Monday, October 15, 2012

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine with Warm Spices & Fresh Herbs


Moroccan tagines are savory stews made with spices, vegetables, beans and/or meat. I love to cook Moroccan meals for their welcoming warmth, intoxicating aromas and because they're supremely satisfying. This vegetarian version has chickpeas for protein. 

The beans are simmered in a light tomato sauce infused with several spices. This is no ordinary beans and rice dish. Smoked paprika and a blend of Moroccan spices make it exotic and special. The paprika infuses the stew with a mild smokiness, a pinch of nutmeg offers a subtle sweetness and a Moroccan spice blend lends uniquely North African flavors. 



Comforting and hearty, the tagine forms a complete protein when served with rice. It's good on a chilly evening or for a meatless Monday meal. It's a wholesome dinner to prepare at the end of the workweek when you're tired and in need of some healthy, home cooking. For a simple Moroccan dessert, serve Medjool dates and mint tea. Something minty and sweet at the end of the meal is refreshing.







Moroccan Chickpea Tagine Recipe

Some notes: 

There might seem like a lot of ingredients, but the stew is a one pot dish. If you can make vegetarian chili, you can make a Moroccan tagine. You could swap out the chickpeas for chicken or use a combo of chickpeas and chicken.

Paprika and cumin are the only spices essential to this recipe, the rest of the spices are optional but ohhh sooo good.


A Moroccan spice known as ras el hanout is unquestionably North African. It's actually a blend of over a dozen spices. It's used throughout Morocco and parts of North Africa to season stews and couscous. Oprah Winfrey recommends one by Zamouri Spices, which is very good. But, I love the ras el hanout sold by Soluna Garden Farm.  Ras el hanout lends soft, spicy notes to this stew, giving it much more depth of flavor.  

Saffron is also optional. Not everyone likes saffron. If you use it, add just a few strands, maybe 4 tops. It's very easy to overpower a dish with too much saffron. Saffron is used in many Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.     

I learned to add a  pinch of grated nutmeg to my African stews from my Ghanaian friend who just happens to be a wonderful cook. You don't detect that it's nutmeg, you just know that the stew tastes savory and flavorful. I include turmeric for its health benefits and pretty color.

The idea here is not to get caught up in searching for different spices, unless you feel like it. Otherwise, use what you can easily find. Think of me as your gentle spice guide. I'm here to suggest things. No pressure. But I believe if you're making vegetarian/vegan meals on a daily or weekly basis, it's nice to taste different flavors with the vegetables. It keeps things interesting and exciting. It prevents brown rice and boring broccoli syndrome.  Penzeys Spices is a wonderful source for fresh, fragrant spices.

I use Pomi Tomatoes in this recipe and most of my recipes now. The company sent me some samples and I was impressed by their taste and texture. They're 100 percent Italian tomatoes with no added salt or mysterious ingredients. They're fresh, rich, full-bodied and perky. I absolutely love them! I'm a total convert to this brand now. They come in 26.46 ounce boxes instead of cans, ensuring a garden-ripe taste. I find them at Whole Foods and in my regular grocery store. You can also buy them online. The kind of tomatoes you use makes a huge difference in the finished dish. If you can't find them, use almost all of a 28 ounce can of best quality chopped tomatoes.

Garbanzo Bean Flour is a wonderful thickener for soups and stews. I highly recommend it here. Mix the flour with equal parts cold water to thicken this tagine. Viola! Instant thickener, which is never a bad thing in vegetarian stews. They often need more body, richness and voluptuousness. The addition of garbanzo flour will remedy that. The stew can also be thickened by mashing a few of the beans with the back of your spoon too, but it won't give the same luxurious results. I usually like to thicken all my vegetarian bean stews with either a garbanzo flour/water solution or a potato starch and water solution. Bob's Red Mill sells both garbanzo bean flour and potato starch online. Bob's Red Mill also has a gluten free version of the garbanzo bean flour. But I find both at Whole Foods and even in my regular market.

Serve the tagine with chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro for a fresh accent. Toast some slivered almonds for crunch. Serve over couscous, quinoa, basmati or brown rice.

I love to eat it with my Middle Eastern Rice Pilaf with Orzo. The nuttiness of the orzo really works well with the chickpeas and tomatoes. This is one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian recipes. I make it at least every two weeks.

It's delicious finished with a dollop of sour cream or thick Greek yogurt. A side of pita bread, olives and feta is never a bad idea either.

The stew reheats well for workday lunches. Keep the rice and the tagine in separate containers and they can be stored in the fridge for two days. Like most stews, it gets better as it sits. If you're like me, you may want to keep your pantry stocked with a couple of cans of chickpeas, some spices, tomatoes and rice.  Then you can whip this up whenever you get a craving.    

This recipe is featured on Healthy Aperture  

You'll Need:
  • 2 16 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained. I used lower sodium.
  • 1 26.46 ounce box of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes or almost all of one 28 ounce can of best quality canned chopped tomatoes. (see notes)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced. You pick the color. I used green. 
  • 1 small chili pepper, seeded and diced or a pinch of ground red pepper (optional). 
  • 1 large garlic clove minced. I used a microplane zester to mince it.
  • 2 dried bay leaves, torn, remember to remove them before serving.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (optional)  
  • A drizzle or two of honey or pinches of sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes
  • A few saffron threads, crushed between your fingers to release the flavor. (optional)
  • A teeny pinch of nutmeg. I use a microplane zester to grate it from a whole nutmeg.   
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Moroccan ras el hannout spice (optional, see notes)
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • To thicken the tagine, mash some of the chickpeas with the back of your spoon and mix some garbanzo bean flour with cold water (see notes) 
  • For Serving: Greek yogurt, drizzle of olive oil, sour cream, labne (strained yogurt), chopped flat leaf parsley, cilantro, slivered almonds, rice, quinoa, couscous and/or pita bread, flaky sea salt or grey celtic salt

The Rundown:

Prepare my Middle Eastern Rice Pilaf  or cook a grain of your choice according to the package directions. Couscous and quinoa are lovely with this dish too.

Meanwhile, add some olive oil to a large nonstick skillet or pot and saute the onions, bell pepper and chili pepper (if using) with some salt on medium to medium high heat until soft.

When the vegetables are soft, add the bay leaves, spices, rinsed and drained chickpeas tomatoes, garlic, honey and the saffron threads (if using). Adjust the salt and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to very low and simmer, covered, for about 20-30 minutes or until the flavors meld and mellow. Remove the bay leaves. Thicken the stew with  the garbanzo flour and water solution. Start with one tablespoon of garbanzo bean flour mixed with one tablespoon of cold water. If you'd like it thicker, add more of this mixture. Mash some of the garbanzo beans with the back of a spoon. Serve with accompaniments. Enjoy!

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Love Moroccan food? Try this sumptuous recipe:
African Autumn Stew with Sweet & Spicy Couscous  



Light As Air Chickpea & Zucchini Fritters with Lemon, Herbs & Yogurt
Can be made gluten free too.



Thick & Creamy Restaurant Style Hummus with Smoked Paprika Chili Oil. Hummus just got an upgrade!

4 comments:

  1. Your recipes all look so yummy!! I work with Joanne Ragwar who told me to check out your site. I plan on making this great dish and one of the yummy chopped salads. :) Can't wait to try it! Thanks for sharing your great recipes!

    :) Stephanie

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  2. Hi Stephanie. Thank you so much for commenting and visiting me here! Joanne is my fellow foodie. The chopped salads are simple and refreshing. The tagine is economical and savory. Please stop by again! Many more to come! Happy Cooking!

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  3. This is the best tagine recipe I've ever come across. I served this alongside your chickpea & zucchini fritters & am still getting compliments weeks after! Can't wait to make this again!

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm so thrilled that you liked both recipes! My joy is sharing my favorite recipes with you guys. Thanks for letting me know. Sometimes it can feel like I'm blogging in a void. But then I get a message like this one which makes my heart happy. :)

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