Veggies on the counter

My Take on Harira

Posted in soups by veggies on the counter on February 16, 2013


When I was a kid (probably 6 or 7 years old) my parents took me on a road trip to the south of Spain. Eventually, after hours and hours of driving under a massive sunlight, we arrived at Gibraltar (which technically is a British territory). Since we were so close to the north of Africa, I proposed we could go to Morocco, something that unfortunately didn’t happen as the plan was to stay for about a week in Málaga.

harira collage

Flash-forward to date and I have yet to go to Morocco. Until then, I will try to continue to bring Morocco to me by exploring its cuisine and making my own versions of dishes such as tagine and harira. The latter – a chickpea and lentil soup – is traditionally made with meat (which I obviously don’t consume) and, sometimes, rice and vermiccilli noodles. The soup is cooked for a long period of time – sometimes over an hour – and thickened up with a couple tablespoons of flour, almost verging on a hearty stew. It is a one pot meal, and what a delicious and filling one… I’ve been having Harira for dinner for the last couple of days and I can tell for sure it is the best lentil-based soup I have ever made. Its heart-warming nature makes it just the perfect meal for the few cold winter nights we still have ahead.



(serves 6 to 8)

½ cup / 95 g dried chickpeas, sorted, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

1 cup / 215 g puy lentils

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion / 1 cup / 130 g finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

2 medium carrots / 1 cup / 130 g cut into small cubes

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, coarsely pounded in a mortar

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 can / 2 cups / 450 ml canned tomatoes, liquidized in a food processor

5 ½ cups water

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 lemons, quartered

1. In a large pot over medium heat add the oil, onion, garlic, carrots, cinnamon, ginger, crushed cumin seeds, pepper and pepper flakes. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened. If the mixture seems dry and the spices start to stick to the pot, add up to ¼ cup of water to loosen things up a bit.

2. Add the liquidized canned tomatoes, chickpeas and 5 cups of water to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the liquid come to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.

3. After that time, add the puy lentils and cook, covered, for another 30 minutes.

4. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with ¼ cup of water. Stir well so that the cornstarch dissolves completely.

5. At the very last minute of cooking, add the salt as well as the cornstarch mixture to the soup. Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon (it will thicken up a bit thanks to the cornstarch), have a taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in large bowls, adding a splash of lemon juice to each individual serving.

Lentil-Beer Sauce Penne with Garlicky Kale

Posted in main courses by veggies on the counter on January 31, 2013

penne and lentils

Just by looking at the number of pasta dishes posted on this blog so far – this one is the second – you can tell I’m not a huge pasta lover. If I’m only cooking for myself I generally don’t bother about adding rice, pasta or the likes just because I don’t care much for starches – I’ll be more than happy eating cooked legumes, tofu or any other source of vegetable protein over a big pile of either raw or cooked veggies.

Every now and then people tell me they struggle to make a main vegetarian dish because there isn’t a sort of “centre piece” (like a piece of meat or fish) around which the whole dish is built. I never actually thought things had to be like that in the sense that stews, salads or pasta dishes with several vegetables and legumes included can make very satisfying meals. However, having said this, I recognize the fact that this blog is probably lacking some main courses, so here it comes one.

penne and lentils 02

Me and my dad had this dish for lunch yesterday and we both enjoyed it very much. It’s the kind of dish I would serve to my pasta lover brother (and, sadly for me, meat lover as well), as it is very substantial and, apparently, quite appealing to the non-vegans palate. Puy lentils are my favourite kind of lentils to cook with because they hold their shape perfectly after being cooked – regular brown or green lentils do not – and can be used in lots of different ways. The recipe bellow makes a lot of sauce and we ended up eating it today as a filling to savoury chickpea flour crêpes.

A quick note on the beer: I used a very light and sweet five-grain german organic beer in here. You could use pretty much any kind of beer you want when making this sauce but I’d just stay way from strong tasting ones (such as dark stouts) as they could probably lend a bitter taste to the whole dish.

beer puy collage

Oh, and last but not the least: say hi to the kitties! We adopted Pudim (the tuxedo) and Calipo last summer. They’re both 8 months old and truly are rambunctious kittens: as I type this they’re running around like there’s no tomorrow fighting over a paper ball. It’s my first time as a cat owner slave and all I can tell is that I’m in love with these animals and cats in general. They’re quite an addiction. To find them curled up in my bed, sleeping, almost every morning when I’m about to wake up puts the biggest smile on my face.

the kitties

Lentil-Beer Sauce Penne with Garlicky Kale

(serves 4, as a main)

for the lentil-beer sauce:

1 medium sized onion / 120 g / 1 cup  finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

a pinch of red pepper flakes

215 g / 1 cup puy lentils

1 bottle / 330 ml beer

250 ml / 1 cup vegetable stock

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups / 200 g whole wheat penne

for the garlicky kale:

135 g  / aprox. 2 1/3 packed cups kale, large centre ribs and stems removed and coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

suggested garnishes:

fried capers

brewer’s yeast

1. In a large pan, add the onion, olive oil, rosemary and red pepper flakes an sautée, over medium heat, for a couple of minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. If the mixture seems too dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water.

2. Add the puy lentils, beer, stock and tomato paste and increase the heat so that the added liquid comes to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low-medium, cover the pan and let the lentils cook for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked but still al dente.

3. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. After the pasta is done cooking, drain it but reserve a bit of its cooking liquid (no more than ¼ cup).

4. In the meantime, prepare the garlicky kale. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, garlic and kale. Sautée for 3 to 4 minutes or until the kale is slightly wilted. At the very last minute of cooking, season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5. In a large bowl or platter, add the cooked pasta and its remaining water, a couple tablespoons of the sauce (only enough to coat the pasta) and the kale. Mix it all together with a large spoon and serve immediately, garnished with fried capers or a couple teaspoons of brewer’s yeast scattered on top.

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Peas, Lentils and Zucchini Salad

Posted in salads, side dishes by veggies on the counter on August 13, 2010

Quite often, when I flip through the pages of a cookbook I have for quite some time, I get surprised to see recipes in there that I never payed attention to before. Usually, those are recipes with no images attached, and I think that’s the reason why I (unpurposely) pass them. Today, as I was flipping through Moro East (a cookbook I turn to over and over again), I noticed the shy presence of a recipe titled Peas and Lentils. It immediately caught my attention, as I never though of pairing those two ingredients.  As I was reading through the recipe, I realized it also called for sage and mint. I didn’t have sage on hand (besides mint, there was only a bunch of parsley sitting on my fridge), so I decided to substitute the tablespoon of chopped fresh sage they called for in the recipe, for an additional tablespoon of mint. For some reason I can’t rationally explain, it seemed to me that mint and parsley wouldn’t go very well together, hence my decision in keeping mint as the only herb in the salad, relying on the success the combination of peas and mint always is.

But the combination of peas, mint and lentils is even better. The nutty taste of puy lentils balances the sweetness of the peas, and the addition of mint adds a fresh, summery flavor. In my version, I added sautéed zucchini to the salad not only because I had a lot of zucchini on hand (it seems everybody’s having this very same “problem” this time of the year), but also because, cooked this way, zucchini is very versatile and make a nice appearance in any salad. If you’re going to make this, I advise you not to substitute the puy lentils for any other kind of lentils, as puy keep their structure and a little bite after being cooked, unlike regular brown lentils, that tend to go mushy and fall apart.

Pea, Lentil and Zucchini Salad

(serves 3, as a side)

90 grams (1/2 cup) puy lentils

150 grams (1 cup) frozen peas

one large garlic clove, minced

300 grams zucchini (a large one), topped, tailed, and cut into thin rounds

1 tablespoon olive oil

a pinch of salt

2 tablepsoons roughly chopped mint

for the dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 and ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

a pinch of sugar

1. In a medium size pot, bring 3 cups (750 ml) of water to a boil and add the lentils. Cover and cook, over medium heat, for about 20 minutes, or until just tender. They should be firm, as it is important that they keep their structure. Drain the lentils, refresh under cold water, drain again, and put them in a large bowl.

2. At the same time the lentils are cooking, boil the peas (2 cups – 500 ml – of water is enough) for about 4 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and mix them with the lentils. Add a pinch of salt, toss well, and set side.

3. Heat your largest skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and gralic and fry for one minute.

4. Then, arrange the zucchini rounds in a single layer on the skillet. If your skillet isn’t large enough, you may want to do this in two batches. Add a pinch of salt and cook the zucchini for a few minutes until browned. Turn over, one by one, and cook the other side for a few more minutes, adding a bit more salt. When you’re done, transfer the zucchini to the large bowl in which you combined the peas and lentils.

5. To make the dressing, combine, in a bowl, the olive oil, vinegar, and sugar and mix well.

6. Add the dressing and mint to the salad and toss well. Serve immediately.

inspired by Moro East, published by Ebury Press


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