burnt toast

Tag: chickpeas

Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous


I feel like it’s high time I give you guys something sweet for you to sink your teeth into, but for some reason it’s the savouries that have captured me and taken me on a trip to enthusiasmville, and I must say I quite like it.

Up next is a soup I had forgotten about for more than two years, which is bordering on criminal because it truly is a beautiful soup. Harira is one of those exotically seductive yet immensely comforting soups, flashy enough to serve as a special dinner but also perfect for a midweek meal. To make up for the lack of lamb in this vego version, I’ve added a few chopped up dried porcini mushrooms. I’ve also replaced celery, not because I have split feelings about it, but because I think that parsley stalks have an incredibly complex flavour, which cooked along in the soup do a fabulous job at adding that dynamic that usually le celery is responsible for. The medley of spices work spiffingly with the vibrant tomatoey broth, and is made even better by the accompaniment of the sweet buttery almond-flecked couscous. The soup will taste better the next day, as most soups do. But even a few hours after you’ve cooked it will do if that’s all the time you’ve got.

And yes I have a thing for shooting food in tiny (blue) dishes. And no, that is not a serving size I would ever dare to serve someone, let alone myself.

Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous

Serves 4

4 slices dried porcini mushroom, very finely shopped

3-4 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cinnamon quill

1 tsp each of ground turmeric, ginger, cumin and paprika

1 pinch saffron

the stalks of half a bunch of parsley, tied in a knot

1 large red capsicum, finely chopped

400g tin chopped tomatoes

800ml stock

1 can chickpeas, half of them crushed with a fork

splash of soy sauce, salt

¼ tsp chilli flakes

half a bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped

half a bunch coriander, leaves picked

Place the chopped porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and carrot. Fry until softened. Add the garlic and the spices, and stir until fragrant. Add the soaked mushrooms with their liquid, the capsicum, parsley stalks, capsicum, chopped tomatoes and the stock, and bring to the boil. Let it cook until all of the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas and soy sauce and season to taste with the salt and chilli flakes. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with the parsley and coriander. Serve with the couscous (below).

almond and date couscous

Almond and Date Couscous

Serves 4

1 big nob of butter

1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped

1 cup / 190g couscous

1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus more to serve

1 cup /250ml boiling vegetable stock

10 dates, chopped into tiny cubes

1/3 cup /40g slivered almonds, toasted

In a small pan, melt the butter and add the garlic. Once it starts to go golden, remove from the heat and stir in the couscous and cinnamon. Pour over the boiling veggie stock and cover for about 5 minutes until completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and stir through the chopped dates. Divide the couscous amongst serving dishes and top with the toasted almonds.




As a former vegetarian, I shall try not to overdo it with the enthusiasm. But as we all know the take-away choice of a vego is rather limited, especially if you’re feeling like something naughty. And “How about an apple?” just doesn’t seem to quite work anymore. So this was my naughty snack. While others had fries and sugary ketchup with their little squidgy cheese burgers, I was chomping into a huge colourful and (for me then) sinfully crunchy wrap with extra chilli. These days I don’t have these limitations anymore. The falafel however, has still stayed in my heart. Touching innit.

Amongst the many crazy veggie worshippers out there, with their “best” ultra-healthy oven-baked- or sweetpotato and white bean with alfa alfa sprout versions, there’s this recipe. Relatively traditional, just with the addition of tahini. This, in my opinion, makes it pop. And the frying of course. Go pretend to be a vegetarian for a while and make these. Then come tell me how awesome they were. You’re welcome.


200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

½ cup firmly packed chopped parsley (with stems)

½ cup firmly packed chopped coriander (with roots and stems)

70g (or about 4 Tbsp) tahini

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

3 Tbsp flour

1 tsp vegetable stock powder


Blend everything in a food processor or with a handheld blender until a beautiful light green paste forms. Give it a little taste, and add as much salt as you think is necessary. Cover and keep in the fridge for 2 hours or more, until ready to use.

Shape the paste or dough or whatever you want to call it at this stage into walnut sized balls. Once you’re ready, you can either get a deep fryer going, or, like me, because I’m scared of the idea of large amounts of hot oil bubbling around in front of me, half-fill a fry pan with oil. Once it’s hot, add the balls and fry them on each side until beautifully browned. Transfer onto some kitchen paper to soak up the residual oil and fry the rest of the babies. Once done, you can either keep them in a warm oven until you need them, or serve them immediately, in a wrap, as a mezze spread, or with some coriander yoghurt with a swirl of sriracha chilli sauce.

More dip

It is time my friends. Time for what you may ask. I will turn my head and stare whistfully into the distance, and in a husky voice I will answer: It is time… for some dip. The original, the fabulous, the guilt-free-because-it-contains-chickpeas-and-tahini-and-that-stuff’s-supposed-to-be-good-for-you dip. Yes. Hummus. “Oh hummus!” you scoff. “I can go and buy a big tub of that at the supermarket! You surely don’t want to make it now, do you?!” Well, yeah?! Is there anything easier than making hummus? I think not. So stop being lazy and chuck that half-eaten tub of beige Super Organic, Gluten Free and Taste Free plust 20% Extra sludge and hop in the kitchen for approximately ½ a minute.


1 can chickpeas, with 1/3 of the liquid reserved

1 big garlic clove, halved

2 Tbsp tahini

½ lemon, juice

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

¾ tsp ground cumin

a splash of soy sauce (umami that stuff up)

salt and pepper

ground paprika, more ground cumin and sesame seeds (optional)

Now. Take above mentioned ingredients (minus the optional ones), and place them in a blender, or in a jug, and wack out your hand held blender. Blend until desired consistency and or flavour is reached. You know, add more lemon juice if you like it zingy, more salt if you’re like me. Transfer to a bowl and add decorative dustings of paprika, cumin and sesame seeds, or, if you’re too impatient, grab a bag of tortilla chips and demolish.

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