Spiced Chickpea Stew with Butternut Squash & Spinach

spiced chickpea stew with butternut squash and spinach in a shallow brown bowl, a small white bowl to the side holds a cucumber slaw to top the stew with. the bowls are arranged on a blue and red tablecloth, with a small pot of ras el hanout and a tub of black nigella seeds.

A can of chickpeas, an onion, and some garlic make up the most unassuming of all blank canvases for a meal. These three homely ingredients become something special when combined, add in other pantry staples and spices and a meal worthy of casual company can come together quickly and without fuss. For this Spiced Chickpea Stew I made excellent use of frozen butternut squash and spinach, although fresh would work just as well. I’m going for convenience when making a recipe like this one. This recipe will keep for several days in the fridge, I generally eat it as written for a day or two before I begin adding in little extras to stretch out the leftovers. Mashed sweet potatoes or carrots  are lovely when mixed into this stew, rub chicken thighs with Ras El Hanout and olive oil and serve alongside the stew, or stir in a generous spoonful of this garlicky cashew cream with lime and cilantro. If there’s anything else I love more than a hearty stew it’s a crunchy, sweet, and tangy slaw to serve alongside (or on top!) of the chickpeas. The nigella seeds in the slaw aren’t strictly necessary, I’ve been using them a lot in salads lately and I find they complement the flavour of so many other ingredients I love, they look so pretty and they have such a lovely bright citrus flavour. The fun in this recipe is its flexibility, it’s a dream of a meal to put together when you have a the basic ingredients and a handful of miscellaneous items hanging about in the kitchen.

spiced chickpea stew with butternut squash & spinach:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small red onion, diced into small pieces

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup fresh or frozen butternut squash, cubed

1 red sweet pepper, diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. Ras El Hanout or Garam Masala or curry powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1 can of chickpeas, liquid reserved

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1 bunch of spinach or 1/2 package of frozen spinach

Generous amount of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion, garlic, butternut squash cubes, red sweet pepper and cook until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Add the Ras El Hanout (or spice blend of your preference), cumin, coriander, and a generous pinch of salt and cook with the vegetables for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the entire can of chickpeas, including the liquid (this will help thicken the stew) and the vegetables stock. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated, stirring in the spinach to cook  over the last few minutes.
  4. Serve the stew piping hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt or at room temperature with a side of Orange Cucumber Slaw with Nigella Seeds.

orange cucumber slaw with nigella seeds:

1 small cucumber, pulp removed and sliced into thin half moons

1 orange, zested and juiced

Drizzle of olive oil

2 Tbsp. scallion greens, sliced thinly

1 small bunch of parsley, finely snipped with scissors

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 tsp. nigella seeds

Pinch of dried chilies

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, gently stirring to combine. Serve with Spiced Chickpea Stew with Butternut Squash and Spinach (or, stuffed into a pita with shredded chicken, butter lettuce, and mayonnaise mixed with a small amount of orange juice and zest).

Flowing slowed down shimmery songs like this one have always been a weakness of mine, I blame it on an early obsession with Mazzy Star, Belly’s sophomore album King, and Suzanne Vega.

The Black Ryder – Let Me Be Your Light



Chickpea and Cucumber Salad with a Creamy Lemon, Parsley, and Avocado Dressing

Heart-shaped plate full chickpea and cucumber salad and 2 pieces of sour dough toast.

This is a bright and immensely flavourful variation on a chickpea salad, ideal for eating with a loaf of buttered sourdough toast from Batard Bakery in Vancouver (kindly gifted by one of our guests over the weekend at the cocktail party Ian and I hosted). I went for a long walk on an empty stomach along Jericho Beach this afternoon to take pictures in the rain, and I was in full need of comfort and carbohydrates by the time I got home. I put this together in less than 10 minutes, leaving it to sit for about 15 minutes while I dried off and made a cup of Constant Comment tea (thank you again, to another guest at the party – I always have trouble finding this particular kind of tea). This chickpea salad would be wonderful in a warm pita with some extra dressing or tzatziki, I can imagine it would taste pretty wonderful alongside some cumin-rubbed lamb as either a hot meal or a cold spread that demands a thorough pick through. You can add more lemon juice if you’d like, the zest would also serve to brighten the taste of the dressing even further. A pinch of cayenne wouldn’t be remiss here, nor would some barely blanched broccoli florets and toasted sunflower seeds.

Jericho Beach on a rainy day.

chickpea and cucumber salad with a creamy lemon, parsley, and avocado dressing:

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed

1 medium-sized cucumber, sliced into thin or quarter half moons

1/4 of a red onion, finely diced

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 avocado, flesh scooped out with a spoon

Generous 1 cup of parsley, loosely torn

1 clove of garlic, smashed

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 cup of olive oil

  1. In a large bowl mix together the chickpeas, cucumber, and red onion.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor, scraping down the sides several times in order to ensure a perfectly creamy dressing. It’s entirely OK if the parsley isn’t completely blitzed, in fact I think it makes the salad look more appetizing.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and stir to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving – the lemon in the dressing will help prevent avocado dressing discolouration, so it will keep in the fridge for a few days after it’s made.

My friend and I were talking about all of the music our parents listened to while we were growing up, it seems like we have a lot of common musical tastes now because of what was on the record player while we were children; I also have a very clear memory of being told “Don’t dance too close to the record player! No jumping near the record player, the record will skip!”. Now as an adult I can very easily admit that the excellent music I heard at home absolutely formed my relationship to music as I currently experience it. I also never jump or dance around the record player, ever.

English Beat – Save it For Later

Jericho Beach 2

Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Rosemary and Lemony Parsley Pesto

Chickpea soup

I promise that I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is one of the best soups I have ever made and also one of the easiest. In fact, its simplicity left me suspect after reading the original recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, my motivation for trying the recipe came from possessing the exact ingredients in my cupboards in addition to the knowledge that following day would be long and incondusive to hours of cooking time when I arrived home from work. I have further simplified the recipe by doing most of the work in a slowcooker, that way when you get home from work at the end of the day you walk into the most heavenly and woodsy aroma of  piney rosemary and buttery garlic – your postwork mood will shift immediately into one of comfort and warmth. When you get home all you need to do is take the rosemary cheesecloth sachet out along with any of the garlic cloves that have floated to the surface, puree 1 cup of the soup with the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and allow to simmer in the slowcooker for half an hour with the dried pasta, stir in the pesto (which you can make the night before) and you’re all set to eat. This soup has such aromatic depth of flavour that I suggest serving it with little more than a baguette with good salty butter or a green salad with some lemon juice, olive oil and kosher salt added haphazardly before eating – you don’t want anything that will compete with the richness of the chickpea and tomato soup, merely something that will provide a simple background of flavours and textures.

chickpea and tomato soup with rosemary:

3/4 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water and then rinsed

1.5 litres of chicken or deeply flavoured vegetable stock

3 sprigs of rosemary (I used fresh rosemary that I had placed in an ice cube tray covered in olive oil and frozen, in which case I used 3 of these cubes and omitted the oil called for below)

4 Tbsp. buttery olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, smashed with side of a knife with the skins removed

1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes with their juices

1/2 cup of small pasta, I frequently use small shells

1. Put the soaked chickpeas, stock, olive oil, rosemary cheesecloth sachet and bruised garlic in the slowcooker and set it for 8.5 hours on low (you could probably set it for a shorter amount of time on high but since I only make this soup on days when I’m at work I have yet to experiment with varying cooking times.)

2. When you get home take out the rosemary sachet and any of the bruised garlic that is floating on the surface, don’t worry if you think there is still garlic in the soup as its intensity will have completely vanished after cooking for such a long time.

3. Remove 1 cup of the soup from the slowcooker and place in a blender or food processor along with the diced tomatoes and blitz until smooth. Add back into the slowcooker and allow to simmer for half an hour, adding the pasta after 15 minutes. When you’re ready to eat stir a generous tablespoon of parsley and lemon pesto into each bowl of soup and eat with pleasure and in comfort. Alternatively, sprinkle some finely chopped parsley and finely grated Reggiano over the soup in place of the pesto.

lemony parsley pesto:

This pesto provides just the right amount of astringency from the parsley and lemon as well as a garlicky intensity that makes the smooth cohesion of flavours in the soup really come into their own. If you have leftover pesto either freeze in ice cube trays or keep stored in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil layered on top to prevent discolouration and use on linguine with extra cheese.

1 small bunch of flat-leafed parsley

3 Tbsp. raw pepita seeds

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/4 cup (roughly, add more or less to taste) of Parmigianno Reggiano or Grana Padano (the Reggiano will lend a slightly sharper and more pronounced flavour)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth, you may need to stop several times to scrape the sides down with a spatula as you blend.

Lately I have been listening to Zammuto’s self-titled album constantly, while cooking and while running and while getting ready for work in the morning. I’m hardly surprised that I’ve become such a fan considering the album is by Nick Zammuto, one half of The Books, another band that is heavily featured in any playlist I put together. This song is perfectly and aptly named; joyous, motivating and altogether yay.

Zammuto – Yay