Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Moroccan Vegetable stew with preserved lemons

Every Moroccan restaurant that I have been to, has a version of this stew as their only vegetarian main course. These days, I don't order it any more and stick to the vegetarian appetizers but make my version of this stew at home. It is an ideal one pot meal - easy, tasty and nutritious. The chickpeas provide the much needed protein, and the melange of vegetables provide different textures and flavors along with the aromatic tomato based broth.

In one of my previous posts, I have another version of this stew, but this one is extra special with the addition of the preserved lemon and Harissa. Preserved lemons are lemons simply preserved in brine. They are available in most good grocery stores or you can make your own with a recipe from Simply Recipes. They give a beautiful tangy freshness to the dish when added at the end. Harissa is a North African hot red pepper  paste combined with some spices which can be used to give any dish a wonderful kick. There are many varieties of Harissa available in the market, but I like the ones which do not have bell peppers or tomatoes, since the addition of these two ingredients makes the paste sweet and I feel loses its authenticity.

The list of ingredients seems intimidating at first, but most of them are always available except for possibly the preserved lemons and the Harissa. Both have many uses - hence it is worth picking them up. There is a recipe for an egg sandwich with Harissa if you want to find another use for it.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Preserved lemons
1 14 oz can of organic chickpeas
2 celery stalks
2 small organic carrots with tops
1 medium zucchini
3 small Yukon gold potatoes
3 large leaves of organic Swiss chard
1 ½ cups of crushed tomatoes (a 14 oz can - I used the whole san marzano tomatoes and crushed them in the food processor, with a quick pulse)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small preserved lemon, finely minced
1 inch piece of cinnamon
1 cup chopped white onion
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon Harissa paste
1 ½ - 2 cups water and 1 cube of vegetable bouillon or 1 ½ - 2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup couscous

Vegetable Prep
  1. Chop the celery into ½ inch pieces
  2. Peel and chop the carrots into ¼ inch rounds
  3. Trim the zucchini and cut vertically down the middle and then halve the pieces vertically again. Cut the four vertical pieces into ½ inch pieces
  4. Peel and cut the potatoes into ½ inch pieces
  5. Separate the stem from the leaves of the Swiss chard. Cut the stems into ½ inch pieces and chop the leaves coarsely

1. Heat a 3 quart heavy bottomed saucepan with extra virgin olive oil. Add the cinnamon stick and cook for 30 seconds till it unfurls. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes over medium heat till the onion has softened but not brown.
2. Add the drained chickpeas and the chopped vegetables except the Swiss chard leaves. Add the ground cumin, and red chili flakes and mix well. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes for all the flavors to meld. Add the chopped Swiss chard leaves and mix once. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 to 6 minutes till the mixture starts to look a little dry. At this point add the vegetable stock or the vegetable bouillon cube crumbled and water. (I like the Rapunzel brand of vegetable bouillon cubes with no added salt.) Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 15 minutes. Check to see if the potatoes are cooked. If the stew is getting too dry, then add another ½ cup stock or water. If the potatoes are cooked add the Harissa paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally add the minced preserved lemon and mix into the stew. The stew is now ready to serve.
3. Cook the couscous as per the directions on the box. I like using Bobs’ Red Mill couscous. Add 1 cup boiling water to the couscous and stir. Cover and keep for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff with a fork.
4. Serve the stew in shallow bowls, with steaming couscous at the bottom topped with ladlefuls of the stew to the side and a small dollop of harissa on top.

Serves 3 as a Main course.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind comments! Happy to have found your blog too. You have some great recipes here. This one especially looks wonderful. Lots of great flavors going on. I've never made preserved lemons before but would love to give it a try sometime.

  2. I tried this out last night - it's very tasty and wholesome!