We were a bit short on cash this weekend, but our cupboards were well stocked with essentials, ridiculous amounts of flour and an immense amount of spices, I took the opportunity to challenge myself to feed the family for the weekend using mostly what we already had at home.
I usually plan recipes and shop for them, leaving the kitchen full of left over bits and pieces of store cupboard stuff, oddments of vegetables and a small collection of living herbs on the windowsill, but we never keep things that are used once in their entirity such as jars of sauce, cans of beans or most vegetables that are usually purchased in the amount required for a dish.
On Friday evening we had friends over for dinner and I raided my cupboards and found we had just about enough stuff in to make a vegetable biryani from my one and only cookbook, River Cottage Veg. We also had ingredients on hand for onion bhajis and flat breads. After a lot of cooking involving four people in my crowded kitchen, the bread failed to rise, so we replaced it with indian breads from the local grocery store and enjoyed the biryani and bhajis very much.
By Saturday evening the dough had risen nicely, having been in the fridge over night, so we made the flat breads and a delicous lentil dhal, again courtesy of River Cottage. It was a really nice meal.
Sunday evening was a bit more of a challenge, I didn’t want to make yet another indian dish and I didn’t want to repeat the rice or lentil staple. I didn’t have time to bake more bread so our shopping consisted of a couple of fresh loaves and some chickpeas, and I raided the cupboards to throw together a Moroccan inspired stew off the top of my head. The result was a tasty and filling meal without a hint of curry. Here’s what I did:
Moroccan Chickpea Stew
- 1 glug olive oil
- 1 carrot, minced
- 1 stick celery, minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 cans chickpeas
- an equal quantity of carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- pinch saffron strands
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 100g red lentils
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, celery and carrot over a high heat until browned. Add the cumin seeds a few minutes before the vegetables are ready.
- Add the carrots and drained chickpeas to the pan and cover with boiling water.
- Stir in all the spices and the tomato paste and bring to the boil.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the red lentils and cook, stirring every now and then, until the lentils have broken down and the carrots are soft, adding a little extra water if necessary.
- When the lentils and carrots are cooked, remove from the heat and serve with a chunk of bread.
I used the carrot, celery and onion base to give the stew a bit of flavour as I had no stock made up. The tomato paste was all I had to give the stew a tomato flavour, and I used the red lentils to thicken it up. Had I not been confined to what I had on hand, I would have replaced these parts of the recipe and fried an onion with the cumin seeds, then used vegetable stock and passata to make a thick, flavourful stew. You could also vary the vegetables used, butternut squash or sweet potato would go equally well.