Much to my regret, I’ve yet to visit Morocco and experience it’s legendary cuisine in country. The closest I’ve come was to spend a couple of weeks in Tunisia which has a similar, all be it distinct, culinary tradition. Morocco, because of it’s location and history, is fertile ground for a rich mix of influences: Berber, Arab, Spanish, and French, among them. That my exposure to Moroccan food comes from cookbooks and an occasional restaurant meal, hasn’t stopped me from attempting some evocative Moroccan dishes. On Monday, May 20th, James Holloway and I will be cooking a Mediterranean-Moroccan-themed meal in Palo Alto, starting with chickpea and lentil soup. While similar soups can be found in countries as diverse as India and Mexico, the distinct combination of spices in this recipe marks it as Moroccan. If you’re willing to be just a little bit bold with the seasonings, you’ll be rewarded with an addictive, lively and nourishing soup. Full recipe after the jump.
MOROCCAN CHICKPEA AND LENTIL SOUP
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, cut in small dice
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of saffron threads (optional, but a desirable addition)
a little pinch of cayenne pepper or red chili flakes, or to taste (optional)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
6 cups vegetable stock or water (if using water, add 3-4 teaspoons vegetarian bouillon or 2 cubes)
1 cup dry lentils, washed, soaked for 15 minutes, then drained
1 cup cooked chickpeas, with their cooking liquid (canned is good, although freshly cooked is better)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2-1 teaspoon soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons rice syrup, or to taste (optional)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. First, rinse and soak the lentils. While the lentils are soaking, proceed with rest of the recipe.
2. Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed soup pot. Add the onions and, over medium-high heat, sauté while stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes.
3. Turn heat down to medium. Add the next 8 ingredients, along with a generous pinch of salt and the cayenne pepper, if using. Continue sautéing, stirring constantly, another 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the vegetable stock or water, tomatoes, soy sauce and the lentils. Turn heat high until this just comes to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer gently 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
5. Add the cooked chick peas, along with up to a cup of their cooking liquid. Taste, add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and simmer on low heat an additional 5 minutes.
6. Turn off heat, taste again and adjust seasonings. Stir in the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1-2 tablespoons of rice syrup if you wish–these are optional, but the rice syrup mellows the background flavor and the lemon brightens the taste. Mix half the cilantro into the soup. Garnish servings with the remaining cilantro.
Above: Spices for sale in the market, Agadir, Morocco. Photo by Bertrand Devouard, via Wikipedia. Find the recipe for the vegetable tagine here.