Moroccan Chickpea Tagine with Warm Spices & Fresh Herbs
Moroccan tagines are savory stews made with spices and vegetables. A bit of a departure from the usual fare, these stews provide you with welcoming warmth and intoxicating aromas. They make for good eating.
Chickpeas 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.
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.
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 andboringbroccoli syndrome.Penzeys Spices is a wonderful source for fresh, fragrant spices.
It’s delicious finished with a dollop of sour cream or thick Greek yogurt, fresh chopped parsley and toasted almonds for crunch. Serve over couscous, quinoa, basmati or brown rice.
A side of pita bread, olives and feta is never a bad idea either.
The stew reheats well for workday lunches. Keep some steamed rice and the tagine in separate containers. 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.
Moroccan Chickpea Tagine Recipe
Makes a pot full
Some notes 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. Zamouri Spices had a good one. I also 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.
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 come in 26.46 ounce boxes instead of cans. I find them at Whole Foods and in my regular grocery store. You can also buy them online. 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 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.
2 16 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
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)
2 large garlic cloves minced. I used a microplane zester to mince it.
2 dried bay leaves, torn, remember to remove them before serving.
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
A drizzle or two of honey or a few 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 to taste
Olive oil for cooking
To thicken the tagine: mash some of the chickpeas with the back of your spoon and/or mix some garbanzo bean flour with cold water (see notes)
Instructions Cook a grain of your choice according to the package directions. Couscous, rice and quinoa are lovely with this dish.
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, minced 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. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings. Serve with accompaniments. Enjoy!