpose of using veggies that I have in the fridge that need to be used up. Bell peppers, butternut squash, and broccoli also often find their way into any particular batch. You should be sure to use the potatoes, though, because their starch really improves the texture of the this stew and contributes greatly to the “stewiness.”

Another slightly odd ingredient is the sake. Sake, an alcoholic Japanese brewed rice beverage comes in hundreds of varieties and numerous grades. Some sake is delightfully smooth for sipping like fine wine, and is nothing like the “hot sake” ubiquitous in sushi bars. If you have not discovered the pleasures of good sake, expand your horizons and start exploring this awesome brew. I have used it for years to deglaze the pan when Sautéing, and what it does for pan cooked chicken or shrimp is subtle but wonderful. My favorite cooking brand is Sho Chiku Bai, easily found and inexpensive enough to cook with, yet tasty enough to sample while you cook. If you drink it, do not drink it warm. Chill it like good white wine. If you are making this stew and don’t have any, use white wine and add a teaspoon of sugar to the recipe, because otherwise, you will miss the slight sweetness of the sake.

So, get cooking, and comment to let us know how you did!

Oh, and what’s the “Bonus” in the headline? Hopefully, you have discovered both Ras El Hanout and Sake as new ingredients in your cooking repertoire to use again and again in future culinary delights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *